Having drawn the first two games of the Champion’s League group stage, it would have been understandable that Sir Alex Ferguson will have urged his Manchester United side to do all that was possible to secure 3 points against supposed “minnows” Otelul Galati. Indeed, a comfortable victory was expected in Bucharest, kick starting United’s campaign and putting them in a good position in looking to progress to the knockout phase of the competition. What fans saw, however, was far from comfortable. Whilst United spent most of the match with overwhelming possession in their favour, they failed to make anything of it, unable to break through a resilient Galati and generally getting frustrated. The first half was a spell of little in the way of chances and any threat from the opposition was mainly through the possibility of a counter attack. Despite boasting a side that saw the return of Nemanja Vidic as well as starts for Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez, United often appeared lacklustre, guilty of errors in giving the ball away under seemingly little pressure. The second half began much in the same vain with little in the way of action until around the hour mark. Then, the breakthrough, when a handball was committed to prevent Hernandez getting to a cross. The resulting penalty was coolly dispatched by Rooney. However, a few minutes laters, Nemanja Vidic saw a straight red for a perceived dangerous tackle, making life potentially more difficult. Jonny Evans and Phil Jones were brought on immediately. However, there were no serious ramifications, although Galati threaded to stun the visitors, it was not to be as a second penalty was awarded in the closing moments of the game, which Rooney again put away, ending a nervy tie 2-0, undoubtedly much to the relief of Ferguson and his squad. With that, here are five things that may be taken from the game.
1) Vidic red – harsh?
It ought to be noted that Nemanja Vidic’s challenge was certainly clumsy and unnecessary, his foot was high, he was late and as such got no where near the ball. Such a tackle in the Premier League may have warranted a yellow card, but as Ferguson himself acknowledged, such play is often punished more harshly in Europe and as such an appeal is unlikely in this case. Indeed in parts of Europe when one foot is high and studs are showing it is often justification to send someone off, and although it may appear harsh there may be little United could do to argue their case, and as such the returning captain will once again be sidelined, although he will of course be available for the forthcoming domestic fixtures.
2) Evra was the only one having much effect
As mentioned above, even though United were dominant in possession they failed to make much of it, particularly in the first half, in part due to their wastefulness as well as Galati setting up to frustrate. One player who shone through this though was Patrice Evra. After all the controversy of the weekend, in which the Frenchman will pursue his claim of racism, fans will have been pleased to see the mainstay at left back produce and provide much of United’s threat for much of the game. With his probing runs out wide looking at ways to open up the defence he often looked like United’s only line of attack in the first half at a time when the rest of the forward play seemed to get stuck, especially Valencia being given a tough time out on the right.
3) Da Silva injuries are becoming frequent
It would be a gross exaggeration to state that one of the Da Silva twins get injured every game, but it is apparent that they do get forced off with relative frequency. Whether this is because they are young and need to toughen up or because they are simply injury prone, it does appear that when a game introduces physicality then they fall short. Fans have not seen much of the promising twins lately, and for all their talent, game time is need to fulfil the potential they have shown on numerous occasions. Luckily on this occasion a substitution was not necessary although he did make way for Phil Jones when United were looking to see out the game when down to 10 men.
4) Loss of Cleverley, change in play – coincidence?
Since Tom Cleverley began his spell on the sidelines due to injury, it would appear United’s play has deteriorated in recent weeks, seemingly lacking the free flowing passing football that was making them feared at the start of the season. It could be coincidence, but certainly when young Cleverley was playing he brought with him a certain creativity to the centre of midfield that opened up United’s attacking and allowed them to create strong chances and dispatch them with relative efficiency. Of course, the confidence being sky high at the time along with a fully fit squad added to this, but it is hard not to notice the difference in recent weeks, particularly in the way his midfield partner at the time, Anderson has fared since.
5) 3 points – campaign gets going
For all the difficulty that the evening provided, United persevered and came away with all 3 points. Although frustrating to watch at times, with wasteful play, United were by far the controlling team in the game, maintaining much of the possession even at 10 men and the result was probably fair despite the lack of a meaningful opening during the match. What matters is that the 3 points were taken but it is hoped that on returning to Old Ttrafford United are able to take victory again and set themselves up in a strong position to qualify for the knockout stages.