MANCHESTER UNITED 3 - 2 BRAGA
(Javier Hernandez – 25,75 (Alan – 2, 20)
Jony Evans – 62)
VENUE – Old Trafford
REFREEE – Milorad Mazic
Never-Say-Die-Attitude has over the years become a very common phenomenon of the Old Trafford faithful. This was on full display from the home team tonight. Horrendous defending from United meant that Braga took a surprising 2-0 lead and as many times this season United were on the back foot from the start. Hernandez gave United a lifeline before half time when the referee played a brilliant advantage. Braga had a 8 match away unbeaten run in Europe and the brace from their leader Alan displayed the intent to keep their run going. The second half though, was dominated by the home team. From start to finish the second half was a training ground drill of defense against attack. Evans eventually equalized with a scrappy goal before Hernandez’s brilliant header from a delicious Cleverly cross sealed the victory for the home side and inched them closer to the qualification for the knockout stages.
Man Utd: De Gea, Da Silva, Carrick, Evans, Buttner, Kagawa, Fletcher, Cleverley, Rooney, Hernandez, van Persie. Subs: Johnstone, Ferdinand, Anderson, Giggs, Nani, Young, Welbeck.
Braga: Beto, Leandro Salino, Nuno Andre, Paulo Vinicius, Elderson, Custodio, Hugo Viana, Ruben Amorim, Alan, Ruben Micael, Eder. Subs: Quim, Mossoro, Helder Barbosa, da Solva, Baiano, Ze Luis, Anibal.
Manchester United – One lesson that United manager Ferguson will have learnt from last season’s home games is that never take the opposition lightly and put out the strongest side possible. The trio of Hernandez, Rooney and Persie start and Ferguson wants his side to go all out in this match. With Cleverly and Kagawa behind the three strikers Braga will have a very long 90 minutes. Ferdinand and Evra are rested and Carrick partners Evans in the middle of defense. Rafael retains his place on the right while Alexander Buttner makes his Champions League debut for the club. De gea, who has allegedly been courted by Real Madrid starts in goal.
Braga–The Portuguese side started with a 4-5-1 formation which is slighty different from their usual 4-4-2 formation. Eden started alone upfront with Ruben Micael started in the hole behind the striker. Custudio was in charge of shielding the back four who understandably will be under siege given United’s attacking formation. Hence protection of the back four will be very crucial to Braga’s plans and the formation certainly displays that. Despite take a safety first approach, Braga do boast a 8 away game unbeaten run and they will fancy their chances.
United’s manager has spoken at lengths about the team stuttering start in matches this season. 7 out of 11 times this season United have fallen behind. The manager’s words fell to deaf ears as United were behind within the first 2 minutes. Hugo Viana, the former Newcastle man whipped in a teasing cross and Alan. The Braga captain rose high and headed in past a hapless De Gea. Carrick and Evans were nowhere to be found while Buttner desperately trying to cover up for his central defenders was unable to stop Alan from heading home. United were behind again and the Carrick gamble was already backfiring. United as many a times this season woke up and started to manufacture attacking moves of their own, though, without any success. At the other end Evans, Carrick and Buttner were in absolute chaos and constantly came in each other’s way. Eder nutmegged Carrick far too easily on the left touchline and cut the ball across for Alan who dispatched the ball into the back of the net. Hapless defending and United were 2-0 down. The home team was defending way too deep and Braga was taking complete advantage of that. United did get a lifeline though. Robin van Persie, who had been linking brilliantly with Rooney was clattered after an amazing piece of skill. The Serbian official waved play on with Kagawa in possession of the ball, crossed it in for Hernandez to pull one back for the visitors. United pressed Braga hard for the remaining time of the half but were unable to find an equalizer.
Nani replaced Kagawa at the start of the second half. Kagawa in all honestly did look a little jaded after getting two knocks. Braga remained unchanged. After receiving the famous Fergie hair dryer half time team talk the home team looked a different outfit. There was an emergency to their play. Elderson tripped Rafael and received a yellow card for his troubles. Robin van Persie took control of the situation and nearly equalized but the Braga keeper did well to keep off the Dutchman thundering strike. United kept pushing and pushing in the second half. Even when not in possession of the ball United players harried away the ball from the visitors. Braga, on the other hand was completely baffled after the brilliant first half performance. The equalizer did eventually come albeit a scrappy one. Persie whipped in a ball from the corner flag which was flicked by Carrick and Evans took two bites at it and eventually tapped the ball. United was dominant and the equalizer was no less than what they deserved. The height of Braga’s desperation was summed by Viana’s long range effort which was high, wide and handsome.
Nani nearly gave United the lead after being brilliantly set up by Hernandez, only for the Braga keeper to pull of a good save. The writing was on the wall for United to take the lead and they eventually did. Cleverly whipped in a superb cross from the right flank and Hernandez brilliantly guided the ball into the back of the net. The turnaround was complete. Braga brought on Helder Barbosa to try and level scores but chances were few and far for the Portuguese club. A late mistake by De Gea nearly led to a Braga goal but other than that the home team were comfortably home.
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