Date:Tuesday February 20 2007
United won 1-0 thanks to a Ryan Giggs free-kick but the Reds' performance was as disappointing as Arsenal's who lost at PSV.
Fergie fielded his strongest line-up, with Rooney and Larsson up front. Finally, it was a 4-4-2 in a difficult away game and it did not look bad in the first half.
United kept the ball well on an awful pitch (worse than Old Trafford's and that's saying something nowadays) but struggled to create chances due to Lille's unambitious defending and their own slow tempo.
Lille did not threaten in the first half whilst Rooney should have scored in the 20th minute but fired well over the bar under a push by Tavlaridis. The Greek defender should have been sent off at least twice at Old Trafford last season but he got through that game just as he now got away without a penalty awarded against his side. But all in all, on the basis of the first half, I expected increasing pressure on the Lille goal, greater pace and two goals.
Claude Puel changed into a 4-5-1 and United started to struggle. We missed two sitters (Rooney and Ronaldo the culprits) but then it had to be realized that Carrick and Scholes were not enough against the three central midfielders but one has to ask what would have been with more accurate passing? United kept giving the ball away in the second half and the desperate passes should not be attributed to the tactical shift of the opponents.
Fergie changed his team into 4-3-3, Ronaldo coming off for Saha but that seemed a very bad idea - Henrik Larsson, who finally decided he would go back to Sweden in March, was invisible in the first half and he got worse in the second so leaving him on the pitch represents the manager's high confidence in him. Bringing off Larsson for Fletcher would have given us more accurate passing and more stability in midfield if we wanted to play a 4-3-3 (or 4-5-1) but with Giggs, Larsson, Rooney and Saha all on the pitch, the midfield was exposed way too often.
Lille had a goal ruled out for a push on Vidic (correctly, Odemwingie is a dirty player) and had several good chances. On the other side, we had a Larsson chip to show for all of our efforts and when that free-kick came in the 81st minute, I would have been happy to get away with a draw. Sylva lined up the wall but Giggs did not want to wait for it and curled his shot into the far corner. The referee did not indicate we would have to wait for his whistle so it was a perfectly good goal but Lille players made fool of themselves by starting to walk off the pitch. Their supporters were wreaking havoc in the stands but the game finally resumed. They never had a chance to peg us back so we'll take a good result to Old Trafford.
Date:Tuesday February 20 2007
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