RVP to the rescue as United escape darkness


Manchester United produced a trademark comeback to beat Braga 3-1 and secure their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Despite the result – which also ensures that United will go through as group winners regardless of the outcome of the next two games – this game will, in all likelihood, never feature in the same category as other inspired comebacks, for United produced the worst 70 minutes of football of their season to date (as anyone watching live football coverage of the match will agree).

In a day of anniversaries – Sir Alex yesterday celebrated 26 years in charge of the club, while De Gea and Ferdinand turned 22 and 34 today – United couldn’t have chosen a more picturesque scenery for their game than Braga’ AXA Stadium, surrounded by quarry on two sides.

Fergie opted for a diamond formation, with De Gea between the posts, Valencia,Evra,Evans and Smalling – playing his first game of the season – at the back, with Nani,Anderson,Giggs and Rooney in midfield, in support of Welbeck and Hernandez.

The diamond quickly disappeared, and Welbeck with it, as the England striker drifted into wilderness on the left hand side of the pitch, while Giggs and Anderson confirmed all their inadequacies when deployed in the middle of the park without a traditional central midfielder alongside them.

United, at times, had the urgency of a pre-season game and were lucky not to fall behind when Eder’s diving header struck the post with 22 minutes gone.

United re-emerged after the break even more disjointed than in the first half and found themselves a goal down inside three minutes, as Evans was judged to have obstructed Custodio in the box.

The Portuguese looked to have run into the Northern Irishman, but the referee awarded a penalty, which Alan buried past De Gea.

Ten minutes later, United weren’t the only ones to roam around without a glimmer of light, as a generator broke down leaving the ground in almost complete darkness for 12 minutes.

The 2,000 traveling fans saw the funny side of it, as chants of “We’re Man United, we’ll play in the dark,” rang around the ground.

When the teams re-emerged from the dressing rooms, Rio Ferdinand replaced Evans before Welbeck and Nani made way for Robin Van Persie and Rafael.

With 11 minutes left, after a quickly taken free kick in their own half, United were level, as Giggs’ floated ball over the Braga defence found RVP who curled his effort past the back-pedalling Beto, who had inexplicably rushed off his line.

Four minutes later United had a penalty of their own, after Rooney was brought down in the box.

The United striker made amend for his miss against Arsenal, sending Beto the wrong way to put United ahead on his 70th Champions League appearance for the club.

There was even time for Javier Hernandez to continue his excellent goal scoring form as he stabbed the ball into the net in added time, after failing in his attempt to walk the ball over the line with the goal at his mercy.

By far not a great performance, but with the round of 16 booked, United won’t care one bit as they can now focus on the league at least until February.

Dan (@mufc_dan87)




  1. Well we’ve qualified. But why do I get the feeling that the first half decent opposition we face in Europe we are going to get soundly beaten? OK we weren’t playing a full strength team and playing an unfamiliar formation but the players turning out today are not fringe players-they are squad rotation players.

    I still think we have a strong first XI. But I worry a lot about the depth of our squad outside of our impressive forward options.

    Our midfield always looks suspect without (and often with) Carrick playing. Anderson had a great chance to strengthen his claim for a run in the first team and flopped his lines. Giggs showed why despite his class he is not really a central midfielder.

    Evans showed he is still too easily bullied and needs someone like Rio or Vidic alongside him to really feel comfortable. Smalling I’ll go easy on him as he has been out for a while. And reserve most of my ire for Patrice Evra. We need a succession plan. And not Buttner.

  2. Fergie is crazy with his attacking instincts. The team today for 70 minutes was completely unbalanced. The starting lineup had SEVEN attacking players (Vally, Anderson, Giggs, Rooney, Nani, Welbeck, Chicharito) playing from defense to attack.

    We did not have a single midfielder who could keep possession as Carrick or Scholes can, so we lost possession over and over (thanks to Anderson and Giggs, mainly). Then Rooney’s risky midfield behavior lost us possession in our own half and the penalty followed.

    Only after Rafael was put in as RB and Vally shifted up did we manage to play wide and unleash Vally. Rooney-Persie-Hernadez strike-force did really well in 20 minutes with Rooney the heart of EVERY attack, spraying the ball wide to Vally and getting in good positions.

