From Russia With Love

Matthew StrongContributor IOctober 22, 2009

Manchester United all but secured qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League last night with a mature display against the outfit from Moscow.

With five regulars left back in Manchester receiving treatment ahead of Sundays lunchtime clash with Liverpool, many onlookers judged this to be Ferguson's trickiest test as they try and reach a third successive European Cup Final appearance.

Echo's of 2008 rung round the Luzhniki ahead of the 5.30pm kick off (BMT) where United secured a treble of Champions League wins under dramatic penalty shoot out style in an all English affair against Chelsea.

United's team saw, what some may call a make shift look, Fabio coming in at left back to replace the injured Patrice Evra, with John O'Shea slotting in alongside Paul Scholes in the middle of the park due to the absence of Darren Fletcher.

Dimitar Berbatov was the lone man with Anderson given license to get forward from midfield and support the front man. This was the first time Berbatov had been used as a lone striker and it told. Without the eagerness and bite of Rooney buzzing in and around him, Dimitar looked uncomfortable and isolated, with the renowned shrug of the shoulders and flung arms coming ever more apparent as the game got into full swing.

Nani, who in recent times has been criticized for his lack of decision making and poor end product, became a real thorn in the CSKA Moscow side. His pace, trickery and good understanding with Fabio down the left caused real problems for Krasic and Odiah.

The famous artificial turf didn't seem to hinder United's performance as masses of possession were had by the travelling side. Vidic looked awkward when trying to control bouncing balls but his nous and experience saw him through to put in a good shift for United.

CSKA rarely threatened Van Der Sar throughout the ninety minutes, but when possession was lost on the 18 yard box by Fabio, Dzagoev pounced to slot the ball home, all to be deemed offside in the process, no goal!

On 70 minutes Paul Scholes was replaced by Michael Owen. This was a tactical change by Fergie, as he gave Berbatov a partner for the final quarter, trying to go for broke and snatch the win. Owen tried to sniff around the 18 yard box and try and pick up loose balls but no impact was really made on the game by the 29 year old.

Many say his best days have been and gone and after another non descript appearance more fans would start to believe that exact same statement. The moment of the game came on the 82nd minute after brilliant one touch passing between Nani and Valencia around the 25 yard mark, two one-two's exchanged by the Ecuadorian and the Portugeuse resulted in Antonio rifling a shot onto the bar giving Akinfeev no chance.

Three minutes later Valencia made a mende and hammered in a six yard volley from Berbatov's cute flick from a Nani cross. Three points, and a happy return to Moscow for United!