Manchester United opened their Champions League title defense with a scoreless draw against Villarreal. Soccerlens brought you the action live! Click below for the live blog!
Manchester United will open their 2008-2009 Champions League campaign on a low note. After losing to Liverpool over the weekend, the reigning European champions will be without Michael Carrick, who suffered a broken metatarsal and will be out for 4-6 weeks. Dimitar Berbatov missed training and could be reduced to a bystander when Man Utd. kick off their title defense in Europe. Paul Scholes will be serving a one-match suspension for the red card he received in the Supercup when he decided to become a volleyball player.
The good news is that Cristiano Ronaldo has been declared fit, and Sir Alex Ferguson has stated that Ronaldo will return to action against Villarreal. After an entire summer of transfer drama, it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo is mentally fit to come back for Manchester United.
Villarreal will return to the Champions League for the first time in three years on the strength of last season’s surprising second-place finish in La Liga. The last time Villarreal were in the Champions League, they made a lot of noise, helping to keep Manchester United from advancing out of the group phase, and losing a heartbreaking semi-final to Arsenal.
They’ll hope for some more magic this year, and they have a lot of talent on their team to make that happen. Turkey’s Euro 2008 hero Nihat Kahveci is still injured, as is former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi. However, Villarreal have a good mixture of seasoned veterans such as Robert Pires, Edmilson, Joseba Llorente, Joan Capdevila, and Marcos Senna, as well as talented youngsters like MatÃas Fernández and Jozy Altidore.
Manchester United aren’t going to be taking Villarreal lightly. They still remember their clash from 3 years ago where Wayne Rooney was sent off for dissent. In any event, it should be a great match as both sides will want to start off their Champions League campaigns on the right foot.
Manchester United: Van der Sar, Neville (c), Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Park, Fletcher, Hargreaves, Nani, Rooney, Tevez.
Subs: Foster, Brown, Ronaldo, Anderson, Giggs, Vidic, O’Shea.
As expected, Ronaldo will be available as a sub, and I would be shocked if he didn’t make an appearance. Berbatov will miss out, which will put his status for Sunday in doubt. Captain Gary Neville will make his 100th Champions League appearance, taking Brown’s place in the lineup. Park will start in midfield for Scholes and leading-scorer Fletcher will return to the lineup after sitting out the Liverpool match. Foster is the backup, instead of Kuszczak, and Evans will make his first start of the year in place of Vidic.
Villarreal: D. Lopez, Gonzalo (c), Edmilson, Godin, Capdevilla, Egueren, M. Fernandez, Cani, A. Lopez, Pires, Franco.
Subs: Viera, Cazorla, Ibagaza, Llorente, Venta, Senna, Fuentes.
Villarreal will line up in a 4-5-1 with Franco as the lone striker. Senna, the usual captain, will sit out, as will Llorente. No Altidore amongst the subs, which is a bummer for the American audience. I was looking forward to seeing him in action. Luckily for us, Cani won’t be lining up on the same side as Nani, otherwise, we might all get confused. Pires will return to the starting lineup after recovering from an injury. It’s official, no Old Trafford homecoming for Rossi, as he is out with an injury.
90′ + 4 Nani tries to play it into Rooney, but he can’t handle it and it goes out for the goal-kick. It should be over soon. There’s the whistle and we’re done.
90′ + 3 Ronaldo tries to work his magic on the left, but he loses it out of bounds. He takes a spill, but he’s up quickly.
90′ + 2 Nani then comes back and fouls Godin. Meanwhile, Lopez gets booked for wasting time. I think he’ll gladly take that card.
90′ 3 minutes will be added on. I think we all know how this one will end. Nani and Eguren get into a tangle, and the call goes against Villarreal.
88′ Carzola sends in a dangerous cross that Van der Sar manages to intercept.
87′ Carzola tries a long-range shot from well outside the box, but it’s not even remotely troubling for Van der Sar.
85′ Fernandez and Carzola play the one-two and United seem rather lax at the back. Carzola can’t play it back, though, and United clear it away.
84′ Lopez has some miscommunication with Edmilson and the ball is loose for a second before Lopez recovers and grabs it. Nani beats Eguren down the left, but his cross is right into Lopez’s arms.
83′ Neville wins a free kick and they play it short. Ronaldo sends in a great cross that finds an unmarked Evans on the left edge of the box. Evans’ effort hits the post, though, and once again, they can’t close the deal.
