Manchester United looked on course for a most welcome second Champions League group-stage victory before being pegged back by Shakhtar Donetsk with 14 minutes remaining. After two-straight Premier League defeats, United had gotten an early boost in Ukraine with Danny Welbeck’s strike from close range 18 minutes in. But David Moyes’s side were unable to hold on and Taison struck to put Shakhtar level.
A victory would have been a hugely uplifting for Moyes after coming under early scrutiny in his Old Trafford reign following defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and, most recently West Brom. But it wasn’t to be, although the Scot can still reflect on a valuable point in what on paper is his side’s toughest fixture of a group also involving Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad. The Donbass Arena has, after all, seen defeats for Premier League sides Chelsea and Arsenal (twice) in recent seasons.
United had been dealt a blow before kick-off with Wayne Rooney ruled out with a shin injury sustained in training. It meant that Moyes had the returning Robin van Persie as a lone front man and looked to keep things tight with three central midfielders in Michael Carrick joined by Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley. Antonio Valencia and Welbeck supported from the flanks.
It was Welbeck, who got the only goal in United’s last away match in the Champions League against Real Madrid last season, who reacted well to put the Premier League champions ahead. That strike in Madrid was one of only two goals he fired for United last term, one less than his total now stands at for this term.
Fellaini may optimistically try to claim an assist after he exchanged passes with Antonio Valencia following a throw-in down the right before turning and putting a low ball into the box. But it was a cross that should have been dealt with comfortably by Yaroslav Rakitskiy, yet instead the center-back lost his balance, allowing Welbeck to pounce and strike into the net from six yards.
A goal to the good, United had even more reason to sit back and try and frustrate a club that qualified for last season’s knockout stages at the expense of then champions Chelsea. While not pretty, it looked like the strategy would be effective. Instead, in the closing stages their most experienced defender was unable to avert the danger.
Rakitskiy this time caused problems in the opposition defense with a low cross from the left that beat both forward and defender at the near post, catching Vidic unawares. The Serbian’s interception went straight to the feet of Taison, who snatched up the opportunity impressively to crash the ball high into the net.