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Attack, attack, attack the only way forward for United

Manchester United produced another trademark comeback, this time to defeat Braga 3-2 and maintain their 100% record in the Champions League this season.

Javier Hernandez netted twice, including the winner fifteen minutes from time, as United showed all their well renowned flaws but, at times, produced some brilliant football against a very well organised Braga side.

If anybody might still be wondering whether footballers have learnt something from the London Olympics, they ought to watch United to find the answer, for Ferguson’s side have become masters in approaching matches in the same fashion Mo Farah approaches a 5,000m or 10,000 race – extremely slow starts followed by an inevitable surge through the pack to gain the lead.

With Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra rested, Michael Carrick shifted alongside Jonny Evans in defense, with Alex Buttner, making his European debut, and Rafael, clocking up a century of games in a United shirt, as full-backs. A diamond midfield included Darren Fletcher, Shinji Kagawa, Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney, with Robin Van Persie and Javier Hernandez up-front (you can vote for who the best Man Utd footballer is (e.g. Robin van Persie), on FootballTop.com).

Portuguese sides have never left Old Trafford victorious, but Braga did their best to put the record straight within the first twenty minutes, as they looked to take full advantage of yet another slow start from the home side.

With less than 120 seconds played the hosts were ahead as former Newcastle midfielder Hugo Viana swung in a cross that was headed in at the near post by Alan, after the Braga captain had got ahead of Buttner. The goal meant that United have now conceded a goal within the first 15 minutes in their last six games in the Champions League.

United were rattled by the early goal and failed to produce anything substantial in the early exchanges of the game and were to be punished again after 20 minutes as Eder turned Michael Carrick over on the byline before delivering an inviting ball to Alan who, unmarked in the middle of the box, side-footed the ball past De Gea to give Braga a two-goal lead.

The home team responded almost immediately this time, Kagawa picking up the pieces after Van Persie had been brought down at the edge of the box, before delivering a sumptuous ball over the Braga defenders, upon which Javier Hernandez launched at full stretch to halve the gap for his club.

Three minutes later Van Persie fired narrowly wide after having been played through by Rooney and the two combined again 120 seconds later, with Hernandez unable to convert the Dutchman’s cross from close range.

United had a goal wrongly chalked off ten minutes before half-time, when Kagawa was judged to have been offside as he pulled the ball back across the box for Hernandez. The Japanese made way for Nani at the break, a decision forced by United’s obvious lack of width on the pitch and by the fact that he had picked up a knock in the first half.

The sooner United find a way to accomodate the former Borussia Dortmund man in their schemes the better, for the little Japanese is too talented to be wasted roaming around the pitch in areas not suited to his ability.

United started the second half with a complete different approach to the first half, with Van Persie testing Beto’s reflexes with a powerful free-kick eight minutes after the restart.

The Dutchman was in the thick of the action once again ten minutes later as his corner was flicked on by Carrick and converted into the net by Jonny Evans. The Northern Irishman failed to make any contact with his right foot, before slotting the ball past Beto with his left to register his second goal in three games and his first in Europe.

With less than 20 minutes left, Hernandez did superbly well to defend a ball on the left touchline before finding Nani, whose shot was expertly parried away by Beto. The Mexican was superb tonight, harassing Braga defenders, chasing down every ball and making some astute runs in behind the Braga defenders to confirm himself as a key part of this Manchester United team, despite the relative limited time on the pitch he’s had so far this season.

United had the momentum and, with fifteen minutes to go, had the winner too, as Tom Cleverley ignited his otherwise dull night by delivering a brilliant ball to the far post where Hernandez soared unchallenged to head the ball past Beto and ensured that Braga’s record of seven unbeaten games on the road in Europe came to a crushing end.

The result puts United in total control in Group H, with nine points in three games, followed by Cluj on four and Braga on three.

Adopting a Mo Farah-like strategy might suit United at this stage of the competition, but there’s no doubt they’ll require a more Usain Boltesque approach if they’re to progress further.

Dan (@MUFC_dan87)

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Reddevil4life

    October 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I think chicharito’s performance was the perfect reply for the article published a few days back regarding his future at old trafford in this website 😀 take bow little pea 🙂

  2. The_Philosopher

    October 24, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Great game last night. My heart was warmed by Chicharito’s fighting spirit and his goals. This was the perfect riposte to the ‘offload Hernandez’ sentiment.

    Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that he now does not know what to do with his strikers because they are all playing well at the moment.

    I agree with you Daniele that Kagawa needs to be deployed behind the striker where his powers are best utilised. The problem is that thats where Rooney is being played as well while RVP dominates the lead striker’s role. So you have to play one of them at the expense of the other.

    I personally think that Rooney should be played as a box to box player. He needs to control the game from the middle of the park. And his an influential enough player to do that. Rooney does seem to want to be involved all the time so why not play him in central midfield so that he can be involved all the time. He could even captain the team in Vida’s absence.

    Rooney can attack and defend. He can hustle for the ball in midfield and give us presence in that area of our game.