    Of course, Persie’s world class skills were showcased again and he makes pennies out of 24 million pounds.

    Top of league, top of group. Bring it on.

    • @Opti: Need to keep the Rooney-RVP axis going with Hernandez as super sub in the Premier League. Playing with Hernandez in the starting XI means the brilliant understanding between Rooney and RVP is interrupted as Rooney is forced deep, where he is not good enough.

  3. It’s almost as if Fergie was giving some fringe players their last chance. A screen test, if you like. Is Evans a fixture or a fill-in? Has Welbeck and Hernandez made enough progress? Is Nani worth the effort? Can Anderson ever wipe that grin off his face and buckle down to the serious business of playing MF.

    On this showing I’d say no on all accounts, and so move on and make a decision on all of them.
    Evans is pivotal in what is already a lousy back line – there is no affording of a wait-and-see attitude here.
    Anderson is a confusing element in a mysterious MF – lots of bodies, tons of potential and not a soul that can stand out of the crowd. Give him a one-way ticket and a pat on that fat butt or a regular first team place.
    Choose an option, please, and stop trying to keep all these cards so close to your chest. You’ve shown everyone enough, already, and the cat is way out of the bag.
    The January window is a good time for mangers to hide their mistakes under the radar of the Christmas season. Fergie, it’s a very good time to clean some of your slate, and if you do, I’ll promise not to look!! 🙂

    • @Redrich: So
      Anderson OUT Felliani IN
      Nani OUT James Rodriguez IN
      Keep Evans and still get a good defendor like Subotic or Hummels
      Since both Scholes and Giggs are retiring at the end of the season, maybe get one more CM as well. Is there any available? Maybe Christian Erikson. I can only dream.
      Finally Evra replacement.

      That makes the first team as a 4-2-3-1 formation:
      Rafael Subotic Vidic Evra (?)
      Carrick Felliani
      Valencia Rooney Kagawa/Rodriguez

      we can even play three Erikson in CM or in left attacking mid position if we dont get Rodriguez. He plays there for Ajax.

      Thats the wishlist for now! Total outlay ~ 50m euros or thereabouts needed.

      Question is – wheres the money?

      • @jos: I think Felliani will be wasted next to Carrick as he has flourished further up the pitch.

        I would much prefer a box to box midfielder or a holding midfielder, those are dying breeds though.

        • @SOC: Felliani is as good a box-to-box mid as you can find. He can play that Gattuso role very well and Carrick can play the Pirlo role. Lot of Felliani’s goals are headers from set pieces actually. He is unbeatable in the air.

      • @jos: @jos: I really think Strootman has to be the answer. I would also have El Shaarawy from Milan in a swap deal for Nani.

  4. Is it me or are we wayyyyyyy behind in terms of technical ability and in terms of keeping possesssion??? Fine we had spells where we kept possesion but we were only playing the ball laterally, there was no vertical penetration whatsoever until we Rafael came on and we pushed Tony V up on the right! I am not even going to go into the subject with regards to our technical ability because lets not kid ourselves, it is average, at best.

    In a world where having top grade technical ability and ball retention skills are crucial in modern day european football, I think we are way behind in that department unfortunately! I appreciate and I praise SAF for the fact that he is trying to at least implement a different way of playing by introducing an extra system (diamond) but even in this system, we dont seem to dominate the midfield or show good ball retention ability at all and this formation is designed to control the midfield and dominate possession!!

    We are a team who has always played a quick a direct style of football. We dont even try to swtich things up or try a difference appraoch! I think it comes down to the fact that we either dont have the right players to be able to adopt a possession based approach or the back room staff are worried about changing our style of play as it could involve a period of transition which could backfire and take us into decline? Sort of like a “take 2 steps back to go 1 step forward” philosophy.

    Personally i do not feel that we are doing enough to adapt and move forward when it comes to playing in Europe and its a shame because believe you me, if we get drawn a better team in the last 16 (and we will) then unfortunatley i can’t see us progressing. Call me a pessimist however we have be realistic and not kid oursevles when it comes to what we can achieve when it comes to European football. Long gone are the days of 2007-2009 seasons when we were possibly one of the, if not, the best team in Europe where we played a fluid system with possible the top 3 forwards at the time.

