Game in a Sentence

Man United follow a similar script and come back from two goals down against Braga to earn a compelling win at Old Trafford.

Observations

  • Man United came out with the much vaunted diamond, which was very diamond like indeed in a 4-1-2-1-2, Robin Van Persie and Chicharito up front, with Rooney (ugh) at the tip, Kagawa and Cleverley outside, and Fletcher picking up the rear. Buttner and Rafael were the fullbacks and Carrick started alongside Jonny Evans in a slightly less than stellar centreback pairing.
  • Braga meanwhile started in a more conventional 4-2-3-1, with the rampant Eder up front in fron of a three with Alan Silva out right, Micael in the middle and Amorim on the left. Ederson was very effective in left-back.
  • MAN UNITED IN EARLY CONCESSION SHOCKER! Not really. Man United were flat in defense, not reactive, not really willing to press with urgency, which allowed Viana a lot of room to move in on the left flank. He sent a routine, searching cross which found the head of Alan in the second minute of play, 0-1. We’ve seen this movie too. Carrick and Evans were caught completely flatfooted, and Carrick’s woes continued from there.
  • Cue the also not-so-unpredictable shocker of a opening where Braga exploited the width of the pitch on the counterattack. But again, Carrick was a boy doing a man’s job. Completely stripped and humiliated by Eder on the left (again), the Braga player was able to find Alan (again!) in perfect position to send a lot shot past De Gea. This was what Stoke threatened to do on the weekend. Little has changed in that department.
  • Much hay was made (love this expression lately) over the fact Evra and Rio were rested for United, but it’s hard to argue they would have made a substantial difference in shape at the back. And while some commentators went a little overboard in touting the virtues of a team that is third and three points off top spot in the Portuguese Super Liga, Braga came prepared.
  • Still…come on. Manchester United. It took an isolated moment of Kagawan patience for him to lob a cross to the perfectly onside Chicharito in the 25th minute to head it in and United pulled the goal back. But while this would normally initiate an impressive change (and to their credit, United were a little better at retaining possession after that), they didn’t exactly pepper the Braga goal mouth. They managed 5 shots total to Braga’s 6 in the first half.
  • United as expected returned to the pitch in a different shape and with more intent. Nani came on for Kagawa, and the home side began to stretch a slowly tiring Braga in defence, choosing in more than a few cases to play the early ball. It really is deja vu at Old Trafford sometimes isn’t it?
  • The change paid off, though really in the form of a corner won that led to a non-cleared cross in the 62nd minute that Jonny Evans swagged in after a first whiff when the Braga back four failed to clear. All nine hundred of them in there. Minutes after that, Chicharito took down a pass, beating the offside trap and in acres of space. The ref (wrongly) disagreed, and the winner went begging.
  • Hernandez would get his chance however, and right before he was subbed off (weirdly). Similar to his first goal, a wonderful cross from Tom Cleverley found Chich tucked neatly behind the last defender to head powerfully home in the 75th minute of play. 3-2 and fifteen minutes to go. Perfect.
  • This made sense: how many times have we seen this? A United, sloppy in defense in the opening stages, roars back at OT after stretching an increasingly tired, inferior opposition. Still, there were moments when Braga threatened to pull a Basle, particularly in the 80th minute when De Gea fluffed a clearance and nearly invited an equalizer free of charge. That belief (prompted also in part by RvP’s wayward shots) sustained for the final ten minutes…
  • …amounted to nothing but some tidy passing. United secured their three points. I know every pundit and their grandmother are going to get on the team for the same old problems, but if the club gets three points at home, do the means matter? Perhaps, if one takes into account goal differential. There might be fears when it comes to the “better teams,” but United has a habit of raising their game accordingly. On came Nani, play was stretched, they always seem to score. Three out of three in the CL.

Three Stars

1. Javier Hernandez
2. Alan Silva
3. Jonny Evans