AS Roma 0 2 Manchester United
Stadio Olimpico, 04.01.2008
The performance wasn't breathtaking. It wasn't fluent. It was effective. It was functional. And it gives United the vital edge going into the return leg at Old Trafford.
You can always bet that Fergie's team selection will spring a surprise on you - but even then you wouldn't have expected to see Park to start on that team sheet. A true "WTF" moment before the start. No Tevez either confirming my suspicion that it's going to be another very cautious performance - nothing like the 4-0 demolition of Villa just a few days back. And so it was - United happy to play at walking pace. We started well with keeping possession without really threatening them. But as it often happens, the home team settled soon and started to shade possession. For a while there things were quite dire. United happy to chase shadows while Roma not really doing anything of note. We had the likes of Rooney behind the ball every time they had possession. I don't agree with it, but it did deliver today.
It was Ronaldo's amazing courage that gave us the lead. Scholes' perfect floated ball saw Ronaldo leap up ahead of the defender and head it in - a jump that would have made Michael Jordan proud! He did hurt himself in the process and for a second the entire red world held a collective breath wondering if it was too early to celebrate that goal. It was to everyone's relief then seeing him back on his feet. That goal really rattled Roma and their fans. They started brightly in the second half but couldn't really make any of the chances count with EVDS making a couple of brilliant saves to keep us ahead. Rooney's goal off a fumble made it easy and from then on Roma had no belief of getting anything out of the game. Ronaldo, Carrick and Rooney all missed easy chances to make it three and virtually seal the tie. But 2-0 is a great away result - although to some level the scoreline does flatter the performance we put out there today. Some may say this was a perfect away European display or that it was a tactical masterpiece from Fergie. I am not entire sold on that yet. Will it work with a more attack minded side (uh, like Barcelona?)?
Vidic's injury around the 30 minute mark was something that spoilt the victory today. This team has some interchangeable parts - but Rio and Vidic are not one of those. We need them both fit for every game we play from now on. But its likely now that Vidic will miss games - it's just a matter of how many. I don't think we can cope without him for the rest of the season. O'shea came in today and did the job but it will be another thing to try and fit in the role for the remaining games - both in the league and in the CL. I am eagerly waiting the news on Vidic's scan.
It was a marvellous result for us. We showed discipline and composure on the ball.Ronaldo's goal changed the game for us. It was a fantastic header. His spring and courage to go in front of the defender surprised the Roma player.It was a centre-forward's header - it reminded me of myself. I thought Roma had some good chances the first 15 minutes of the second half. But there are breaks in a football match and I think they were with us today.
Man of the Match : Tough one between Ronaldo and EVDS. Ronaldo shades it just.
Moment of the Match: EVDS's early second half save from a header at 1-0 that kept the lead intact.
Moan of the Match: Undoubtedly the injury suffered by Vidic.This could cost us the title and the CL. Such cruel similarity with the happenings of last season. [ Anderson's performance today was the runner up]
Focus is back on the bread and butter league this weekend. Thoughts on that when I get a chance to catch my breath.