It’s not just Nani being the third player in two weeks to miss a penalty, and it’s not just the fact that almost everyone of his stars and key players was under-performing. Alex Ferguson wasn’t pleased, perhaps even worried, because Manchester United shouldn’t have won their match at home against Galatasaray.
And yet they did, but not because of some fantastic defending, or the midfield doing well to close out the game. United were the slower team, and Galatasaray nearly caught them off guard a few times on the counter attack, but it was much more than just counter attacking. Balls clipped the posts, and David de Gea was forced to make an impressive double save in the second half, hopefully winning his place back in the lineup.
Michael Carrick did score the opening goal, but United’s problems in the midfield weren’t gone, as he and Scholes seems too slow at times to handle the surging Turkish attack. Worse, everyone up front – Shinji Kagawa, Robin van Persie, Antonio Valencia and once again, Nani, were having an off day.
Robin van Persie was simply somewhere else with his focus, and had bad touches all match long, whether it was shooting the ball or simply controlling it. Antonio Valencia couldn’t get his crosses anywhere near a United head, misfiring for 90 minutes. Shinji Kagawa? Not bad, but his movement didn’t create enough good chances and space for others to follow through. Nani was trying to prove too much how essential he is, which resulted in nothing, and a missed penalty. Alex Ferguson later said that Robin van Persie should have taken the kick, but Nani was so eager to prove himself and score, that he just grabbed the ball and ran to get on with it.
The second line did a good job, especially Rafael, who won a penalty that shouldn’t have been called. Not diving, but not a foul. He seems to become more dangerous every year with his strides forward and to the centre from the flank, and he’s a few defensive adjustments away from turning into yet another world class Brazilian right back.
The center of the defense was OK, not more. Again a few problems of miscommunication and handling crosses, this time Evans partnering with Vidic. Vidic has still not gained back a few pounds of muscle he lost while missing an entire year of football, and his timing at certain moments and junctures could be much better.
And how can we not talk about the referees, who awarded Manchester United a penalty they didn’t deserve, but forgot to give the visitors two they actually did deserve. First it was Vidic fouling Umut Bulet and just before the end it was Evans fouling Aydin Yilmaz. Stark took no notice of the occasions, as referees often don’t when they come to Old Trafford. When Hamit Altintop, not the Galatasaray goalkeeper if you forgot, leaves the field as the best player on the pitch, there’s not much except for the result that Ferguson can be pleased about.