A 0-0 result from the away leg is always a tough score line to take home considering that a scored draw can throw you out of the competition. And as is the case with Manchester United, there is always that belief that we can get the job done. And the same happened against Marseille, we did the job with a 2-1 victory to take us through to the next round of the Champions League. Let us look at some of the talking points from the game:
- Rooney in a free role: Rooney playing in a withdrawn striker role was a good move by Sir Alex. How good his movement was can be seen from the way the first goal was created. Rooney received the ball in the midfield with four midfielders around him. The only options in front of him were Giggs on the left, Nani on the right and Chicharito in the middle. He passed a beautiful ball to Giggs and ran from the midfield to the penalty area leaving the midfielders behind. Giggs passed the ball to Rooney who created some space for himself and pass the ball to Chicharito for a simple tap in.
- Chicharito: Starting him was another good move considering that his pace would cause problems to Heinze who was playing in the center of the defence rather than at left back (where Nani caused him all sorts of problems in the 1st leg.) He repaid the faith in him with two goals scored from tap-ins. Even though they were tap-ins, being in the right place for those tap-ins was the key. As it has been said a million times already, what a bargain – total value in the market.
- Giggs/Nani/Valencia: Nani was not at his best and considering that he came back from injury, that was expected. Giggs moved around well and played a part in both the goals. For the 1st goal, he passed on to Rooney from the left who passed on to Chicharito and for the 2nd he passed on to Chicharito for the tap-in from the right. Valencia came on for Nani and looked good as well. The moment he placed that gem of a pass to Giggs, it was sure that the ball would end up in the goal and it rightfully did.
- Defence: Ferdinand was already out of this game but Vidic out due to injury was a big blow. We are never that solid defensively without either of those two playing. And it showed throughout the game. Smalling and Brown weren’t that convincing together probably because they have rarely played together. Communication seemed to be a major issue as many a times they both went for the same ball leaving a gap for Marseille forwards to exploit. Luckily for United, Marseille were either not able to exploit it or Van Der Sar was able to save the shots. Lack of height also meant that we were susceptible on set pieces and as a result we conceded through a set piece only.
- More Injuries: John O’Shea and Rafael both had to be substituted due to hamstring injuries which is a bad news. We are already thin on resources at the back and these further injuries don’t help. It seems that from the current injury table, only Evans would be back to face Bolton. After just getting some of our wingers back from the injury table, this was the last thing that we needed.
- Carrick: Even though Carrick is not exactly a fans favorite right now but there was something very interesting about him in the game. Firstly, he had the highest pass completion ratio (54/59) for the game. Now, many of the fans would say that he only passes sideways or back and that was true in this case as well. But, if you watch the game carefully, whenever Scholes had the ball, Carrick used to run forward but the ball was barely ever passed to him. Scholes preferred passing it behind rather than passing it to him. I really don’t know what to make of this fact but I found it interesting considering the slack he has been receiving. The player was intent on going forward but nobody was trying to find him with a pass.
Overall, a well deserved win where we were amazing going forward but a little shaky at the back. At 1-0 and 2-1, there were some scary moments where we were just 1 goal away from elimination but we held on for the good. Injuries are a bad news but the performance was good. Let’s see who we face in the next round but for now its back to the title race.