    All other European teams seem to have taken a step forward in Europe whereas we haven’t and you would have thought we would have learned something after getting slaughtered by Barcelona in two Champions League finals!

    Sorry guys if some of what i have said above is not what you want to hear but I am sure you will agree with some of the points i have raised above!


    • @Racs: Ok here’s why we can’t control the MF. Wazza – passed the ball BACKWARDS for 80% of the game when we needed someone to open up their defence. He also cost us the goal they scored, with his sloppiness even in passing backwards, and he has lost a yard in what used to be his great pace. He shouldn’t be all over MF, trying to do it all, if he wants MF so freakin badly, he should stay where he will be affective just behind the frontmen. Then we had Giggsy, Andie, and the totally useless, what was he even doing on the pitch Welbeck. Welbeck contributed fook all, these three guys can’t tackle and win the ball, though Giggsy and Andie can usually break down defences when more forward. We have no decent CM’s, and no power house in MF, who can keep breaking down opposition play, by winning the ball and passing it forwards instead of backwards! Nani looks ill, his head has gone, he is utterly unhappy at United and he needs to get away from Fergie as quickly as possible. The lad is not with us anymore, his heart is not in it. He will go for free at the end of the season, and I don’t blame him to be honest lads. I think SAF has a lot to answer for to the fans who once again spent their well earned cash to go to watch a makeshift team try to play football. A winger playing LB, a CH who was far from match fit, and Evans himself was struggling with injury. Then non present Welbeck who dawdles around, doesn’t know what it is to get stuck in if his life depended on it. And Fergie is talking about winning the CL – what happened to SAF that he seems to be so much living in fantasy land. I mean the great Sir Fergie who we all knew and loved all these years as United fans. Putting out that team last night was asking for a hammering, and only RVP prevented an utter debacle by equalising and galvanising the last 20 minutes. Once again little pea proves at some point, because of all his being in the right place at the right time, he will conjure up a goal, love the lad! Rant over lads!

      • @Craig Mc: Yes mate, Nani is never to blame and it is all Fergies fault he has been appalling this season, change the record mate… 🙄

        • @Stephen: I didn’t say anywhere in that post that Nani bears no blame, I just said as I have always said for nigh on a year now, the lad needs a new club, because Stephen even you must have seen in that game last night, in his own country, he looked ill, and both his head and his heart are not even in his football any longer. I remember the Portugal manager saying that Nani struggles more than any player he knows with his nerves and emotions, and it came out severely when he couldn’t play in world cup due to injury. I am not saying it is all down to Fergie, but SAF has his favourites, even when they play like shite, and Nani has never been one of them. You know it Stephen and so do I.

      • @Craig Mc: always slamming rooney- its a shame you cant see he is vital to the team…….. nani is easily replaced and pretty much a joke, rooney is playing in every position and still controls the game

        • @ash is the man: I haven’t had a go at Rooney for a long time mate, but the truth hurts doesn’t it? I wasn’t the only one who said Rooney gave the ball away that led to their goal. Are you trying to say that Wazza didn’t spend a good proportion of the game backpassing the ball. If so tell me when he went forward and opened up their defence, BEFORE RVP came on, and I will tell you to watch the game through again!

    • @Racs: how negative are you? we won 3-1 and may i remind you we destroyed arsenal at the weekend, shut up and follow your team

      • @ash is the man: I am not gonna be a mouth piece for SAF and Rooney like you, so get used to it! Thankfully ENGLAND is still a democratic, free speech country!

        • @Craig Mc: What I meant to say Ashistheman, is leave Racs alone, he’s not negative just because he has a different opinion to you. Apologies Rimmers mate, I know I shouldn’t get involved, just believe in everybody’s right to their own opinion that’s all. When you consider I wasn’t always of that mind, must show some growth – right 😉 😉 😀 😀

  5. I’m sick and tired of seeing Rooney in midfield, Welbeck and Chicharito starting together. Usually it’s only our midfield which is outplayed, but the forward line last night was completely non-existent until RVP came in to kick ass.

