Date:Tuesday May 5 2009
Sir Alex believes United are one goal away from our second successive Champions League final. With United carrying a 1-0 lead from the first leg, the stats certainly seem to support the gaffer's theory.
If (and it's a big if as Arsenal haven't conceded yet at the Emirates in the Champions League) United score, the Gooners will have to put three past Edwin van der Sar, a tall, almost impossible order.
Let's have a look at when and how we conceded three goals this season.
Hull City, home: Yep, against the then high-flying Premiership new boys United shipped in three. However, the reason is simple: we fell asleep after securing a seemingly unassailable 4-1 lead. Eventually we held on to a 4-3 win.
Blackburn Rovers, home: The League Cup game against Rovers was disturbingly similar: having gone 4-1 up, United thought it was over and Rovers pulled two back in the dying minutes. Tevez's wonderful strike in injury time sealed the 5-3 win.
Gamba Osaka, away: A ridiculous game in the Club World Championship which we won 5-3. But once again, only late lapses brought about the flurry of goals: we conceded at 2-0 up, promptly scored three more to go 5-1 up, then cruised through the final ten minutes, barely noticing that the Japanese got another two goals for themselves.
Liverpool, home: Ah, yes, the most painful one. Having taken the lead through a Ronaldo penalty, two insane mistakes by Vidic and Evra meant Liverpool were ahead at the break. They scored two from two chances and you can't do better than that. The second half was absolute, total one-way traffic for 30 minutes but United created nothing, I'm afraid. But the point is it became a drubbing only after Vidic was sent off, minutes after Sir Alex had sent on Berbatov, Giggs and Scholes. We had, after Aurelio's free-kick (Edwin could have saved it easily had he bothered to dive for it), three defenders on the pitch and seven attack-minded players ahead of them, desperately chasing the game, leaving huge holes at the back.
That's it. Complacency (unlikely to affect United this time) or in one case a sending off (could happen) were required for anyone to score three against us. You may say that if anyone can do it, Arsenal can... but they weren't exactly in free-scoring mode before Arshavin came...
If we extend the research to the last two seasons, it's even more remarkable: during these campaigns United conceded three on only one occasion - disturbingly enough, that was in a Champions League semi-final second leg away from home: the fateful AC Milan game.
However, back then we had a smaller squad, we had had an energy-sapping comeback triumph at Everton a few days before the game, the defence was a shambles: Vidic barely returned from a month-long injury, Heinze looked half the player since his recovery from cruciate ligament injury, Rio was injured, Evra was suspended. And Milan had two away goals as a confidence boost and also had Kaka in their ranks who was in the form os his life.
So, it could happen that we concede three - but it looks very, very unlikely. That away goal would be absolutely huge.
Date:Tuesday May 5 2009
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