There will be no repeat of last seasons embarrassment as Manchester United have booked their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League with victory against Braga in Portugal tonight in what was a really weird game. A boring first half where United had one shot (off target) preceded a half that had four goals and a lack of lights, as the power went off and the players brought in from the rain for 10 minutes.
There really isn't much to say about the first half. No pace at all in the game. It was a real snooze fest. Somewhere, there was a wall of paint drying that was calling my name..... Braga were the best team in that period, forcing a couple of decent saves from birthday boy David De Gea and hitting the post on one occasion.
The second half was a different beast however. Braga took the lead from the spot after Jonny Evans brought down his man. There was not a lot the United man could have done, as he was run into, but as the ball was knocked past him, it was a clear penalty.
After that the lights went out. When the players returned, Rio Ferdinand took Evans' place and soon after that, Robin Van Persie came on to rescue United. He had help however. The Braga keeper came out to clear a free kick. He got to the edge of his box and was in no mans land. In face, he was in no mans no mans land. That was how poor his decision was to come out. Van Persie's eyes lit up and placed it home. The keeper got a hand to it but could do nothing to keep it out.
There was only one winner of the game after that. United poured forward. Rafael too had entered the fray at the expense of Nani, who was poor. That pushed Antonio Valencia forward too RM, after being deployed at RB. The Valencia/Rafael partnership worked really well down the right hand side and made us a lot more dangerous going forward.
The second came soon after. Ryan Giggs picked out a perfect pass to Javier Hernandez. The Mexican's shot was smothered but the ball fell to Wayne Rooney. Just when you thought his shot would be blocked, he instead shifted it right and invited the challenge. The referee initially let play go on, but the
100th 5th official seemed to give it. After around 10 seconds the whistle blew and the penalty given. Wayne Rooney stepped up, fresh from his miss from 12 at the weekend. At first it looked as though he placed it beautifully. In fact, his left foot slipped, and in doing so deflected the ball into the top right corner. Fluke!
With the game all but over, and with Galatasaray beating CFR Cluj 3-1 the group was ours. That did not stop a third from coming however. Rooney found Chicarito in the box with a cute flick. He first took it round the keeper. He slipped whilst shooting. That was cleared off the line. He then swung a leg whilst still on the floor and somehow it went in. Made a meal of it yet the little assassin still scored. A weird goal to top off a really weird night.
Really pleased to have sewn up qualification, as well as top spot. That effectively gives us two free games to which give young un's experience and get players back in form and back to match fitness. I am sure Chris Smalling (went 90 tonight and played well) and Phil Jones will relish the opportunity.
Next up is an away trip to Aston Villa on Saturday. Make sure you join us for that. Night all!