Writer: Red Boy
Date:Thursday November 8 2012
On a night of drama, in Portugal, Manchester United secured their passage to the Champions League knockout stages.
Four wins out of four have put United in an unassailable position and with two games remaining Sir Alex Ferguson will be bale to rotate his squad.
But, as always seems to be the case these days, United didn`t make it easy for themselves going a goal behind to the Portuguese side.
For the fixture, Sir Alex was able to call upon the services of Chris Smalling as he made six changes to the side that beat Arsenal at the weekend with two of the squad celebrating birthdays, De Gea being 22 and Ferdinand being 34.
Braga: Beto, Leandro Salino, Nuno Andre, Douglao, Elderson, Custodio, Hugo Viana, Alan, Ruben Micael, Ruben Amorim, Eder.
Subs: Quim, Mossoro, Helder Barbosa, Baiano, Ismaily, Djamal, Ze Luis.
Man Utd: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck.
Subs: Lindegaard, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Carrick, Young, van Persie, Cleverley.
Braga, who raced into a 2-0 lead at Old Trafford, had the better of the first half and could have opened the scoring early on when opportunities came their way. First Micael saw along range shot skid wide of the post before, midway through the half, a cross from Viana saw Eder`s diving header cannon to safety off of the post.
United, appeared to be prepared to offer a laid back approach and made very few, serious, forays into the Braga are. The only effort I can recall saw a header from Evans, from a Valencia cross, easily saved by the Braga keeper.
Three minutes into the second half, United`s lax approach saw them fall behind when Evans halted a Custodio run into the box by fouling him. Alan, who`d scored twice at Old Trafford, stepped forward and scored with some aplomb.
United`s response saw Nani`s shot deflected wide before darkness engulfed the arena when the floodlights failed. Ten minutes later, with power restored, the game got back underway and it seemed as if United had received the hairdryer treatment from Sir Alex as they emerged all guns blazing.
Ferdinand, during the unplanned break, had replaced Evans and Van Persie was to be introduced shortly after, as United looked to shore up the defence and get back onto level terms.
But the equalizer wasn`t to come until the 80th minute when Giggs played van Persie through and the Braga keeper raced off his line to intercept only for van Persie to curl a great shot around him and into the net.
Five minutes later, United were in front when Rooney was upended in the penalty are by Coelho. Rooney elected to take the spot-kick and duly smashed it into the top of the net. But there was still more to come from United with Hernandez, in stoppage time, adding a third when he collected a pass from Rooney, rounded the keeper and slotted home.
Group H done and dusted with two games to go, it doesn`t get much better than that.
Date:Thursday November 8 2012
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