Goal vids at the end of the post.
Matchday 6 was about getting the job done, and when it came to it Manchester United managed a relatively comfortable 3-1 win over Benfica.
Let’s be honest – Manchester United were far too defensive in the first 25 minutes (what’s with the 4-5-1 against a team that just wouldn’t go forward?), and too nervous and off-key throughout the game. Against a better team (Benfica were awful at defending high balls in the box, and they were camped around their own box for the whole game) United would have had to pay for their mistakes.
We gave the ball away too much, we rarely got our final ball right (too early, too nervous), and there were far too many occasions when we should have just shot instead of cutting back the ball into the box – better to get a rebound off the keeper than to hit the ball in a space where 5 Benfica players were standing throughout the game.
Neville, Rooney, Ronaldo, Giggs, Scholes, Saha – all of them were guilty of not shooting.
Defensively, I’d say Heinze should have started ahead of Evra – mainly because of Simao, although Evra didn’t do too bad (apart from being partially at fault for the goal).
Lots of positives to be gleaned from the match as well – Carrick’s started to tackle, and it’s a welcome sight. Vidic has just paid for himself with that goal (if we hadn’t gotten an equaliser, things could have been very different in the second half). Ferdinand was fantastic, although he didn’t have much to do. Neville has been excellent this season – you think he’s old and past it, but he’s always lodged in the opposition half and that’s thanks to Ferdinand who mops up behind him very neatly.
Scholes was good, sat back and sprayed the ball around. Giggs put in a fantastic header and most importantly, the team persevered and got the goals they needed.
Still, if I was Ferguson I’d be worried. Manchester United are not firing at all cylinders. People are demented if they think we’re playing our best football – we’re doing it in patches (Fulham, Bolton) but mostly it’s scrappy and just perseverence (something that was lacking in the last 3 seasons).
Benfica have been billed as a counter-attacking side, but I won’t be surprised if they’re ripped to shreds back home. They played an absolute shocker, and a lot of that goes down to the side being very, very negative. And they gave us 3 free headers, we put in 3 goals off them.
Vidic for player of the season for Manchester United. No other player deserves it more so far. He’s been simply amazing, although it’s hard to ignore Ferdinand’s and Neville’s contributions in defence as well.
Arsenal – too defensive
Away to Porto, they played 4-5-1, strolled through with a draw. They got what they wanted, and they have 8-10 weeks to regroup. That’s just what they needed, and it doesn’t matter how negative or defensive they were here, they needed a point to go top, and they got it. Game over, and now they can focus on beating Liverpool in the Carling and FA Cups, plus cementing their 3rd spot in the Premiership.
Champions League Second Round teams
Bayern Munich (B)
Manchester United (F)
AC Milan (H)
Manchester United could end up facing Barcelona, Real Madrid or Inter Milan, which would be difficult, to say the least. The only team I’d really be worried about is Barcelona because both Real and Inter have the tendency to be a bit stiff.
Real vs United would be amazing, because if it happens I’m sure Beckham will turn out at Old Trafford and get a standing ovation. He could even avenge the 2003 defeat and score a own goal to help us knock them out.
We can’t get Celtic, obviously, so the easiest ties would be Lille and Porto. PSV and Roma aren’t too hot either.
For now though, it’s time to focus on Manchester City and a match on Saturday that could take us 9 points clear before Chelsea play their Sunday game.
Manchester United 3-1 Benfica – All the goals
Manchester United 0-1 Benfica – Nelson
Manchester United 1-1 Benfica – Vidic
Manchester United 2-1 Benfica – Giggs
Manchester United 3-1 Benfica – Saha
Clips courtesy of Lup4o over at SoccerPulse.