Manchester United went to the BayArena expecting a tricky game against a side sat in second place in the Bundesliga, but come away with a sensational 5-0 victory – Manchester United’s biggest away win in European competition. The win sealed qualification to the knockout stages, but the lads still need a point against Shakhtar to top the group.
The top of group A clash was probably United’s hardest game of the group on paper, against a Bayer Leverkusen side that have won 8 consecutive home games in the competition. Since United beat them 4-2 earlier in the group stages, Bayer have picked up 7 points in 3 games. Sidney Sam was missing for the home side, their second top goal scorer this season with 7 goals in 13 appearances.
The opening 10 minutes was relatively open with United enjoying time on the ball. Leverkusen were giving us plenty of time and looked to hold their shape in the middle of the park. I’m surprised they were giving us time to settle considering Cardiff’s high tempo pressing approach made it difficult for United to get their game going.
United’s first chance arrived when Nani tried to bend one into the top far corner after a lovely reverse pass by Ryan Giggs. The Welshman was pulling the strings in midfield spraying the ball out wide to Valencia on a number of occasions. It looked as if Moyes was targeting that area of the side to attack due to Can plai. Leverkusen were gaining confidence and they almost scored from a corner when they headed just over the bar from a near post corner. All United fans had a heart in mouth moment when the striker was played in on goal and the flag stayed down. He lost his composure and blasted over but the flag eventually was raised. A let off.
Leverkusen continued to press and Rio Ferdinand found himself in trouble as he parted to one side and allowed Stefan Kiessling to run into the penalty area, the striker didn’t manage to get a shot away thanks to a fantastic Jonny Evans block. United rolled back the years with a sucker punch goal in 22 minutes. A classic counter attack goal, Shinji Kagawa and Ryan Giggs are at the heart of it, as the Japanese playmaker carries the ball 40 yards before finding Giggs who tees up Wayne Rooney wide on the left. His cross is a beauty and finds Antonio Valencia who volleys the ball in off the post!
United were looking very good with a well worked free kick straight off the training ground that left Leverkusen flat footed. Sadly the ball fell to Evans whose shot was blocked. Ryan Giggs wasted a free-kick in a good position but Wayne Rooney wasn’t so wasteful a few minutes later when United doubled their lead. Rooney’s free-kick was a perfect from the left hand side and the touch that was needed to send it into the net was a flick from Emir Spahic under pressure from Chris Smalling.
United looked dangerous every time they went forward with Shinji Kagawa a live wire in the middle of the park. He was really thriving in that number 10 role, driving at the Leverkusen defense who were backing off scared every time. Leverkusen started to gain a foothold in the game after conceding 2 goals in 8 minutes. The travelling United fans were in great voice and could be heard loud and clearly. Despite a drop in position we were still very threatening going forward. Valencia drilled in a cross that the keeper dealt with well and Nani wasted a great opportunity on the break with a poor cross that should have found Rooney free at the far post. A great half of football for United, Kagawa has really taken on the number 10 role, Wayne Rooney has been fantastic too.
United started the second half very brightly and Shinji Kagawa let himself down with a very poor touch on the edge of the area when he had time to get a shot away. He was very brave moments later, getting clattered by the goalkeeper when jumping for a header. The Japanese international was looking to continue the game by being involved all over the pitch. United were let off from a Leverkusen free kick, it was floated in from deep and everyone decided to leave the ball that was almost collected at the back post. Rooney and Valencia were playing some lovely one touch football reminiscent of the 09-10 and 10-11 season where they linked up so well.
United received an early Christmas present when the ball was played straight to Nani in the middle. He played a nice one two with Rooney but failed to find the far corner with a left footed shot across goal. Leverkusen hit the base of the post from a corner shortly after but the referee had already blown for a foul in the box. It did look soft and the Leverkusen were visibly angry, their frustrations were beginning to boil over with a few late tackles going in on our players. In the 63rd minute Rooney almost whipped a shot into the bottom corner from outside the area after leaving the midfielder for dead with a cheeky nutmeg.
The game was sealed in the 65th minute from a United corner. It was whipped in by Giggs and flicked onto Evra, Rooney volleyed straight at the keeper and Jonny Evans was on hand to tap in the loose ball. United were cruising against the team 2nd in the Bundesliga who hadn’t lost at home so far in the league. Moyes started thinking about the early kickoff on Sunday against Spurs and introduced Alex Buttner for Patrice Evra in the 69th minute. United put the icing on the cake with a 4th goal in the 77th minute. It came from a terrible attempted clearance from the defender. Kagawa picked up the ball and played a deft dink into Wayne Rooney, he lofted the ball over the keeper to collect his 4th assist of the evening as Chris Smalling tapped in for Uniteds 4th goal of the night.
4 assists and job done for Rooney and Valencia as they were replaced for Anderson and Young in 80th minute. Anderson wasted a great chance to make it 5 when 1 on 1 with the keeper and Kagawa on the overlap he opted to shoot and scuffed wide. United decided to put a cherry on the cake too with a 5th of the night in the 89th minute. Ryan Giggs the architect with an outrageous first time ball over the top for Nani who took his first touch on his chest well, rounded the keeper and cheekily finished with the outside of his right boot into the empty net. De Gea made a fantastic save in the closing stages to retain his clean sheet from a deflected shot.
This has been a brilliant performance from United, the best of the season by far. Moyes has been given a lot to think about with the performance of Kagawa. But Rooney was man of the match for me.