Fergie’s tactics bring out the best in Fletcher and Rooney
AC Milan 2-3 Manchester Utd
This was a funny-old game. Yet, for AC Milan, this was no laughing matter. Not since 1958 did Manchester United score last at the San Siro, but on this cold evening Milan could do little to prevent three goals being scored. One was lucky, the other two, however, finely crafted goals scored by Wayne Rooney. Two important goals which he will treasure on his 50th appearance in Europe.
This night was all about David Beckham. Not exactly a night to remember, having been subbed in the second half although ‘GoldenBalls’ played a part in the first goal, which came in the 3rd minute. His free-kick had found its way to Ronaldinho, whose deflected effort beat Van der Sar and United were stunned. It took a while for the Red Devils to get into the game and Milan could have doubled their lead as numerous chances fell to Huntelaar and Ronaldinho. If they had scored, the story would have been somewhat different. But, they paid the price and Paul Scholes equalised, fortuitously it must be said but it calmed the nerves.
The first half was all about Ronaldinho. Some fancy footwork here and there had made life hell for young Rafael, who sported a trim, and we saw shades of the ‘old’ Ronaldinho who terrorised defences week in week out. The second was all about Wayne Rooney, imperious and majestic. And in Darren Fletcher, United have a world-class central midfielder who is also versatile.
Sir Alex also comes in for some praise. Two pieces of tactical masterclass from the Scot had won United the tie. He displayed ruthlessness, berating Jonny Evans in front of TV cameras before half time giving him the famous hairdryer. But, when he had decided to change things around, he succeeded. He decided to play Fletcher on the left hand side where he had kept the dangerous Pato quiet but most importantly he assisted two goals. The other piece of tactical genius was when, with the score at 1-1, he replaced Nani for Valencia, who immediately set up the second which Rooney expertly headed past Dida. Valencia was superb in this game, evoking memories of the great Brazilian Garrincha.
Then, for a period of time it was easy. Rooney and the midfield had knocked around the ball like they would at Carrington. Milan’s back line was so high, at times it was up to the half way line – and beyond. Fletcher exploited this line and delivered a sumptuous cross which Rooney had easily headed home to make it three. United’s third away goal.
It wasn’t over. Man Utd looked complacent and they were. Rafael decided to bomb forward, but lost the ball in possession and Ronaldinho had exploited the gap left by the right back and found Clarence Seedorf who wonderfully back-heeled the ball into the net. Another downside for United was that Michael Carrick was sent off, his second bookable offence, for kicking the ball away deep in injury time.
The tie isn’t over, but Milan now they require two goals at Old Trafford. That won’t be easy, but United have to avoid being complacent. United will be happy with this result, and without doubt you’d think they’ve done enough. Thank you Fergie. Thank you Fletcher. Thank you Wayne. Thanks for an absolute classic.