As the game started I found myself thinking, “We are going to give up an early goal…”
And for the 8th time this season (in 12 matches) we did. 90 seconds into yesterday’s Champions League group stage contest between Manchester United (England) and Braga (Portugal), the Red Devils’ defense was caught flat (again) and Braga took the lead. This left United needing to get the 3 points the hard way.
But their play didn’t immediately improve. Within 20 minutes Braga had scored again and the Red Devils found themselves two goals down; needing to get the 3 points the extra hard way.
As has been the case so far this season the offense came to the rescue of the defense (good interplay between Rooney and Van Persie and Kagawa) and a lucky goal by Chicharito and we were back in the game. It’s not entirely fair to say that it was a lucky goal: Hernandez got into a good position, it was a fantastic cross, and the striker rose well to meet it and head it back across the frame. But it was lucky because it went in off the body of the keeper who had done well to cover the space.
Then (another) lucky goal, this time from Johnny Evans, and the Red Devils were back on level terms. Again it was a fantastic cross into a dangerous area and our defender found himself in a good position but a swing and a miss later and the chance seemed to have been lost. A luck bounce of a Braga player found the ball back at Evans’ feet who had the presence of mind to prod it towards goal where the goal keeper saw it late and had no chance of stopping it from crossing the line.
Finally, the winner, was a deserved goal. Another brilliant cross and Chicharito was on cue again to head it powerfully past the outstretched reach of Braga’s keeper. It was the goal the Red Devil’s deserved based on their possession and attacking threat the entire second half of the game.
So, 3 points in the bag and 9 points out of 3 games so far in this year’s Champions League; leaving United in prime position. That’s fantastic. But questions are being asked of our defense, by an admittedly weak group, and so far we don’t seem to have the answers other than starting 3 strikers and hoping they can keep on form…
Will that continue to work in the remaining group stage games? Will that work when we face stiffer competition in the knockout rounds?