1. Whilst it wasn’t a brilliant performance from United last night, it was important that we sorted out our poor home form from the Champions League last season, so I’m more than happy with the three points. We’ll have tougher opposition in Braga still to come but the win takes the pressure off the players a bit and keeps the press off our back. We dominated the possession and chances but a better team would have made us pay for our inability to score a second goal.
2. United have had three penalties this season and have missed all three of them, with Rooney missing one in the pre-season against Barcelona too. I’m sure United must practice their set pieces in training but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of it on the pitch. It was alarming to hear that, yet again, Ferguson had instructed our players on who would be taking a penalty if we were awarded one. It just seems really sloppy and I don’t think we should be missing that attention to detail. I’d agree with the manager, that Robin van Persie should have taken it, despite his bizarre penalty miss against Southampton, but I still fancied Nani to score.
3. Nani’s situation is a worry. He is clearly one of our most talented players, with some of the best moments of the game coming from his ability to beat a man or put in a good ball, but too many of the worst moments were his too. He is so frustrating and the crowd are on his back straight away. With Ashley Young injured, we aren’t spoilt for choices, but you’d imagine that he wouldn’t be playing if we had options. His form has been poor this season and contract negotiations aren’t going well. Talk suggests that Nani is keen to stay and that a move to Zenit fell through after the clubs agreed a fee because our winger asked for a ridiculous amount of money, knowing they wouldn’t pay it. Nani was offered to several clubs in the summer but he didn’t want to go, and apparently United aren’t offering him any improvement on his current deal. At 25-years-old, he’s a player who we could definitely make back the transfer fee and then some if we sold him, but despite his frustrating performances, I think this would be a mistake.
4. Michael Carrick scored the only goal of the game and put in a good shift. Scoring goals has never been his strong point but he took his shot well last night. Paul Scholes wasn’t as influential as usual and gave away possession in some dangerous positions. You’d imagine that the 80 minutes he played would mean he won’t be starting at Anfield but instead will be used to save the day, if needed, as he did at Southampton from the bench.
5. One of the few highlights of the game was the return of Darren Fletcher, who replaced Scholes with ten minutes to go. It seemed like a highly risky substitution, given that he hasn’t played for the first team since November 2011 and clearly wasn’t match fit. It was odd to throw him in to a game that we hadn’t got wrapped up yet, particularly with Tom Cleverley and Anderson on the bench. You’d have to assume that Fergie didn’t want to risk any injury to Cleverley, who almost certainly will start at Anfield, but I don’t know what this says about his opinion of Anderson.
6. Patrice Evra didn’t respond very well to the great game Alexander Büttner enjoyed against Wigan at the weekend. In the first half he was attrocious, repeatedly giving the ball away in dangerous positions and adding little to the attack. He improved in the second half though and Galatasaray posed more of a threat down the right wing than Wigan did. His days are numbered though if he doesn’t pull his finger out.
7. Whilst Chicharito didn’t score when he came on, he got himself in to good positions a couple of times and probably could have scored a hattrick. Whilst it’s frustrating that he wasn’t clinical enough, a massive positive for me is that he was onside on all these occasions. Far too often over the past season he was straying offside, whilst now he is showing the positioning of his first season, right on the shoulder of the last man, and that is great to see.
8. Following the ridiculous overreaction in the media to the “always the victims, it’s never their fault” chant at the weekend, the Stretford End steered clear of any songs that could be interpreted negatively. They did sing a chorus of “we’re Man United, we’ll sing what we want” though. They obviously didn’t want to sing anything controversial last night then.
9. No, we didn’t set the world alight, but it’s three points in the bag which is the most important thing. Ferguson is starting his strongest team in the group stages, determined for us not to be embarrassed with the Europa League again this season. We can whistle the tune to “Thursday nights, channel 5” all day and be thankful that it’s Liverpool playing tonight, ahead of Sunday’s clash, and not us.
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