Another sluggish start from United gave Braga a 2-0 lead with just 20 minutes played, but another superb fightback lead by Javier Hernandez turned the game on it’s head, leaving United with three wins out of three in the Champions League group stage.
United made a few changes from the side that beat Stoke City 4-2 at the weekend, with Alex Buttner, Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa, Darren Fletcher and Javier Hernandez being drafted into the starting XI.
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Carrick, Evans, Buttner; Fletcher, Cleverley, Kagawa; Rooney, Van Persie, Hernandez
Subs: Johnstone, Ferdinand, Anderson, Giggs, Nani, Young, Welbeck
SC Braga: Beto; Salino, Coelho, Vinicius, Echiejile; Custodio, Viana, Amorim, Alan, Micael; Eder
Subs: Quim, Mossoro, Barbosa, Ze Luis, Capela, Baiano, Da Solva
The game started with a bang and the first goal flew in with barely 90 seconds on the clock, and United’s current run of starting games slowly continued with some poor defending, Alexander Buttner gave his man far too much space at the back stick, allowing the Brazilian, Alan to superbly head home past David De Gea.
United’s problems worsened before the 20 minute mark, this time the team were slow to react from a Braga throw-in. Eder found himself one on one with Michael Carrick and skipped past him with a brilliant bit of skill before cutting it back to Alan who side-footed the ball into the back of the United goal.
The deficit was halved just five minutes later, a nice bit of skill by Van Persie allowed the ball to run through to Kagawa who found himself in space inside the box, the Japan international then clipped a beautiful ball across the box allowed Chicharito to fire a header into the Braga goal. Credit goes to the referee here, who allowed play to go on when he could’ve easily pulled it back for a free-kick. Old Trafford now expected a comeback that our fans are so accustomed to, however they would have to wait, as the halftime whistle was blown with the scoreline standing at 2-1 in Braga’s favour.
United started the second half far better than they started the first, Braga were setup with 11 men behind the ball and inviting United onto them, a half chance fell to Van Persie as he swivelled inside the box and fired his shot narrowly wide. Parity was then restored from another corner, Jonny Evans scored his first goal at Old Trafford after some terrible defending allowed him to poke home after a goalmouth scramble, with half an hour still to play, United had plenty of time to go and try to win the game.
Then came the move of the match, a Jonny Evans interception allowed him to play Hernandez down the wing, he survived two tackles from onrushing Braga defenders before playing a beautiful outside of the foot pass through to Nani who fired his shot straight at the keeper, the pressure was mounting on Braga.
The turnaround was complete shortly after, a Beckham-eqsue ball from Tom Cleverley met a perfectly timed run by Javier Hernandez allowed him to power a wonderful header home from close range, a truly great performance from the Mexican in which he single-handedly dragged us back into a winning position.
The match finished up 3-2, leaving United with a 100% record so far in the Champions League, an injury to Shinji Kagawa in the first half marred it slightly though, the Japan international is now a doubt to face Chelsea at the weekend because of a twisted knee.
Man of the Match
Javier Hernandez: Limited to just four starts this season, the Mexican proved what a valuable part of this United squad he can be. His all-round game was excellent and he capped off his best performance in a United shirt with two brilliantly headed goals. This could warrant a starting place vs. Chelsea at the weekend.