Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Obertan's 'Cruyff turn' secures Group B for makeshift United on night of intrigue and inspiration...

Ahead of last night's final Group B Champions League game Sir Alex Ferguson jokingly told the media he didn't have a clue how the team would line-up. The United manager had many selection headaches, so it was always going to be an interesting encounter. Patrice Evra skippered the side, the Frenchman was the only recognised defender in a makeshift back three alongside Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick. With so many absentees and with United needing just a point to finish top of the group it looked like a very big ask.

Fergie has previously flirted with three at the back, but only in pre-season and that was when he had the benefit of his first-choice defenders. The fact that Fergie hasn't tried this formation in the real heat of battle until last night against Wolfsburg and given the make-up of the defence makes last night's 3-1 win over Wolfsburg even more remarkable.

It turned out to be a night when Fergie could do no wrong; Nani who has been out injured, or was it rested (axed for carping to the press), started wide on the left and supplied a pint-point cross to the back-stick for Owen to open the scoring, that was just before the interval. If the Portuguese winger's cross was good, the build up was even better; the move started with Scholes and Owen combining in midfield, which allowed the England striker to shake off the attention of the Wolfsburg defenders, the ball was played to Nani and then Owen ghosted in and nodded home.

Michael Owen has rightly grabbed the headlines after scoring his first-hatrick since leaving Liverpool. Owen could have scored more, but importantly as he has consistently shown this season, he continues to find space inside the opposition penalty area. The fact that the former Newcastle striker was signed on a free transfer makes it all the more remarkable and yes those who described his arrival at Old Trafford as another potential Fergie masterstroke look like being proven right.

On what turned out to be a night of intrigue off the field, there was entertainment aplenty on it and Wolfsburg played their part, predictably they carved open United on several first-half occasions; Dzeko's aerial threat was apparent throughout the game, but Fletcher and Carrick were superb and barely put a foot wrong all night, in fact Fletcher looked like a natural central defender.

It came as no great surprise that Wolfsburg levelled on 56 minutes through alleged United target Dzeko. The 6ft 4in Bosnia international looks like a decent striker and his peformances against United this season suggest he is a worthy transfer target.

With no sign of the deadlock being broken Fergie made what turned out to be another important tactical decision that was to send on Obertan and Valencia for Welbeck and Nani.

Welbeck had a decent game and at times he linked well with Owen, but as he has done on other occasions he didn't play the right ball to his strike partner, but on the whole he should be satisfied with his contribution.

Unlike Park who was very poor throughout, Nani did ok and supplied the cross for the opener. Elsewhere in central midfield Gibson had a quiet game alongside the master, Paul Scholes, but for Owen's goals the ginger prince would have received my man of the match award, along with Fletcher who wasn't far behind.

Just like his manager it was a night when Owen could do no wrong, but it was the introduction of Gabriel Obertan who made it all possible because in one moment of pure magic he turned the Wolfsburg back four with a 'Cruyff turn' and then picked out Owen who netted at the far-post.

But the best was yet to come from Owen, there have been many doubts about the former Newcastle star, but the way he ran from close to the half-way line to finish the third goal was pure vintage. Owen must be in with a great shout for a starting place against Aston Villa this weekend, but knowing Fergie he will more than likely bring back Rooney and Berbatov.

Going into this clash Fergie told the media he wasn't sure if finishing second or first in the group made much difference, he was completely wrong on that point; United needed to win or at least draw to ensure they avoided Real Madrid and Barcelona in the next round and by winning Group B they've done as much as they could have done.

While United were celebrating a thoroughly well deserved win, news broke that UEFA had confirmed two CSKA Moscow players had failed a drugs test that was taken following the recent 3-3 draw with United. There was a suggestion that just perhaps the Wolfsburg players were aware of this news prior to last night's clash with the champions so they knew they'd be going into the knockout phase of the Champions League - the theory being they weren't trying - you'd like to believe that wasn't case because nothing should be taken away from Fergie and his players on what was a very difficult night.


  1. Hi

    I thought last nights performance was brilliant considering the defence we started with. yes we had luck on our side but fergie got his tactics right.

    but im here to make a point on obertan. This fella is the real deal, i remember when we signed him in the summer i was amazed at the fee we got him for because i had been following his progress for a few years and i had seen him in several live matches. when blanc made those comments most united fans were worried at what we bought, why? i dunno, anyone who has seen the lad play would have noticed he has the ingredients to become a world class player, pace, composure, dribbling, height, balance and a good footballing brain. unlike nani obertan releases the ball at the right time. he is the only player in the united squad who is capable of producing such magic that we saw last night for the 2nd goal. dont wanna raise expectations of the lad because he will have his low periods this season, give him time, in two years hopefully he will be a regular in our team.

  2. Tony,

    I don't know why Blanc made those comments it was very odd given his club were offering him for sale.

    IMO, he's done quite well so far, that piece of skill last night was exceptional and it turned the game.

    I'd like to pick up on your points about composure/poise. I hate making comparisons but there's something about him that reminds me of Henry. I think you could be right about him having a bright future, but as ever a lot will depend on how he develops and copes with it all.

  3. Obertan is the biggest upcoming need not hesitate to believe that. if SAF can bench him on most domestic games and play him in Europe ahead of the Tosic's Park Nani's then we got to believe.i say 26 is the way to go.cRonaldo7 best be watching this space.


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