United 2 Marseille 1
United eased into the last eight of the Champions League with a narrow win over Marseille in a thrilling encounter at Old Trafford.
There were a couple of surprise sin the United starting eleven. Vidic, despite talk to the contrary, couldn`t shake off the knock received against Arsenal, Brown took his place alongside Smalling at the heart of the defence. In midfield there were recalls for the experienced duo of Scholes and Giggs whilst Nani, as forecast, returned form injury far earlier than expected. Up front, Hernandez got the nod ahead of Berbatov to partner Rooney whilst Valencia, who made his comeback from injury recently, had to settle for a place on the bench alongside Berbatov who was seeking to end an eighteen game European drought.
Team - Van der Sar, O`Shea, Smalling, Brown, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Hernandez, Rooney
Subs - Kuszczak, Berbatov, Fabio, Rafael, Valencia, Obertan, Gibson
Before the game started a minutes silence was immaculately observed for all those who have been affected by the terrible events in Japan.
United got off to a great start taking the lead early on when Rooney engineered some room in the Marseille box and then providing a great ball for Hernandez to score from close range, immediate vindication for Sir Alex for opting for Javier over Berbatov?
United 1 Marseille 0 (Hernandez - 5 minutes)
Almost straight after the goal, Marseille had a chance to equalize when a flick from Ayew set Gignac free, behind the United defence, but he never even troubled Van der Sar putting his lob well over the bar.
Rooney continued his good start to the game by finding Smalling with a good pass but Smalling couldn`t quite control the ball and the chance was gone. Things got a bit spicy when Smalling and Gignac clashed before Evra let Gonzalez know he was there by catching him with a wild challenge.
Hernandez received the first caution of the evening as the referee, the superbly named Carlos Velasco Carballo, sort to keep thing on an even keel. With twenty minutes gone United were looking smooth with only that Gignac chance ringing any alarm bells.
United were almost gifted a second goal when the Marseille keeper, Mandanda, bizarrely cleared the ball to Nani but the resulting move broke down when Rooney`s cut-back didn`t find anyone.
Marseille then had a wonderful chance to get level but Diawara somehow contrived to head Taiwo`s cross wide from a great position six yards out. Nine minutes before half time, O`Shea limped off with an injury to be replaced by Rafael.
As half time approached, Marseille survived a penalty appeal when Giggs burst into the box and passed to Hernandez who looked to be clipped by Taiwo. Smalling then headed a Giggs corner over and any chance of extending the lead was curtailed by the referee blowing for half time.
Half Time - United 1 Marseille 0
Marseille had the first decent chance of the half but Van der Sar did well to save at Gignac`s feet after a good ball in from Ayew. Marseille had started the half well and were looking dangerous.
United responded with Rooney once again prominent but his smart clip over the defence couldn`t quite reach Hernadez. Seconds later Rooney, as inventive as ever, darted into the box and just a sit looked as if he was going to unleash a powerful shot he fed the ball to Hernandez but his cut-back was cut out.
Remy went past Evra as if he wasn`t there but a poor cross evaded all his colleagues. Almost immediately Sir Alex replaced Nani with Valencia. Marseille pressed forward and United old-boy, Heinze, went close with a header.
Rafael, who had replaced O`Shea, pulled up with an injury and his twin brother, Fabio, replaced him.
Any thoughts that Marseille could get that crucial away goal to trouble United were diminished when United scored a second and once again it was Hernandez who struck. The goal coming after a move involving Valencia and Giggs saw Hernandez sweep the ball home.
The goal coming after Marseille, once again, had troubled United who had Van der Sar to thank for saving smartly from Cheyrou.
United 2 Marseille 0 (Hernandez - 75 minutes)
Two goals up, United were looking far more relaxed now whilst Marseille looked a spent force.
But an own goal from Brown was to give the French side hope. The goal coming moments after Cheyrou had almost reduced the arrears. Brown, conceding the own goal, headed home Gonzalez cross under pressure from Heinze.
United 2 Marseille 1 (Brown og - 83 minutes)
Buoyed by the goal Marseille went looking for a second whilst United looked nervous but United were to hang on and reach the last eight.