81′ Nani sends in a good cross into the box and Ronaldo heads it on goal. It’s wide of the post, though. Giggs will come on for Tevez. Let’s see what the veteran can do.
80′ Rooney sends in an enticing cross into the box that bounces between Ronaldo and Tevez. It’s been that kind of night for Man Utd.
78′ Free kick for Man Utd. after Angel Lopez fouls Nani outside the box. Nani sends it in and it’s into a sea of yellow. Fletcher is then called off-sides.
77′ Llorente looks like he’s coming in. So much for Villarreal playing it safe. They think they can steal the win, and why not? Indeed, Llorente will come in, but it’s for fellow striker, Franco.
76′ Upset alert: Arsenal are down 1-0 to Dynamo Kiev.
75′ Carzola makes a great run into the box, but Evra makes the clean tackle to stop that threat.
73′ Tevez shoves Godin to the ground and he gets a yellow. Godin is still down and Villarreal will play with 10 for the time being.
72′ Ronaldo makes a great run towards goal. He finds Rooney with a great through-ball. Rooney sends it to Tevez, who is trailing the play. Tevez shoots it weakly, and Gonzalo saves it from going in. Should have scored, but this is the free-flowing United football that we haven’t seen all year.
71′ Fletcher has half a chance on the corner, but he goes down and half-appeals for the foul. Nothing doing, though. Ref doesn’t give half-penalties or anything.
70′ Evra with a dangerous cross into the box, but Tevez can’t get on the end of it. Capdevilla doesn’t take any chances and knocks it out for the corner.
69′ Anderson tries another long-range shot that bounces weakly past the touchline. Who does Anderson think he is? Nani?
67′ Tevez with the low cross that Lopez punches away. It trickles to Anderson, but his shot is well over the crossbar. Pires comes off and Ibagaza comes on for Villarreal.
66′ Man Utd. on the attack and Anderson picks out Ronaldo in the center of the box. Ronaldo tries to shoot it, but he mishits it. It’s still close, though, and Lopez has to make a save.
65′ I hate to say it, but Neville has been very poor tonight. His defense has been okay, but his crossing has been nothing short of terrible. Maybe they should send Brown out there for the last quarter of the match.
63′ Ronaldo’s first touch and he throws in a stepover for good measure. Well, it wouldn’t be Ronaldo if he didn’t do that, right? Nani sends in a good cross into the box for Rooney, but Angel Lopez knocks it out for the corner. Nani’s corner finds Evans, but the header is just wide of the post.
62′ Hargreaves will come out for Anderson. And, the moment Man Utd. fans have been waiting for as Ronaldo comes on for Park. Ronaldo gets a nice reception from the crowd.
60′ Ronaldo shows off his six pack on the bench. He must think he’s at the beach or something. Only thing missing is the hot girl. Villarreal go on the attack and they almost score. Angel crosses it from the right to Franco. Franco tries to flick it with his back heel, but the ball hits the far post and bounces fortuitously to Van der Sar. A couple inches to the left and Franco might have put in that rebound. United dodge a big-time bullet.
59′ Park tries the shot from the edge of the box. He doesn’t get all of it, and it trickles out harmlessly.
58′ Park gives it away and now Villarreal set up in the Man Utd. half. They’ve visited there so rarely that they should have to apply for an entry visa.
57′ Villarreal try the long-pass to Franco, but it’s long and out for the goal-kick. Villarreal don’t even seem remotely interested in building up an attack on goal.
54′ The crowd goes nuts as Anderson starts to warm up. Oh wait, Ronaldo is warming up next to him. I’m sure some of those cheers are for him.
53′ Man Utd. on the attack as Neville passes to Park, who loses it. Park with the good hustle and he gets it back. Neville’s cross is headed away, but Capdevilla gives it away. Utd. try again, and Fletcher has a chance on the edge of the box. Fletcher passes up the shot and tries to set up Tevez. It’s cut out by Villarreal, but United get it back again. Nani then sends in a high cross that Lopez snatches before Tevez can head it in. A lot of pressure from United that probably should have resulted in a goal.
52′ Neville fouls Pires as he goes for the ball. Neville gets the ball first, but he gets a whole lot of Pires, too. Ref calls the foul and Neville begs to differ.
50′ Neville undercuts Franco in the box as Franco goes up for the 50-50 ball. Franco protests mildly, but even he knew he wasn’t getting that call.
49′ Hargreaves’ pass hits the ref. Man Utd. get it back, though. See? I knew the ref was biased!
