Power Cut at Braga's Estadio AXA Stadium Saved United's Blushes, Says Smalling
Manchester United and England defender Chris Smalling has come out and credited the electrifying (pardon the pun) power shortage in Portugal last night for United's win against Braga in their Champions League group H match (via the Telegraph).
The victory ensured that United have not only progressed to the last 16 of the competition but have also already been confirmed as group winners—granting them seeded status in the next round.
However, their victory was far from assured from start to end. The United midfield looked sloppy and devoid of any real ideas when it came to actually creating chances for their front two.
Danny Welbeck looked particularly ineffectual up front for the Red Devils, spurning chances and not getting more than a couple of good touches in all night.
The poor showing from United was rightfully punished by Braga in the 49th minute, when captain and forward Alan stepped up to convert a controversially awarded penalty.
This should have been the wake-up call that United needed to get themselves back into the match. Surprisingly, however, this couldn't have been much further from the truth, with the dull monotonous passages of play continuing on until the incident in question changed the course of the match drastically.
When the lights went out after 60 minutes, it gave Sir Alex the more-than-necessary chance to give his boys a good talking to, as well as make some imperative tactical changes.
When questioned about the importance of the incident in regards to United's victory, Smalling stated this as the real moment of change in the match, saying:
"Yes, I think it did change the game in a way.
"Especially after their goal. We knew we really had to pick ourselves up.
"We had a lot of the ball but we weren't really getting anywhere. So yes, it really helped us."
Jonny Evans had been struggling all match to perform to his usual standards, and he was not helped by an injury that he picked up early into the second half.
When play resumed, Rio Ferdinand was instantly brought on for the Irishman, having a hugely positive influence on the heart of the United defence.
A few minutes later, the man who's currently on everyone's lips came on to turn the game completely on its head.
Robin van Persie has been, to say the very least, an absolute inspiration for United since his transfer from Arsenal this summer. His goals and general play have on more than one occasion helped to drag United out from several sticky situations, and last night we witnessed this once again.
Smalling went on to comment on his new Dutch teammate:
"He (Van Persie) is a person who only needs one chance.
That was crucial and he's proved that all season so far, and long may it continue."
Within 10 minutes, the scoreline had gone from 1-0 to Braga, to a "resounding" 3-1 away victory for United.
Goals from Rooney, Hernandez and of course RVP mean that United maintain their 100-percent record in the Champions League so far this season.
United may not have played beautiful football in Europe's elite cup, but somehow they seem to keep winning.
However, if they want to mount a real charge for the final at Wembley this year, they will have to make resounding improvements in their general play and learn to rely less on van Persie's influence.
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