3 points the (extra) hard way

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?

thank you, sir, may I have another

This, in front of me, is my plate of crow.  I will eat it.  And, I will happily eat another plate of the same should the occasion arise…

Saturday morning (PST), Robin van Persie scored a beautiful goal in his first start for Manchester United.  It was the same type of “how in the world did he do that?” goal that he was scoring all last season for Arsenal.  It was exactly the type of goal I thought he wouldn’t be scoring for the Red Devils.  So, I was wrong.  I hope I continue to be wrong.

It was troubling that aside from the odd bit of good hold up play, a few good crosses, and some good linking passes he was otherwise incognito for the rest of the game. 

It was even more troubling to see Wayne Rooney stretchered off with that gash in his leg…  Even with the significant amount of firepower at our disposal, Rooney is our talisman, and without him on the field we seem to be lacking something. 

Then again, we did just fine without him for most of the game on Saturday so it’s very likely I have no idea what I’m talking about. 

Cleverly and Kagawa both put in good performances.  Rafael played like he normally does: brilliant one minute and hapless the next.  This time out though at least his moment of brilliance awarded him with a goal.  Despite our nervy start in this fledgling season I still think once we gel we will be a side to recon with.  Of course, until we gel, there will probably be the odd bit of nail-biting and cringing.

In related news, the own goal was comical – if you haven’t seen it, go check it out.

In other news, Swansea was on top of the league again for a couple hours on Saturday before Chelsea played their game and leap frogged back to the top spot.  8 goals scored and zero conceded…  that’s a fairly good start to the campaign for them even considering who their opposition was in those games.

In news closer to home, for me, congratulations to the Galaxy on their victory over FC Dallas.  I didn’t get a chance to watch the game unfortunately so I don’t have any of real substance to add.  I do enjoy watching them climb of their conference table though.  We are seeming more and more likely of securing a spot in the playoffs.  Go Galaxy!