Wayne Rooney scored two second half penalties as 10 men United got their European campaign back on track with a hard fought three points against Otelul Galati. Much was made of Sir Alex’s team selection against Liverpool on Saturday, and on a day when Mancunian legends Stone Rose announced their comeback, the United manager brought back in many of the players that were rested at Anfield.
Evra and Smalling were the only two survivors from the starting 11 on Merseyside and were joined in the back four by Fabio and Vidic, the United captain playing his first game since the opening day of the season. Lindegaard replaced De Gea in goal, while Nani, Carrick, Anderson and Valencia operated in the middle of the park, with Rooney and Hernandez up front.
This was only the second time in their history that United were up against a Romanian side, with the only precedent being a Champions League encounter against Dinamo Bucharest 7 years ago. Ironically, due to the size of their home ground, Galati have to play their home games in the Champions League in Bucharest , which means their fans have to endure a 300 miles round trip. Pretty much what it would be like if United had their home games staged at Wembley.
United were going into the game on the back on two draws in their first two games and started brightly, dictating the tempo in midfield while trying to open up Galati’s defence by making the pitch as wide as possible. That first spark was quickly extinguished though, as Galati showed a commendable discipline and organization in midfield, making it hard for United players to find the space they so badly craved. Munteanu’s side weren’t afraid of putting 10 men behind the ball at times, and even had their first chance of the game as Florin fired over after beating two men, with 28 minutes gone. United were sloppy and lacked cutting edge going forward, with their best chances coming as the game approached half time. First Nani produced one the runs that we’ve now come accustomed to associate with him and pulled the ball back for Carrick who fired over the bar from a good position, then, 60 seconds later, the Portuguese winger shot straight at the keeper after another decent run.
The first half was gone and with it the thought that this would be a stroll in the park for United, as Galati seemed to grow into the game.
Whatever Fergie said in the dressing room, it seemed to take sometime to make its way into the Red Devils’ minds as they started the second half in equally subdued fashion, albeit with a slight more urgent approach. The first 15 minutes of the second half saw a shower of yellow cards being brandished by the referee. The only foul that deserved a yellow, if not a red, went unpunished when the referee inexplicably failed to book Rapa after he had clattered Nani from behind.
After 62 minutes United created the first great chance of the game, Rooney firing just wide after another superb Nani run. The Portuguese winger is becoming more and more crucial for his team, his ability of creating opportunities from nothing puts him up there with the very best in the world, and he can only get better. Some of his link up with Evra down United’s left flank was one of the brightest notes of the night. The set was stage for United to take they lead, which they duly did 60 seconds later. Nani played a clever little ball over the top of his man for Rooney who raced clear and tried to pick out Hernandez, who had made a brilliant run into the box. Rooney’s cross from the left of the area was met by Coustin’s outstretched arm, which left the referee no choice. Rooney cooly converted the penalty kick to give United the lead. All over? No, because Vidic was sent off after less than a minute for a challenge which deserved a yellow at best. It seems like this week referees feel the need of showing red cards for soft challenges. United held on, Jones and Evans replacing Fabio and Valencia to steady the back four and when, with little more than 3 minutes to go Perendjia was shown a second yellow for bringing Hernandez down, Galati’s fight looked over. A minute later Rooney made this sure, converting his second penalty of the night after being fouled in the box by Antal.
United now sit second in the group with 5 points and with two of the remaining games at home, you’d fancy them to win the group. Job done then, it’s now time to focus on the Manchester derby on Sunday.
This report was written by RedRants’ latest recruit Daniele C. Daniele has taken on the challenging role of match reporter, I hope you’ll join me in showing him a very warm RedRants welcome.
Welcome aboard Dan.