    Even Rafa Benitez wouldn’t be so delusional as to think we didn’t need a central midfielder. Just buy one (preferably two) and get it over with. Play Rooney alongside RVP, give Henriquez his chance to develop under their leadership, and for the love of the footballing gods, sell Welbeck. Giggs should stop playing the legend card and retire.

    Oh wait, maybe I didn’t mention, BUY A MIDFIELDER. I did say we needed to have a forward who can play as lone striker, and thank fuck we bought RVP because he is the ultimate frontman.

    • @Moscow: Totally agree, we played a right winger at right back. A striker left midfield, a centre forward in central midfield, a left winger in centre mid.
      This is madness, square pegs in round holes just doesn’t work. We have tried to do this for years and has always failed.

      • @Stephen: Fergie is a fantastic man manager and the most legendary manager ever but this cannot go on. He either needs to get rid of yes-men and hire the cream of the European tactical setup or we need a new start altogether. Jurgen Klopp perhaps?

    • @Moscow: Here’s United’s lineup from last night:


      And we expected to see good football from this? No midfielders, no possession, no chances, no goal. Not Welbeck’s fault here.

      PS: In FIFA, I got an offer of 13 million from Villa for Welbeck… not too bad.

      • @Opti: Welbeck is clearly not good enough to be United quality, but he is young and English. A premium transfer fee can be received for him if we play our cards right and put him on the market now.

        • @Moscow: Welbeck is useless, he had a chance to score last night miscontrolled the ball and conceded a hand ball!
          He would command a premium in the market, he is young and English, lets sell him and move on.

        • @Moscow: Welbeck really needs to work on his balance. I don’t think he is that bad but if he avoids rushing things then I think he can be good enough for us. Great/world class? not sure about that

        • @Moscow: I want to give Welbeck two more years before selling him. We cannot get that much for him either way as he is a United player… how much did we get for Rossi (italian), Pique, or Campbell (english)? Less than 6 million for each, I think.

          Welbeck (unless played regularly) will not command a fee above 10 million. So why sell him? He is good backup, United product, good competition for Rooney and RvP (think Büttner for Evra).

    • @Moscow: 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 – can always rely on you to make us laugh Moscow, and we sure as fook needed a good laugh after seeing the 1st 70 minutes of what is supposedly called CL football by our team! The most entertaining part of the game last night, was United’s travelling fans SINGING in full voice, “we’re Man United, we’ll play in the dark”. Stoics those lads are!

  6. When RVP is rested or (gulp) injured, we could play 4-3-3 with Rooney leading the line, flanked by Valencia/Young and Nani. It would allow Nani to play in his best position as inside forward and give him the opportunity to showcase the world class skills he gives for Portugal in the same formation.

  7. We started lazily(almost as usual) but in the end I thank God the lights out helped us rectify some things. Nice feeling to know we are top, qualified to the next round as number 1 in the group with two games we can afford to fuck up as much as we like. Have to say I was anti- van persie before the season started but he has proved me wrong. I definitely enjoyed (and continue to) the humble pie served. 😀

    Waiting for tactical analysis from rangerooney……

  8. Anderson and Cleverley usually play decent alongside Carrick or Scholes,actual midfielders who can keep the ball and dictate play,not f*ing Wayne Rooney who’s absolutely wasted in that area.I don’t mind him further up or in that free-role he has been playing in,but please no centre midfield.

    Welbeck on the wing is like an Anti-Racism armband on John Terry,Useless and wasted.Also,Hernandez plays so much better when we play two up front.

    That said,the job has been done and we can look forward to the next round.

    I hope this Nani contract issue gets sorted out,it’s really affecting his game.And should he be sold I fear that the money will end up in the Glazers’ pocket and not back into the transfer market,then again,we have Bebe so we’re sorted.Right??? :mrgreen:

  9. Victor Wanyama. The answer to our midfield problems. And Celtic bought him for less than a million. A seventh the price we paid for flops such as Mame Diouf, Tosic, Bebe and co.

    We are rumored to be interested and he’d actually be affordable. So lets make it happen.

