United 3:1 Club Bruges
Line up: Romero, Darmian, Blind, Smalling, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Mata, Januzaj, Memphis, Rooney
Subs: Schweinsteiger for Carrick, Chicharito for Januzaj, Fellaini for Rooney
TUESDAY night saw the return of European football to Old Trafford, we got the theme tune, the line up debates and a glorious night overall. Romero continued in goal, LVG seemingly resisting the temptation to play David De Gea, leaving him cuptied for any potential (and increasingly inevitable) switch to Real Madrid. That would have been evil but a bit funny.
Darmian, Smalling, Blind and Shaw carried on at the back, Mata, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Depay and Januzaj started with Wayne Rooney up front and facing criticism for his lack of, well, pretty much anything constructive in the previous two games. United still do better once they have made it hard for themselves; we won in the Camp Nou in 1999 in the last two minutes after being a goal down for near enough the entire match, for crying out loud, so when Michael Carrick deflected a Adnan Januzaj deflected Victor Vazquez free kick past the unlucky Romero, you almost knew it had to begin this way.
In fairness to the Reds though, we needn’t have worried because the reaction was quick and effective – and for Memphis, it looks like it was the start of a beautiful relationship. Excuse me if I seem cautious, but Di Maria started well too and look what happened there.
If Michael Carrick felt he had to make amends for his part in the Bruges goal (he didn’t), his pass to Memphis for the Dutchman’s first was just the ticket. It was a thing of beauty and was the high point for the night for Carrick who looked off form in general and when he was once again replaced by Bastian Schweinsteiger, I couldn’t help but hope the German would soon be ready to start.
Memphis’ two goals were classy, the first saw him chest and juggle the ball despite the attentions of the visiting defence, before his finish. The second showed that he could bend it almost like Beckham, and send the home fans mad in the process. The “dawn” and “birth” and all the other labels attached to his performance were predictable and a little easy, we aren’t Liverpool and shouldn’t get carried away – his was a very good start and it provoked genuine excitement from the United fans watching, but so did the performance of Chris Smalling, Darmian, Luke Shaw (who made an attacking run like a ferrari on legs at one point) and super sub Fellaini.
Yes in isolation it means a lot but in general the whole night showed that we are going in the right direction no matter how frustratingly slow progress looks at times. It don’t mean a thing, as they say, if the second leg isn’t boxed off in the right way. Fellaini’s goal was crucial as we are in the driving seat, hopefully we wont stall from here. GTS