Ahead of kick-off, we would all have taken it. Louis van Gaal would have taken it. Perhaps CSKA Moscow would have taken it. It reasons with logic therefore that Wednesday night produced the 'diplomatic' result in minus two degrees temperatures.
Anthony Martial was, again, at the centre of the goals, but perhaps one too many this time. His handball that gifted CSKA a penalty was more down to his unsual placing in a temporary wing-back defensive role when the hosts attacked down his channel than it was about his naivety or 'stupidity' as the manager would have it.
He did however redeem himself with a rather expertly directed header past Akinfeev, in off the post, to spare United's blushes on what was an otherwise fruitless display. The conditions in Moscow can be philistine to visiting teams. Indeed, Barcelona and Manchester City have fallen before there, and so context must be afforded when evaluating the events of last night.
On The Match
United, as usual, set out to hog possession and patiently break into CSKA's well organised defence. It's a tactic that worked a treat for the home side who thrive on the counter-attack to compliment their compact shape. Indeed, often times in that first half, United looked vulnerable to a break away goal by the home side but at least they had Morgan Schneiderlin to neutralise that threat. The Frenchman's stock has grown since sitting out that Arsenal debacle but you cannot deny that he has justified his place as United's main-stay in the heart of midfield.
Whilst Martial was at fault for the penalty that led to the eventual goal, Phil Jones was caught flat footed when David De Gea parried the penalty onto the goal-post. It allowed the more alert Doumbia to poke in the opener. United were slow in their build up play so much so that they hardly looked like they would get back in it.
Louis van Gaal, never shy of making a substitution at halftime, replaced Bastian Schweinsteiger with Marouanne Fellaini in a bid to get United more direct. United were suddenly better, not least because the big Begian attracted the attention of most of the home-sides's defence, allowing for more space for the rest of United's front three.
Suddenly United were creating chances. Rooney glanced a header straight at Akinfeev, then Lingard showed inexperience by opening up his body far too early to allow the Russian goalkeeper to read his placed shot. The pressure finally told when Martial directed a Valencia pass onto the inside of the frame of the goal and into the net.
On the Sub-Plots
Wayne Rooney will be 30 by the next time United take to the pitch but the captain, and indeed his apologetics will have you believe that he is as good as ever. It without a doubt that he tries with every fibre of his body. He is merely suffering under the weight of his own success story. Because we have come to believe that he picks up form in bursts, its given the impression that he will eventually come good.
It sums up his night that Daley Blind came on in the 63rd minute and yet made and completed more passes than him. It's not about his goals but that the Wayne of old used to influence proceedings much more than he does nowadays. It helps though that the team still believes in him.
Marcos Rojo struggled at left-back after appearing invincible there on Saturday at Goodison park. It was an unwelcome observation especially considering the turbulence that we've had in that position since the injury to Luke Shaw. Daley Blind replace him midway through the second-half and intriguingly his numbers fare better than Rojo's. It will be interesting to see who the manager goes with for the derby.
On the Bottom-Line
As far as the Champions League is concerned, the manager feels that we are on schedule to get out of the group. Ahead of this one, the one result we couldn't afford was a defeat. A draw was therefore, in the main, a job done. With two home group games to follow, qualification should be assured before United travel to Germany in December.
The City goes tribal now.
Labels: ANTHONY MARTIAL, BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER, DALEY BLIND, MORGAN SCHNEIDERLIN, UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, WAYNE ROONEY