Manchester United finally ended their 404-minute goal drought as Wayne Rooney grabbed the winner for the rather relieved-looking Louis van Gaal, in Tuesday night’s Champions League clash against CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford.
It was a much more attacking display for the Red Devils this time round, with the home side keeping 69 per cent of possession in the match. For all their possession however, Manchester United could get only five shots on target as compared to three by CSKA Moscow, who had much less of the ball.
“I am relieved but also proud,” said van Gaal after the match, according to the UEFA official website. “It’s not so easy. Even in the golden years of Manchester United, I have read they never won against a Russian team at home. Everyone thinks it’s easy, but it isn’t. It is never easy for a club in the Champions League to win.”
However, it could all have gone wrong for Manchester United, as CSKA Moscow striker Seydou Doumbia almost got onto the scoresheet moments before the Rooney goal. It was David De Gea and Chris Smalling who blocked the two shots by the Ivorian striker, as the Red Devils managed to keep their clean sheet intact.
“We controlled the match for 89 minutes but one minute we didn’t control and could have been defeated,” said van Gaal. “If [Seydou] Doumbia scores, before the goal we scored, then I am sitting here very differently, because it is another game. But we deserve it totally, I think.”
The Manchester United manager seemed to have heeded the hues and cries for his team to attack more, as he seemingly sent his men out in the 4-4-2 formation that we have often seen their legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson use. It was Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial up front, as the Red Devils kept long bouts of possession in the opponents’ half.
Doumbia chance contributed to Rooney goal, says CSKA coach Slutski
Manchester United have been brilliant defensively of late, and we saw another glimpse of that, when De Gea and Smalling combined to keep successive efforts by Doumbia out of their goal. While CSKA manager Leonid Slutski was all praises for how good his players were in spite of this loss, he did say that the Doumbia chance was the game-changer.
“We tried to counterattack. I think the [chance] with Seydou Doumbia contributed to the final result. It’s difficult to create chances in a game against Manchester United,” he said.
With this win, Manchester United go top of Group B, while CSKA Moscow slump to the bottom. Van Gaal’s side face PSV Eindhoven in their next Champions League Group B match, in what is now a top-of-the-group encounter at Old Trafford. A win in this match could effectively ensure qualification for either side.