It was Robin van Persie, as always, that began yet another Manchester United comeback. It was Wayne Rooney selling a dive on the soaked pitch wonderfully, winning a penalty and scoring it this time (unlike the weekend) to keep the Red Devils perfect in the Champions League group stage, clinching qualification into the knockout stage.
A good game for the league leaders in the Premier league? Nope, not even close. Just the same, recurring theme of not playing well for 60-65 minutes before their attacking quality and impossible to explain spirit pushed them through. Oh, and there was Wayne Rooney diving, as if United haven’t gotten enough presents from referees this season already. On the other hand, Braga’s penalty was a controversial one as well, as Alan and Jonny Evans probably collided instead of Evans actually clipping him with a foul.
Chicharito? We didn’t feel him the entire match. A player no one actually feels on the pitch unless he scores. And he only scores from 5 yards or closer, but it’s incredible to see how versatile and determined he is to find the net when he’s given the opportunity, scoring while laying on his back, managing to send out a leg quicker than anyone else. Braga didn’t deserve to lose on the day, but all that momentum was killed when the power went out, and United took control on the soaked pitch.
As always, the spirit and the win were the things to be happy about, not the actual ability. It was also the usual story of two completely different halves. A slow, possession based game in the first half, with Ryan Giggs and Anderson failing to do anything worthwhile with the ball or hold off the counter attacking from Braga.
A fast, quick pace under the pouring rain in the second, with Rio Ferdinand coming on for Jonny Evans, allowing United to push a bit more forward while Robin van Persie coming on for Danny Welbeck made a world of a difference. Van Persie keeps being the game changer in everything he does for United, whether it’s coming off the bench or when he starts.
It’s hard to find a player on this planet in better scoring form than him at the moment, including the two aliens playing in the La Liga, while Neymar having his way with the Brazilian league doesn’t count until he makes his way to Europe.
Above all there’s the confidence that everything will be alright. Alex Ferguson is in charge of that. Nothing genius about his tactics, or even his player selection. Nani hasn’t had a single good match all season, looking more and more like very expensive dead weight which the team can’t wait to move somewhere. Using Antonio Valencia at right back for 73 minutes wasn’t his best idea ever. Rafael coming in allowed his best winger to finally influence the game instead of chasing Braga players.
A perfect start in one of the easiest groups possible has got United confident, even a tad arrogant. Ferguson is already talking about winning the Champions League this season, and managing to reach Liverpool’s five wins, “only” two titles away for United. While they’re doing extremely well in comparison to last year’s debacle in the group stage, coming from behind each and every time won’t work so well against the stronger teams of the competition, not even with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney at their best.