48′ Nani tries to hit Tevez with the over-the-top lob, but Tevez is way off-sides. Back the other way, and Franco is called for the foul near the Man Utd. box. Franco is not pleased with the decision.
47′ Fletcher called for the foul on Edmilson. Villarreal on the attack and Cazorla tries to release Fernandez, but it’s long and Van der Sar will kick it away.
46′ There will be a substitution, but not by United. Cani will come out and Cazorla will come on. Villarreal kick off and here we go.
Manchester United dominated play in the first half and have nothing to show for it. I’d be shocked if we didn’t see Ronaldo come in, maybe even at half-time. Villarreal haven’t been able to get anything going on offense and really have no business to be tied right now, but that’s how it goes. I’d expect more of the same from Villarreal, as they’d be more than happy to take a point away from Old Trafford. Man Utd. have had their chances, and you get the feeling that their goal is coming. Still, they might need to force the issue and bring in the big gun.
45′ + 1 One minute will be added on. Rooney tries to catch Lopez napping and he tries a shot from the center line. It’s wide, though, and there’s the whistle.
45′ Cani’s long-range shot is well over the cross bar and into the seats. Yes, I said Cani, not “Nani,” although I can see why there might be some confusion.
44′ Rooney with a great move to gain possession. He flicks to Park, who then plays it through to Tevez. It’s long, though, and Lopez gets it.
43′ Nani looks like he shoves A. Lopez to the ground, but he gets away with it. Fletcher then crosses to Tevez, but it’s long and out for a Villarreal throw.
41′ Rooney finds Tevez in the box and Tevez cocks back for his shot. It’s not even close and well wide of the mark.
39′ It’s Rooney’s turn to test the keeper from long-range, and his shot is saved easily. Neville then crosses it out of bounds and it’s a goal kick.
38′ Nani gets the ball and makes a run towards goal. He looks like he’s going to shoot from the edge of the box, but he lays it off to Park, who’s running down the right. Park gets tackled by Capdevilla, but it looks like he got the ball first, so no penalty. Looked like it should have at least been a corner.
36′ Great cross into the box and, once again, Ferdinand has a chance. The ball goes out and it looks like Godin knocked it out. The refs award the goal kick instead. Franco gets some room to run on the right and A. Lopez tries to pick him out with a long-pass. It’s long, otherwise, Franco would have had a good chance to score.
34′ Capdevilla fouls Park once again, this time about 35 yards away. Hargreaves sends it in, but Villarreal clear it. Franco slides in and takes out Evra with a nasty challenge. Franco slid through and took out Evra’s legs. He’s arguing and I don’t see why. He’s lucky he wasn’t sent off. In fact, several Vilarreal players are yelling at the ref. I guess they don’t have the “Respect” campaign in UEFA events.
32′ Rooney gets the long pass and runs pass the touchline. Rooney sees the ball stay in and goes after it after Capdevilla gave up on it. He crosses it to Fletcher, who loads up for the header. A. Lopez is there to block it, and Villarreal escape another bad situation.
30′ Tevez tries the long-range shot that really bends to the left. Lopez saves it for the corner. Nani’s corner is punched away by Lopez and Pires then clears it.
29′ Pires tries the shot from a really tight angle down on the right edge of the box. He makes Van der Sar work, but Van der Sar is equal to the task.
27′ Hargreaves tries a long-range shot after he gets the ball from Rooney. It’s well over the cross-bar, though. Hargreaves has been playing well today, though. Winning balls in midfield and passing it well. Good sign for United fans. They need him to be at 100%.
24′ Hargreaves sends it in, but Villarreal clear it away.
23′ Great play by United as Fletcher does some yeoman’s work to keep alive a Nani pass. He slides and sends it to Park, who shoots on target. Edmilson is just able to deflect it out, otherwise Park would have scored.
22′ Former Arsenal man Pires is greeted kindly by the Old Trafford faithful. Fernandez gets the ball in the box and he goes down trying to draw the penalty. The refs aren’t fooled, though.
21′ Fletcher goes down after a challenge from Edmilson. Ref blows the whistle late, as it looked like he was going to play the advantage, then changed his mind. Oh well.
19′ Villarreal build up an attack here. Cani then gives it away when he and Franco have some miscommunication and Cani’s pass trickles into the Van der Sar.
