Date:Wednesday October 1 2008
United are getting back to their best now: the holders registered their first win in the Champions League this season by overcoming Aalborg 3-0.
Though a central midfield of Scholes and O'Shea did not look particularly convincing, Sir Alex did not take many risks as he was keen to avoid the fate we suffered on our last visit to Denmark. The front four of Nani, Rooney, Berbatov and Ronaldo looked certain to cause problems for the Danish side especially as Rafael and Evra provided more than able support on the flanks.
United dominated the game throughout despite quickly losing Scholes to injury: he was kicked in the knee, deliberately... it brought only a yellow card and he had to be stretchered off to make way for Ryan Giggs.
It wasn't a bad substitution though: not long after Giggs put through Rooney who coolly slotted the ball home as the Aalborg defence fell asleep. United merited the goal which could have come much sooner but Berbatov volleyed the ball wide of the gaping goal on 9 minutes.
Though Ronaldo was clearly far from his best and Nani's selfishness cost us dearly on many occasions we were far superior. Surprisingly, most of our best moves involved Rafael whose trickery greatly unsettled the flat-footed home defenders. He twice tested the keeper with rasping drives and was generally impressive - a huge talent, obviously.
As was Wayne Rooney: he was everywhere, buzzing around, clearly relishing the freedom allowed to him by Berbatov. The Bulgarian himself wasn't at his best and it looked like he desperately needed a confidence boost - and got just that in the second half.
Aalborg were on the back foot for the best part of the game but it was an horrendous mistake on their part which sealed the win for United. Their two centre-backs were casually passing the ball to each other until one of them somehow mishit it, and it landed straight in front of Berbatov who rammed it home straightaway from the edge of the box.
He barely celebrated his first United goal as it was almost a gift but it obviously did wonders to his self-belief: he started to ping inch-perfect passes all over the pitch and suddenly Aalborg were awfully stretched and it looked like they could be in for a good hiding.
They escaped with a respectable three-goal defeat but only because of our profligacy. Many chances were missed before the magnificent third goal - and we lost Wayne Rooney and Rafael to injuries by that point, the latter was kicked off the park in the same fashion as earlier Scholes had been - which confirmed the gulf in class.
Ronaldo beat the left-back with a simple trick, raced to the byline and crossed the ball in. Berbatov hit it on the volley from 12 yards and the ball flew into the net. Brilliant goal it was.
Ronaldo could have opened his Champions League account as well: five minutes from time Berbatov put him clear by a magnificent pass with the outside of his foot but the Portuguese tried to round the keeper, failed to do so and eventually fired into the side-netting.
Still, it was a very satisfying night in Denmark: United won comfortably and could have scored 6 or 7 goals, Berbatov finally broke his duck - now we're free to laugh at Robbie Keane - so the only negative is the injury situation which, in central midfield, is getting desperate now...
Date:Wednesday October 1 2008
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