Manchester United confirmed their progress to the Champions League knockout stages after staging a late fight back to beat Braga 3-1 in Portugal.
As they did at Old Trafford two weeks ago, Braga again took the lead with Alan getting on the score sheet once more, this time from the penalty spot. But United responded with an equalizer from Robin van Persie with 10 minutes remaining followed by two further goals by Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez.
The result maintains United’s perfect record in this season’s competition and also sees them assured of topping Group H with two matches still remaining. The scenario is a welcome far cry from United’s ignominious group stage exit of last season.
Braga came close to registering a first-half lead as a diving header from Eder came back off the post. United had created little in the opening period and they fell behind less than two minutes into the second half.
Custodio’s run into the area was clumsily halted by the challenge of Jonny Evans and Alan stepped up and showed ample confidence as he drilled the ball into the top corner to give David de Gea no chance.
Drama would soon follow as a floodlight failure led to a 12 minute delay. It was looking as though United would have to wait even longer than that to secure their progress before substitute Van Persie sparked a late salvo.
The Dutchman raced onto a free-kick from Anderson and took advantage of Beto’s curious decision to race from his goal to produce an instant lofted finish over the retreating Braga goalkeeper and into the net.
United grabbed the lead just four minutes later. Rooney was brought down by Nuno Coelho and stepped up to convert the penalty in impressive fashion, particularly given his miss from the spot against Arsenal on Saturday.
United continued to show the strength of their attacking options as Hernandez struck a third two minutes into injury time. Rooney played a pass from Antonio Valencia onto the Mexican, who took the ball around Beto before having his shot blocked by a defender on the line but finding the net at the second attempt.