Nov 23

‘68 is a distant memory, as United stumble to home draw.

Manchester United were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Benfica, meaning that they’ll have to win their last group game against Basel if they are to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 15th time in 17 seasons.

 


Injuries again forced Sir Alex to reshuffle the pack, with Berbatov replacing the injured Rooney up front, and Jones and Ferdinand paired as centre-backs in the absence of the suspended Nemanja Vidic. With Nani and Valencia out wide, Carrick and Fletcher were given the nod in midfield, with Young supporting Berbatov up front.

United, who have never lost against a Portuguese team at home, were in for an early shock when, after three minutes, Gaitan’s cross was deflected by Jones past a hapless De Gea and into his own net.

It was the perfect start for Benfica, who could have doubled up their lead three minutes later, when Bruno Cesar fired over from a difficult angle.

Fergie had made clear before the game that he wanted to honour Sir Matt Busby’s memory by delivering a fine performance against Benfica – the team that lost 4-1 at Wembley in 1968 to earn Best, Charlton & Co the first European Cup in the club’s history – but United were unsettled by the early goal and never looked like producing a clear chance.

With Benfica happy to sit deep and break quickly on the counter, United were forced to run with the ball, failing to exploit the wide areas of the pitch, where Nani and, in particular, Valencia found life extremely difficult. Fabio showed why he’s started every European game this season with a few good runs forward, but while he could be an excellent attacking fullback – following in the footsteps of fellow Brazilians Dani Alves and Maicon – he needs to work on his positional play, as time and again he was found out tonight.

The game suddenly came alive around the 30th minute mark in the first half. First, United equalized through a brilliant Berbatov header. Young played a short free-kick to Evra who fed Nani, and the former Sporting man – playing against his arch-enemies – delivered a great ball in the box for United’s number 9 to head home.

United could have been ahead 60 seconds later when Young raced clear after a pass from Berbatov had cut Benfica’s defence wide open, but he couldn’t beat Artur.

Down at the other end, Aimar tested De Gea with a fine strike. The Argentine midfielder seemed to be rolling back the years, a decade after playing – and losing – the Champions League final with Valencia.

The second half started with United applying a sustained pressure to Benfica’s back four; Berbatov’s pass for Young was brilliantly cleared by Luisao, while Fabio saw his close range effort saved by Artur.

United stroke on the hour mark, Evra delivered a cross from the left, with Fletcher timing his run to perfection and tapping the ball in after Artur had, yet again, denied United.

60 seconds later was the Red Devils turn to be caught napping as De Gea’s clearance fell to Bruno Cesar who was allowed to run into the box and shoot, Ferdinand couldn’t clear and Aimar stunned Old Trafford with the simplest of finishes.

For all the stick Carrick receives by some section of the United fans, tonight he was one of the brightest notes for Fergie, composed on the ball and precise with his tackling. The same can’t be said about the rest of the team as United looked, yet again, sloppy and imprecise particularly at the back, as Aimar was gifted another chance with 20 minutes to go but, much to De Gea’s relief, fired over the bar.

United couldn’t keep up the tempo and, despite the late introduction of Hernandez, there was no way through for Ferguson’s men who now have to beat Basel away to win the group. A draw would be enough to see them through but it wouldn’t guarantee them top spot.

Benfica, on the other hand, are through and currently sit top of group C thanks to a better record in games against United and will face minnows Otelul Galati at home in their last game, with a win very much a realistic possibility.

United need to win their last game to guarantee themselves a chance of winning the group, which looked a straight forward conclusion after the draw in August, and to avoid the big guns in the first knock-out round.

But, at this stage, they’ll be happy to go through.


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Tags: Match Reports · UEFA Champions' League

14 Responses to “‘68 is a distant memory, as United stumble to home draw.”

  • I dont think even a win will give us top spot if Benfica beat the Romanians. They have a better head-to-head

  • If Hernandez possessed the ball control of Dimitar Berbatov he would be the best striker in the world.

  • By the way had we not drawn this game, it would have been one of the games of the season. Amazing performance, just needs to sort out that defence.

  • That’s twice we have been in front in CL games at OT and twice we have fucked it up. So we didn’t learn anything the 1st time round did we? :roll: .

