Date:Tuesday September 15 2009
Manchester United started their Champions League campaign with an away win, which is always nice. We were runners-up last year so dropping points against Besiktas would have been somewhat embarassing, it's the sort of thing that Liverpool do.
Fergie opted for a 4-3-3 in Turkey, Valencia and Nani flanking Rooney ahead of a midfield three of Carrick, Anderson and Scholes, of whom, somewhat surprisingly, Carrick played in the most advanced position. And he played badly.
His confidence is probably shot after what happened in Rome but he should pull himself together because every pre-season analysis marked him and Fletcher as the only reliable, reassuringly good central midfielders in the squad. Now we can count on Darren only, and on Anderson who had another good game although he did not quite reach the heights of White Hart Lane.
The wingers demonstrated their skill and pace, beating their men with ease regularly but either the crosses weren't good enough or simply there was nobody to find in the box. Rooney's head, unsurprisingly, could not be found with crosses launched into the box and he was crowded out by a throng of defenders whenever we attempted to keep it on the ground.
It could have worked had Carrick had a reasonable game - he could have linked Rooney with the midfield but as I said poor Michael was totally out of sorts. The result? United, though bossed the game, could not break down their opponents and had to resort to hopeful punts and aimless crosses.
So, yes, the point I'm trying to get across here is that the game was as dire as they get, and mostly because the opposition did not possess enough quality but were just good enough to spoil our game which was very low on creativity because of the formation and the form of certain players - not just Carrick: Scholes, unsurprisingly, could not repeat his excellent performance of Saturday.
The second half brought a change: the atmosphere was still brilliant, Besiktas were still poor but with 60 minutes gone Fergie made two substitutions: Berbatov replaced Carrick and Owen came on for a visibly irate Rooney. Berbatov made a difference: we became much more composed in possession and our attacks became more dangerous.
A goal still seemed very far away as our strikers, regrettably, posed no threat at all in that sense. But at least there was passing and movement and a few half-chances - yes, it must be counted as a positive, the first half was that bad.
With only 13 minutes to go, United finally got their goal after some sustained pressure which we were unable to exert in the first half. Nani cut in from the left, beat his man and fired in a strong shot from 13 yards which the keeper beat away but Scholes pounced and had the wit to lob the keeper with his head to give us the lead.
And it gave us the three points as well, because the Turkish had nothing more to offer, apart from a dangerous cross. Their fans spurred them on right till the end but it was United who should have increased their lead when Berbatov put Owen through with a brilliant pass but our number seven, predictably, missed it. Can't really knock him for it though, it would have been a very difficult finish.
Three points in the bag, Valencia, Anderson and Nani did reasonably well, the defence was solid against a horribly mediocre team and Scholes' finish was cute. Let's just forget everything else about this game.
Date:Tuesday September 15 2009
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