    • @colver: He is like (Keane+Scholes)/2 :
      1) African… United have been seeking a good one since Essien opted for Chelsea.
      2) Young at only 21 years old… Fergie MO
      3) He is strong and consistent… Why Fergie got Carrick
      4) He performed amazingly well against world class sides (Barca twice, Inter)… something Fergie considers important
      5) He will probably cost less than 15 million after rejecting Celtic’s contract offers… United-style transfer fees.
      Main worry: we will not be able to sign him if Barca/Madrid/City/PSG/Chelsea come calling too


      PS: Chek Tiote = poor man’s Wanyama!

  10. Mame Diouf has scored 17 goals in just 25 games for a less than average team in a tough German League…

  11. I think fergie now has reached a stage where he cares more about being ‘nice’ to players and giving everyone their fair share of gametime than about team continuity. Manutd must be the most rotated squad in the entire history of football, I cant think of any other team EVER that constantly changes the first 11. its reached the stage now where it doesnt matter if players are played out of position so long as their on the pitch. Keeping the squad fresh is fair and needs to be done at times but I think were taking it way to far now and Fergie in my view underestimates the importance of a settled side and what that brings to the teams gameplay. This year alone weve had Giggs, Carrick, Anderson, Rooney, Kagawa, Scholes, Fletcher and Cleverley all playing in the middle at different times with different partnerships and different formations. And no matter how ‘fresh’ they are we always seem to have an issue with the actual playing. Weve picked up the points but thats expected when we have mecurial talents like Van Persie who did the same so much for a crap gunner side last year too.

    Braga must have been the first time in a long time, I changed the channel while United was playing. Obviously the league tables show us dominating both priority competitions but at this stage that means nothing really, apart from the fact weve qualified from a shit group and have a one point advantage. As a team though, we havent has any standout performance I wouldnt say. I remember in the buildup to the 1st final we had against Barcelona where we had the league already wrapped up and were rotating, everyone was on about how fresh the players would be against a ‘tired’ Barca side, that everyone could pick the eleven very simply. Well the final came and the freshness didnt count for one bit. I think this new found love for rotation that has entered the Old Trafford coaching staffs thinking is very over-rated. It is important in certain games but the way we do it, playing strikers on the wing- Welbeck, and a once immensely dangerous(attacking wise) Wayne Rooney in the middle, is just a farce.

    I think the squad could do with a little culling. It seems though that because we have started it already itl be difficult to stop it now because of the players own sense of entitlement, they feel they all need to start when in fact this shouldnt be the case at all. Some players are better than others and this in my view should show when the line ups are released. The good thing now with Van Persie signing is that in every game that we need to get a result, he will start and so will wazza, Id hoped that it would be as a partnership but somehow Chicha and Welbeck are also playing and were playing Rooney in the middle where he will prove to be an absolute liability going back as he did against both Chelsea and Braga because lets face it, the lad is not close to being a midfielder.

    The only reason our backline has been settled is because we didnt have any options but with smalling and jones fit now we can expect household rotation there too. I hope Rafael’s place doesnt get messed with too much because as shown with regular games hes becoming one of the best right backs in the world. If Smalling and Jones now start to be rotated with him I expect a dip in form there.

    • @Robbie: Glad somebody else sees what I see about Wazza and his MF failures. He is great just behind the forwards if he is to play in MF at all, but we lose a good few goals a season if he plays deeper, and we lose possession quite a bit too. Wazza has hit it off with RVP and that’s where he needs to play, and where we will get so many goals from them. Chicharito won’t fail us in the goals department either, he is expert at being in right place at right time. Wazza gave him the ball in a goals scoring position once only in the Braga game, and though he had the GK and 2 defenders on the goal line, and he fell on his back being tackled, he still managed to stick his foot out and score. He will keep scoring if he plays, but sadly we have 3 top class strikers, Wazza, RVP, and Chicharito, and they can’t all play together every week. One of them is going to have to play out of position! Somebody said that RVP isn’t an out and out forward striker, that he likes to tuck in like Rooney, but Chicharito wants to be up front and out there. He has learn’t mostly to stay on side now, so got to give the lad some credit for that too.