    I like the idea of a midfield triangle with Rooney and Cleverly at the base and Kagawa linking midfield and attack.

    Cleverly can play the holding role when Rooney runs forward to join the attack and Rooney should play that role when Cleverly runs ahead. But Kagawa must be allowed to play his natural game.

    This would allow us to have Young, RVP and Valencia upfront. I think that that kind of 4-3-3 setup would incorporate both the ball possesion we’re trying achieve with the diamond formation and the width we get out of our traditional 4-4-2.

    But it can only work if we sacrifice Rooney as an out and out striker.

    • Moscow

      October 24, 2012 at 11:56 am

      @The_Philosopher: Rooney will never be a central midfielder, he lacks the technique and composure for that role. He shouldn’t even be played as an attacking midfielder. Why do we not play Kagawa at the tip of the diamond with Rooney alongside RVP?

      • RMJ

        October 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm

        @Moscow: Agree with you mate, I think Kagawa at the top of the diamond is the way to go..right now fergie sticks him far too often on the right or left of the formation. RIght side Valencia has experience playing a narrow role from his national team and all that is need is on the left where both Cleverly and Anderson can fill any time.

      • The_Philosopher

        October 26, 2012 at 8:05 am

        @Moscow:
        I would much rather we play Rooney in central midfield than Ryan Giggs. My Goodness!

        I keep bringing up the Rooney in midfield issue because I don’t like the fact that we HAVE to play Rooney in every game otherwise he will lose his sharpness.

        Kagawa shouldn’t have to sit on the bench or be played out of position because we’re trying to accomodate Wayne Rooney. Kagawa is a more technically gifted player and is great at finding passes that pierce through defenses.

        Rooney is useful as a striker, however, so lets play him as a striker. But he shouldn’t be above the rotation system. If we can’t put him on the bench to give other strikers a go because of his fitness issues then lets play him in midfield to keep his cogs ticking until its his turn upfront again.

        Thats all I’m saying

    • Stephen

      October 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      @The_Philosopher: Rooney in midfield is square pegs in round holes, we should simply buy a midfield player.

  3. Sahal

    October 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    I love the new “give them a gaol of hope tactic”.Seems to be working well hehe :mrgreen:

    IF Fergie goes with the extra striker against Chelsea,it’s got be Hernandez.Their defense is by far the weakest point of the team and the runs Hernandez makes will give Luiz and Cahill a tough time.
    Tom Cleverley was excellent yet again as were Rooney and RVP.

    • Kekonius

      October 25, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      @Sahal: What are you on? Chelseas defense are not their weakness, their weakness is their striker. But that is overcompensated by their “3”s.

  4. Sahal

    October 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I love the new “give them a goal of hope tactic”.Seems to be working well hehe :mrgreen:

    If Fergie goes with the extra striker against Chelsea,it’s got be Hernandez.Their defense is by far the weakest point of the team and the runs Hernandez makes will give Luiz and Cahill a tough time.
    Tom Cleverley was excellent yet again as were Rooney and RVP.

  5. Opti

    October 24, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Without judging any United player here are United stats for our 4 strikers and Johnny Evans.
    ==============================
    Name — App’s (Starts) — Goals (Assists) — (G+A)/Start — (G+A)/App
    ——————————————–
    Welbeck — 11 (6) — 1 (2) — 0.500 — 0.273
    Chicharito — 9 (4) — 3 (1) — 1.000 — 0.444
    Rooney — 8 (6) — 2 (6) — 1.333 — 1.000
    v. Persie — 11 (9) — 8 (3) — 1.222 — 1.000
    Evans — 8 (7) — 2 (0) — 0.286 — 0.250
    ==============================

  6. Moscow

    October 24, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    That was a very entertaining night of Champions League football 😆

    Football 3-1 Money

  7. nelson

    October 24, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Hahaaa. so happy shitty lost. United only English team to win. up united. hope city crash out

  8. nelson

    October 24, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    No doubt chicharito saved us yesterday. the real test to sir Alex’s revolutionary tactic will be this weekend. unlike opposition we have faced I don’t think it will be wise to afford them many chances like braga or stoke otherwise Juan MatA and core will pick us apart. huge test for midfield and defense

    • The_Philosopher

      October 25, 2012 at 8:56 am

      @nelson:
      I totally agree. This Chelsea game is our first real test this season. And I’m not feeling confident in our denfence or our midfield

      I am curious to see the selection Ferguson goes with. I hope he doesn’t play Scholes and Carrick as the centre partnership in a 4-4-2.

      Cleverly and Carrick in the middle, Young and Valencia out wide with Rooney playing behind RVP is the most probable setup I would reckon.

      I hope it works…

      • The_Philosopher

        October 25, 2012 at 3:18 pm

        @The_Philosopher:
        But you actually can’t leave Scholes out.

        So I hope he plays 4-3-3 with Rooney and RVP switching between the left and the centre up front and Valencia on the right wing. Cleverly, Scholes and Carrick in the middle with the usual suspects at the back.

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