Writer: Red Boy
Date:Wednesday February 23 2011
The first leg, of an intriguing tie, ended goal-less in Marseille tonight.
With Sir Alex deprived of the services of the services of Ferdinand, Giggs, Valencia, Park, Owen and Hargreaves through injury there wasn`t much scope for manipulation of his starting eleven. Smalling, as expected, came in for Ferdinand whilst a midfield berth went to Gibson with Scholes, perhaps not 100% ft, on the bench. Up front, having not started at the weekend, both Rooney and Berbatov returned.
Ahead of the clash, Sir Alex had warned about just how difficult a place Marseille is to come, remarking to the media,
'Marseille isn't the easiest place to get a result. There is an atmosphere, an emotion at the Stade Velodrome that is unique. I've often been to matches here and the fans have a genuine power over their players.'
Whereas the Marseille coach offered a slightly different view, commenting,
"I think United are favourites to win the Champions League. We will have a fantastic atmosphere tonight and we need it.'
Team - Van der Sar, O`Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Gibson, Carrick, Fletcher, Nani, Berbatov, Rooney
Subs - Kuszczak, Brown, Hernandez, Scholes, Fabio, Rafael, Obertan
With the game started the promised stick Evra would receive tumbled down from the stands whilst Nani had a shot in the early minutes that was way off target.
Having won a free-kick Nani saw his shot hit the wall and fall to Fletcher who then saw the Marseille keeper, Mandanda, make a decent save.
United continue to force the issue, courtesy of Nani down the right flank, and Rooney was unlucky to see a shot blocked by Diawara.
Marseille were looking lackluster going forward and when Fanni did curl in a delightful cross there was nobody there to meet it.
Carrick, giving the ball away far too easily, was allowing Marseille to get back into things but the French side was just not creating any serious chances.
Brandao tried an acrobatic overhead kick but it didn`t quite come off and Edwin saved easily.
Pushed back slightly, United retaliated with some more good work from Nani nut his cross was too far ahead of Berbatov and the keeper once again excelled by dealing with the situation.
The half was developing into a half of few chances with both sides bogged down in a midfield battle.
As half time approached Smalling did well to turn a curling cross from Remy behind and from the resulting corner Edwin wrapped up any imminent danger.
Half Time - Marseille 0 United 0
Reflecting on the first forty-five minutes Sir Alex Ferguson had this to say to the media,
'I think both teams have cancelled each other out. We need to step up our passing a bit - if we can improve that we are in with a chance of winning this.'
The second half started and it was Marseille that pushed forward early on with Edwin collecting a dangerous looking Brandao cross.
United pushed forward and a Rooney cross was missed by the keeper but Heinze mopped up to deny Nani.
Marseille pushed forward and Cisse saw his shot deflected into the path of Andre Ayew and his shot passed, fortunately, between the far post and Brandao.
United, trying to get that crucial away goal, saw Berbatov`s shot blocked by Diawara. After a plethora of changes, by the home side, Berbatov blasted wide from distance.
Time was running out for both sides with Marseille probably more pleased with the drab 0-0 draw being carried over to the second leg and that was the way a disappointing night ended.
Date:Wednesday February 23 2011
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