  12. Once again, poor performance and the blame game begins. But we all know there’s only one element to blame. We don’t have coaches. Anderson has played well in more attacking roles. He’s not a holding midfielder, he’s not a deep lying midfielder. Giggs is clearly not what we need in any on the pitch capacity. How did anyone expect this to work? Anderson and Giggs in midfield. Player ratings are totally unnecessary in these circumstances. You know well before the game what will happen. If midfield is poorly arranged it suffers,the attack and defence suffer. As if that’s not enough, you get Rooney and Nani playing wierd roles meaning the attack is also poorly arranged. What then is the point of rating players?

    The problem is after this, people including Ferguson, start thinking that this proves some players are not good enough after the subs changed the game.
    What the subs did was switch the team to a more logical setup. Not totally, but certainly better than the rubbish setup we started with. We’re fast approaching January and the usual suspects are being thrown around the internet as possible solutions. Oh we need so and so, flavor of the week. At some point Kagawa and Hazard and Gotze were the necessary flavors to improve us. Well we got one of those flavors and how is that working out?

    I have always insisted and this will never change. We need new management. Ferguson and his bench are the real impediments and barriers to the progression of this team. Coaching and management are really complex and highly demanding jobs on their own. Even for the best of the best. You can’t even imagine how poorly you’ll do when you have the worst of the worst. Well you can actually. Watch United for a month. I feel sorry for Ferguson though he really gets on my nerves. He had found the perfect combination with CQ but that didn’t last. Now he has the very worst bench in the history of major leagues football. It not only makes him look bad but actually causes him to start sucking at his own job. And it’s really become a vicious cycle of the coaches sucking big time,resulting in highly inconsistent individual and team performances. Then Ferguson with his inability to diagnose technically,concludes that the problem is with certain players and starts to single out the unfortunate for blame. Even publicly as he did with Nani last week. But at the same time he has his undroppable names like Rooney,Evra etc. So the “underperforming” players are sidelined and we get frequent changes all the time hence the mega rotation. That means that the real problem is never detected because we have the unique luxury of a manager who knows very little about technical football and the burden of coaches who know nothing at all about football. In the middle you’ve got a bunch of overpaid and utterly confused players with enough individual talent but zero corporate function or cohesion.

    The cycle can only be broken by one event. The stepping down of Ferguson. There’s no way his replacement will be as ignorant about technical football so he won’t be willing to work with the likes of Phelan on any level. Problem solved. Solution is definitely not James Rodriguez,or Witsel or any other midfield general,just like Kagawa has not been a solution. Neither has RvP. He has been this season’s survival kit as opposed to the improvement he deserves to be. I sincerely hope this is Ferguson’s last season

    • @Jay wire: No-one is bigger than the club, if Fergie continues this madness then he must step down. Fortunately I think the unveiling of his statue has been timed for his last season. There is no need to tarnish his legacy, he can choose a more than adequate successor, Klopp or of course The Special One.

      • @Moscow: Step down? We are top of the League? Where are Real under the not so special one? They are 3rd 8 points off the top and 2nd in their Champions league group and they can consider themselves lucky being there mate, special my a*#e.

    • @Jay wire: If you and I can see our problems so obviously, then FERGIE can too (with his 26 years at the helm, it is an easy assumption). He may not be technically gifted but he is not a moron either…

      There has to be another reason as to why he keeps these numb-balls around…

    • @Jay wire: i am of the opinion that Anderson can play any role in our side, be it atatcking mid, central mid or defensive mid. And there are only one more who can do that effectively in our squad and that is carrick. Cleverly, fletcher and giggs or kagawa are not true options for that spot and i dont think even pogba was the answer. We need to get true central midfielder and there are few and far between currently in the market on who can meet that criteria.

    • @Jay wire: I sincerely feel for you Jay and many other poor United fans who have had to struggle with us being top of the Premier League and having qualified from our Champions League group with maximum points.

  13. “Ferguson with his inability”

    Well i will accept such inability if it delivers success after success for 25 years.

  14. I haven’t had time to browse through all the comments so excuse me if someone has already flagged this obvious moment up from Wednesday’s game.

    70mins with Nani – Shite
    20mins w/o Nani (and Valencia switched in his rightful position) – Much better.

    Is it just a coincidence or was that actual proof and video evidence that Nani really is piss poor?


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