18′ Evra gets fouled just outside the box, and Hargreaves will have a good chance here. It looks like a make-up call since Evra was clearly not fouled here. Actually, the free kick is from much further out than it looked, so Nani will send it into the box. His service gets cleared by Villarreal’s defense.
17′ The replay on the Park no-call gets worse and worse if you’re a Man Utd. fan. He was fouled in the box, so it should be a penalty. Meanwhile, Villarreal attack and Capdevilla crosses into the box from the left wing towards Franco. Franco can’t control the header, though, and Man Utd. clear it away.
16′ Man Utd. get a free kick, but a lot further away as Fletcher is fouled a good 40 yards out. Hargreaves sends it into the box, but Villarreal clear it away.
15′ Park his hit on the edge of the box and he wants the foul. No love for the ref, though, not even when the show teh replay and it’s clear that Capdevilla stepped on Park’s foot well after Park had already passed the ball.
14′ Nani takes a long-range shot that’s actually on target (I know, I’m shocked too). Lopez actually has to make the save to keep it from going in.
10′ Villarreal are wearing their all-yellow kits. I thought yellow was an unlucky color in Spain. Or is that just for the national team?
9′ Hargreaves’ corner is picture perfect to an unmarked Ferdinand. Ferdinand has most of the net open to him, but he shanks it. It looks like he pulled a John Terry and slipped before making contact with the ball. Ugh. They don’t come any easier than that.
8′ Neville finds Nani on the left edge of the box with a good cross. Nani’s centering pass gets knocked out for a corner.
6′ Park with a good move to create space outside the box. He picks out Rooney making a great run across goal, but his pass is too long and Lopez will kick it away. Good vision from Park and strong run from Rooney.
5′ Nani with a good move to get past Gonzalo on the left wing. He crosses into the box for Tevez, but Godin gets to it first and knocks it away.
4′ Villarreal on the attack. Franco is just outside the box and has a good shot opportunity. He passes instead, and Man Utd. gain possession. Franco should shot that one.
3′ Pires takes an early knock, and he’s down on the ground. He’s up again, and he looks like he’ll be fine.
1′ Man Utd will kick off and here we go! Their title defense is officially under way!
0′ Congrats to Gary Neville on his 100th Champions League appearance! Of course, he’s got a lot to prove tonight. He looked a step slow during the Supercup and was, arguably, at fault for both of Zenit’s goals.
0′ Okay, the Champions League hymn is stuck in my head. “Ils sont les meilleurs! Sie sind die Besten! These are the champions! THE CHAMPIONS!!!!” Sponsored by Heineken. Hmmm… Now I want a Heineken. I wonder how this Live Blog would go if I were drunk.
0′ Once again, we get footage from Moscow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I could watch that shootout all day.
0′ In all seriousness, I can’t imagine how Cristiano Ronaldo could possibly be greeted by the Old Trafford fans by anything less than rapturous applause. Sure, he may have wanted to go to Real Madrid, but he didn’t force his way out of Old Trafford the Berbatov did at White Hart Lane. Plus, how many matches did he win on his own last year? How many times were United looking at dropped points before Ronaldo rescued them. If they boo him, then they don’t deserve him.
0′ Out of all the subplots in this match, let’s face it, there’s really only one person that people are concerned with. That’s right! Jonny Evans will make his season debut for United. Way to go Jonny!
0′ Hi all! Once again, it’s Victor and I’ll be covering Villarreal’s visit to Manchester United to open up group play in the Champions League.
As far as scoreless draws go, this match was not a snorefest (unlike the Liverpool/Aston Villa match from a couple of weeks ago). Both sides had their chances and got unlucky. It’s not the worst result in the world for Man Utd. They wanted to have some momentum going into their match with Chelsea, and really haven’t played well yet this season. However, there some glimpses of hope when Ronaldo came in. Maybe they relied too much on him last year, but it seemed like once he came in, United went back to playing the attacking, free-flowing style of football that served them so well last year. Maybe it’s what they need to jump-start their season.
As for Villarreal, I’m sure that, before the match started, they would have taken a scoreless draw in a heartbeat. They really only had one chance, and probably should have scored. Still, getting a point at Old Trafford is nothing to scoff at, and Villarreal will take it any day of the week.
Man of the Match
Not much to choose from. Nevertheless, Tevez continues to be the unsung hero for Manchester United. The tireless Argentine once again showed off his all-around skills. He made great passes, nearly scored on the pass from Rooney, and forced Lopez into making several difficult saves.