The first installment of the much talked about Clash of the Big Boys is finally over. And boy, did it live up to the expectations! It was hyped, but importantly, it did not lack the substance.
The Champions of Italy, well almost, were up against the Champions of England, Europe and more recently, Champions of the World. And the Champions of Champions did do justice to their reputation, which was at stake.
More records were set, as United remained unbeaten yet again in Europe. Let's see how the Red Devils fared against the Nerazzurri at the San Siro.
1. The Line up - Surprise Surprise...
Van Der Sar
John O'Shea Rio Ferdinand Johnny Evans Patrice Evra
The Line-up did spring up surprises. They were not pleasant though, at least to Mourinho's liking. But this was a master-piece by the Gaffer to get one over the Special One.
Mourinho seemed to be clueless for most part of the game, and to be fair, he never recovered from the initial shock he got looking at the opposition's team-sheet.
2. Defense - Rock Solid, Yet again...
The much talked about defense, did not seem patched up after all. Though there was a change in personnel, the result was a familiar one, one more clean sheet for the records.
What was important about this game was the level of the performance that was put up by both John O'Shea and the rookie, Johnny Evans. Kudos to the lads, they brought their game up to a whole new level, despite barely having trained the previous day.
Van Der Sar has been given much credit for the clean sheets he has managed to keep this season. Equal credit has to be given to the likes of O'Shea and Evans, who have performed each time they have come on wearing the Red Shirt. It only stresses the fact that a team is not made of stars alone.
The much feared Inter Strike-force was made to bite the dust, at least this time. Barely did they pose a threat to the defense. Though the strikers provided a physical threat to the defense all night, that was it. The threat never materialized.
Top Rate Performance by the Defense.
3. Mid-field - They did 'Make And Break'
Getting the mid-field right was expected to 'Make or Break' the game for both managers. Yet again, the Good Old Man of Old Trafford trumped his counter-part in this department.
His Midfield Duo of Carrick and Fletcher not only Made and Created chances, but they also Broke and Tore apart Inter's advances, rather their attacking forays.
As I predicted in my previous article, Fletcher did start and he was one of the best performers on the pitch. Fletcher has always been a revelation during the away games in Europe. He fared no differently this time. His work rate has been one of the best in the team along with Park.
United's mid-field was a fine blend of creativity and perseverance. Carrick took over the mantle of doing the creative duties from the old horse, Scholesey, and did brilliantly.
He seems to get better with every season, though Fabio Capello would have other thoughts about him. He was the centre of United's Engine room and deserves credit for his performance.
Another Decent Performance by the Engine of the Team.
4. The Attack - Exuberance and Experience, A Lethal Combination
On a first look at the team sheet, one would have pointed out that the line-up was defensive minded, but it turned out to be more than a thorn for the Italians.
Giggsy was the unlikely hero of United's attack along with the more predictable contender, Ronaldo. United utterly dominated the first half, much to the disbelief of the 86,000 fans at the San Siro.
Giggs' experience played an important role in United's game. Mourinho's prediction that United woudl play defensively fell flat on its face.
Ronaldo had a decent game, though he was guilty of missing a good chance. All in all, a top class performance by United's attacking players, keeping in mind the fact that they were playing away from home and in Europe.
United have always been good at counter-attack and they did not disappoint this time, either. Inter had a tough time tracking back from box to box and were opened up quite a few times. Rooney and Giggs both went close to scoring during the many counter attacks that were a highlight of the game.
United's Attack: The Surprise of the evening...
5. What's My Verdict??? - And the Men of the Match are...
Of course, the most Deserving... Fletcher, Ronaldo and the best for the last... Giggsy. Another top class performance from the veteran who is the perfect example along with the likes of Scholes and Neville for young lads and upcoming footballers.
Undoubtedly, this was one of United's best performance in a European game away from home. Their unbeaten record in the Champions League got better with this game. Sceptics would be surprised by this performance of United and fans overjoyed. But...
Though United's performance was superior than Inter's, they have nothing to show for as they failed to convert a flurry of chances, with Giggs, Ronaldo, and Rooney all spurning glorious chances of hitting the back of the net.
United will have to play with the same tempo at OT, in fact put in a superior performance, and of course, do what they did at the San Siro. Keep a clean sheet, as well as what they did not: Score.
As England's famous Boy Band said: It only takes a minute, Girl. In football, perhaps it takes lesser. A kick of the ball can turn a game on its head and sadly, performances like these will mean nothing.
The Red Devils will have to kick one more thing apart from the ball at OT, Complacency - a recipe for disaster. United will have to just be themselves: be UNITED.
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