United grinded out a 1-1 draw in cold conditions at the Donbass arena, a result which keep them at the top of the group. Wayne Rooney missed out on the squad after suffering a shin injury in training. It is always worth mentioning to check news.coral.co.uk/ for the latest betting news on United’s games prior to any future kick offs.
United started very brightly having the majority of the possession in the first 10 minutes, and the first shot of the game came from RVP. He took the ball out of the air beautifully from Cleverley’s lofted pass, the defender was expecting an offside flag that never came and gave RVP space to turn and shoot just over the bar. Shakhtar began to get into the game when Carrick got caught napping in the box trying to take a touch when he should of cleared first time. The striker dispossessed Carrick and played the ball out wide but the cross was harmless and went out for a throw.
This spurred Shakhtar on and the pressure suddenly increased on United. Shakhtar had a massive shout for a penalty that the referee generously gave in United’s favour. Cleverley clearly caught Alex Teixeira but he did himself no favours by going down dramatically. The game was end to end in the opening 15 minutes, and United were next to attack with a lovely passing move, Fellaini also finished it off by laying the ball to Welbeck but he couldn’t take the ball in his stride and beat the defender. It didn’t take long for the Manchester lad to get off the mark however. Some fantastic play by Fellaini showing great strength to beat his man and get to the byline to cross for Welbeck. The cross wasn’t well hit but Yaroslav Rakitskiy missed the ball with the attempted clearance and Welbeck was at hand to slide in and score past the keeper in the 18th minute.
Shakhtar didn’t let their head drop and were back attacking United within 5 minutes. A fizzing shot was unleashed from the edge of the area after United failed to deal with a corner but one of Shakhtar’s own players was at hand to block the ball for us. The game was brilliant to watch, and was being played at a high tempo in a cauldron of atmosphere. United continued to deal with corners and set pieces from the home team, but in fairness none of them were of a quality that you would expect and were easily cleared by Fellaini and Vidic.
The 4-3-3 formation was working fantastically with United retaining the majority of possession and forcing the home side to chase the ball. Keeping the ball is so important away in Europe, I wonder if United might adopt this formation in the league so that they can control the middle of the park better? It would mean putting Rooney out on the wing but he is good enough to play anywhere on the pitch. United began to take the sting out of Shakhtar and the home crowd the more they kept the ball. The referee wasnt helping our cause by giving soft free kicks to the Ukrainians and missing a clear booking on Welbeck after some great defensive work that would have left to a counter attack had he not been fouled.
United almost doubled their lead from a corner. RVP with the delivery that Chris Smalling got on the end of but couldnt direct on target. The corner was won after a great bit of skill by RVP to leave the defender on the floor. Shakhtar were still dangerous however, and when they got in the final 3rd the looked threatening. They usually always score at home so United needed to keep tight at the back. A stark warning was sent to the back four and they were nearly punished when Alex Teixeira shot from the edge of the area was saved by De Gea. You cant give Champions League teams that much space on the edge of the area too often. Half-time came at a good time for United. Shakhtar had us on the ropes and we needed to regroup and get some instruction from the manager.
The second half started similar to how the first ended. United were setup to contain Shakhtar whilst they attempted to find an opening and get back in the game. In my experience United will hold on, concede late and then rally at the end to nearly score. Hopefully that doesn’t repeat itself. David De Gea got absolutely clattered in the 51st minute thanks to some brave goalkeeping, diving to collect the ball in the area with players sliding in for it. Vidic was his usual rock of a self at the back making a last ditch effort to get his body in the way and stop Douglas Costa from getting a shot away in the area.
When United gained the ball they were keeping it well, slowing down the tempo and patiently looking for openings. Fellaini was bizzarely booked when Valencia made a rash challenge during a Shakhtar break. The big man was part of the bread in the Ukranian sandwich and in my opinion was unlucky to get penalised let alone cautioned! Another booking soon followed as Vidic gave away a free kick in a very dangerous area, 20 yards out and central to David De Gea’s goal. Thankfully United survived as the free-kick was smashed into the wall.
In the 66th minute Marouane Fellaini was replaced by Ryan Giggs. Now the all time leader for appearances in the champions league, surpassing Raul with 145 appearances including qualifiers. Immortal. Although back in reality i was hoping the move didn’t nullify United’s physical presence in midfield. One of United’s few chances of the match fell to RVP after some good work on the wing by Rafael. The Brazilian could only play the ball behind the striker and by the time he turned and released his shot the defender was on hand to clear the ball. The pressure was building and Shakhtar finally managed to get the ball in the net. Vidic couldn’t clear the ball when cutting out the cross and it fell to Taison who smashed the ball into the roof of the net past De Gea in the 76th minute. Valencia was guilty of not tracking Taison and could have done more to at least pressure him when taking the shot.
Moyes looked to run the clock down with another defensive move, bringing Phil Jones on for Danny Welbeck in stoppage time. United managed to hold on for a fantastic point in the context of the group. With back to back matches against Real Sociedad coming up, and Shakhtar having the same against Leverkusen, United know that if they win both those games they will be on 10 points and most likely win the group. All in all a good day at the office and a solid European performance.
Man of the Match: Nemanja Vidic