Manchester United ensured that they partially preserved their current momentum heading into the tricky clash against Aston Villa over the weekend by registering a come-from-behind 3-1 win against Braga last night.
In a proverbial game of two halves, the home side dominated the first half and led in the 49th minute via an Alan penalty.
Yet, the Red Devils bounced back into the match with substitute Van Persie equalizing in the 80thminute through a wonderful chip over the ‘keeper Beto and Wayne Rooney putting United on the front foot with a coolly slotted penalty four minutes later.
The tie was put to bed in two minutes into the extra-time when Javier Hernandez netted in a bizarre goals from around two yards out.
It might have been another of those trademark European nights with United displaying another comeback to record their fourth consecutive victory on the European front, however, there were various negatives from the game that could be a cause of concern for Fergie.
Let us start with the enigma known as Luis Nani. The 25-year-old was a horrendous personality on the pitch last night. His passing and crossing was atrocious and his trickery and skills failed to yield any results. Worse, one of the major turning points of the game came when Nani was subbed off for Rafael, allowing Valencia to function as the right-winger.
The Ecuadorian did everything that his Portuguese counterpart couldn’t, playing as a menace on the flank and forming the backbone of United’s comeback. His transformation into a more attacking role added width to the team’s play and subsequently, enhanced the output of fellow attackers.
Nani might have been touted as the future of United at one point of time, but if we are to go by his performances this campaign, along with the ongoing contract saga, the ‘Cristiano Ronaldo wannabe’ is likely to be heading out of Old Trafford this January.
Moving on, another area of problem was United’s inability to exert pressure in the middle of the park.
Anderson and Giggs might have put in decent performances for the team, but the two were unable to run the midfield with the efficiency and pace that is required to beat top-level opponents.
The duo were outclassed by the lively Braga side and had Wayne Rooney not been deployed in a slightly deeper role, Giggs and Anderson could have faced a possible bashing at the hands of José Peseiro’s troops. The truth is that United desperately need a defensive midfielder who can hold on to the ball well, act as field dictator for the team and frankly, add some fresh legs into the team.
Youth products of early nineties are not the solution to win back English and European supremacy.
Finally, one could have to note the fact that United are increasingly becoming dependent on van Persie for scoring goals. Although all the teams do have some particular stars among their ranks who make the difference between winning and losing, it appears as if Manchester United can’t find the net without the Flying Dutchman.
The 29-year-old has already netted 11 times for the Red Devils this term and last night it was only his introduction that opened the floodgates for Fergie’s men.
Without van Persie, United become sort of impotent in the final third as the likes of Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are unable to make their presence felt without a supporting player. Chicharito might be scoring for fun lately, but many times, he is often found in no-man’s land up front and his overall gameplay often lacks consistency.
One can only hope that Rooney finds his rich streak of scoring form soon and Kagawa is able to gelinto the team soon once the Japanese returns from injury, before United turn into the Arsenal of the past season, although this claim is quite a bold statement in itself.
Nonetheless, it has to be said that United can at-least be proud of their achievement in Europe so far. The team has already won the group with two games in hand and Ferguson will be delighted with the fact that he can now rest his star players for the midweek games and perhaps primarily concentrate on increasing their lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Despite the drawbacks, the team has shown great fighting spirit and the once gloomy season is evolving into a possible dream season for the Red Devils.