    Sir Fergie – so easily offended when any reporter makes a comment to him about team performances – prickly, prickly, prickly Sir Ferg – walking out showed up his smallness at times – shame because he is and always was a GIANT in football, but these walkouts – well! Doesn’t take criticism lightly does he? Come on Sir Ferg – you said yourself several times that our team performances need improvement – does it hurt more when someone else says it? Still love you though Sir Ferg and all those great performing years you brought to us lesser men!

    • Well, I can’t really blame the defending last night. Against Basel they got to chance after chance throughout, and the whole defence was in shambles. Fabio, Evra and Rio fucked up time and time again, and Jones tried to play out time and time again leading to our conceded penalty. We were very solid last night, at least after the 20 minute mark, they only got to two chances for the last 70 minutes which is a serious improvement! Individual mistakes by Jones and De Gea that ruined for us.

      By the way have you actually seen the video of “Fergie’s stormed press-conference”? :-? He had a laugh about it with the journalists at the end of the conference, won’t exactly call that fuming. You should ask Becks or Peter how a fuming Fergie is like! :lol: :lol:

  • On one hand, I don’t want to have to deal with one of the big boys in the round of 16, provided we make it there. As it stands, our best draws if we don’t win the group – APOEL (they look on track to win their group – that’d be the ideal draw, obviously, though they’ve been some pesky bastards in the group stage), Inter (due to their inconsistencies), or perhaps Marseille (beat them last year), if they manage to overtake Arsenal to win that group.

    On the other hand, it’s like, hey, bring them on. Who doesn’t want to be challenged? Getting one of those teams might see us raise our game to that next level, and win or lose, that’s what you want to see from United.

    • Bring them on, if we’re gonna win the Champions League we may as well prove to the world that we can beat anyone! Barca, Bayern, Inter and Juve were our opponents in 1999, Barcelona, Chelsea, Roma, and a solid Lyon team paid for facing us in 2008.

      Prefer that to Shalke, Marseille and Chelsea last season, may as well keep us on our toes during the whole tournament! :twisted:

  • Anyone seen the Barca team for tonight?? Fuck me they play 3-1-3-3 with only Puyol and Abidal as recogniced defenders! 8-O GOALSGOALSGOALS!

  • I have to ask. Is Paul Pogba a great prospect or not? What of Ravel Morrison and Petrucci? When are they going to be ready for first team football? When they turn 23? What a poor model. Just before Pogba signed for United, he was widely regarded as the biggest young prospect in French football. I’ve seen him play. He is absolutely super talented. Technically superior even above most of our current first team squad. So why are we waiting for some Goldilocks moment which doesn’t exist? Let’s look at history for a moment.

    1. Cesc Fabregas

    Very promising youth player signed by Arsenal in 2003, same year he won Golden Ball at U-17 WC. In his second season he was a regular in Arsenal’s first team at age 17. Currently one of the best playmakers in football.

    2. Leo Messi

    Was playing for the first team at Barcelona by age 16, even in big games eg vs Chelsea at SB. Arguably best ever player.

    3. Jack Wilshere

    One of the stand out performers in the league last season, playing nearly 50 games at age 18. Already capped for England national team.

    4. Giuseppe Rossi

    Stolen from Parma by United and has represented Italy at every age group from u-16 to senior team. Bit part player at United, mostly in Reserves. Sold to Villareal. Currently one of Europe’s premier forwards

    5. Gerard Pique

    Barca youth product, given limited opportunities despite obvious talent due to presence of Rio and Vidic and sold to back to Barca. 10 months later, he wins Champions League as first choice centre back and 24 months later wins WC as Spain’s top defender. Currently one of world’s premier defenders

    Others
    Eden hazard,higuain,Toni Kroos,Karim Benzema,Mikel,Mario Goetze,Thiago Alcantara,Rodwell,Michael Owen, all first team players before 20 years.

    So what’s so special about United’s cases? Do we always get mentally weak youngsters? If they have talent play them. Expose them to the elements or stop acquiring them and let them find braver clubs.

    • Good piece Jay, it is difficult not to agree with that, bar Ronaldo who was a first team regular at 17. Personally I would play Pobga, if he gets a run of games, he plays in a position we are desperate to fill and he may sign another contract. We have really nothing to loose.

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