What a game, what a performance. This was a game of many headlines - Will Fellaini start? Will Kagawa feature and how will David Moyes handle his first Champions’ League game at the helm of Manchester United.
David Moyes made 3 changes to the side fresh from their 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday. Fabio, Anderson and Ashley Young makes way for Chris Smalling, Maroune Fellaini and Shinji Kagawa. The headline was definitely Maroune Fellaini starting in his first Champions’ League game but to me it was the inclusion of Shini Kagawa and his deployment as a roaming left-winger with the freedom to drift in centrally which he executed so effectively for both Borrusia Dortmund and the Japan national team. And that has also put the Moyes - Kagawa rumours to bed.
United and particularly Fellaini started brightly, Fellaini looked assured, always first into tackles and headers and that was exactly what United haven been missing out on for years. United didn’t let the dominance count and it wasn’t until the 8th minute when United carved out a chance with Rooney shooting from 20 yards but was bravely blocked by Ömer Toprak. It took 21 minutes before Robin van Persie executed some Ronaldo-eqsue footwork and some interchanges between Kagawa and Carrick before the latter played Evra through, who looked offside. Evra whipped in a cross which Rooney duly converted home - there were huge protests and rightly so as Leverkusen’s goalkeeper Bernd Leno was obstructed by Antonio Valencia during the build-up to that goal but Slovenian referee Damir Skomina was having none of it. On the 39th minute Robin van Persie talked his way into the book with dissent after a tussle with Guilo Donati when the referee played on and van Persie screamed his head off face to face with the Slovenian referee - not a thing you’d want to do, Robin. The first-half ended without much action but there was a shining light in United’s performance: Wayne Rooney.
Both managers did not make any changes prior to the second half and the players jogged back on to the pitch. 7 minutes into the second half, Wayne Rooney had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 when Toprak slipped and he was played through on goal, Rooney rounded the goalkeeper and instead of playing it to van Persie for an easy tap-in, he uncharacteristically went for glory and horribly misses it, much to the disappointment of David Moyes and Sir Alex Ferguson on the stands - I wouldn’t blame him as he was on the run for his 200th United goal.
More often than not, squandering a golden goalscoring opportunity will come back to haunt you and this is no different. 2 minutes after the horrible miss, Leverkusen drew level. After some good work from Son, twisting and turning inside United’s penalty box and some uncharacteristic defending from Chris Smalling and Rio Ferdinand, Son played the ball to Simon Rolfes who was lurking outside the penalty area converted it with David De Gea rooted to the ground - albeit a little deflection from Michael Carrick. 1-1 to Bayern Leverkusen, game on.
59 minutes into the game, Antonio Valencia floated in a cross which Robin van Persie brilliantly scissors kicks it home. To be honest, Bern Leno should have done better, but it was the timing, the audacity and the execution from van Persie which caught him by surprise. 2-1 to United.
On the 65th minute, Sami Hyypia brought on Lars Bender, the twin brother of Borrusia Dortmund’s midfielder, Sven Bender for Son Heung-Min. It was a strange decision as a defensive midfielder was brought on for a winger when they are a goal down. Lars Bender shifted in to midfield which meant Emre Can moving into the left wing.
70 minutes in, a mistake from Spahic who missed his header completely after a brilliant long ball from David De Gea gifted Rooney a goalscoring opportunity which he pounced onto and calmly slotted his milestone goal home. 3-1 to United. And now it is 200 goals in 406 games for Manchester United for Wayne Rooney who now joins the likes of Jack Rowley, Dennis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton in the elite 200 goals club. Wayne Rooney is now 11 goals short of the great Jack Rowley, 37 goals short of the first king of Old Trafford, Dennis Law and 49 goals short of the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton. As soon as Wayne Rooney scored his 200th goal for United, the camera immediately went to Sir Bobby Charlton who looked pleased and delighted. And I remember him saying it was just a matter of time before Wayne Rooney overtakes his goalscoring record for Manchester United, what a man - the first gentleman of football and rightly so.
On the 77th minute Leverkusen brought on Kruse and Derdiyok for Sam and Kiessling. Meanwhile United brought on Ashley Young for Kagawa who seemed to be starting to be fade out from the game having just recovered from a flu virus. 2 minutes later United fans were treated to a feast as United did what they do best - classic lightning quick counter-attacking football. As soon as Vidic headed the ball out of the danger zone, van Persie had 2 great touches before playing the ball to Ashley Young, who made a 10 yard run with the ball before passing it to the on song Rooney who then brilliantly played the ball pass 2 Leverkusen defenders to Antonio Valencia who smashes it home. What a goal and what a celebration, immediately after scoring, Valencia rolled up his sleeves and kissed the tattoo on his arms which reads “Chucho 11” dedicated to the late Christian “Chucho” Benitez. 4-1 to United.
On the 84th minute, Javier Hernandez and Tom Cleverley came on for the brilliant Wayne Rooney and Maroune Fellaini who was greeted with deafening roars from the Old Trafford faithfuls. The greatest transfer United did this season wasn’t the signing of Maroune Fellaini but retaining the services of United’s “White Pele”, Wayne Rooney.
As the game looked done and dusted, on the 88th minute, Rio Ferdinand and David De Gea got into a miscommunication in which the former headed the ball out for a corner instead of the latter coming out to collect the ball. A needless corner and a needless goal conceded indeed. From the resulting corner, David De Gea comes out and tried to claim the ball but misses it, the ball drops to Stefan Reinartz who heads the ball towards the bar, the deflection of the ball from the shot dropped directly onto the feet of Topraz, who smashes the ball into the net via the crossbar, 4-2 to Leverkusen.
Minutes later, Robin van Persie got himself into contention for miss of the season with a 2 yards miss in front of an open goal after a brilliant run and a low driving cross from Antonio Valencia.
As the referee blows the full-time whistle, David Moyes shook hands with Sami Hyypia and you could see the relief on David Moyes’ face. A win on his first European in charge and hopefully many more to come.
There are more positives to take from this rather than the negatives.
- Maroune Fellaini had a brilliant performance in the heart of United’s midfield, heading for the ball, getting into tackles and playing the ball to the forwards, I might be exaggerating but he seems to be the missing jigsaw piece in our midfield after Owen Hargreaves left and losing Darren Fletcher to a bowel condition.
-Wayne Rooney putting the summer transfer saga behind with a swashbuckling performance we know him for and as long as he continues performing like this, United fans will get behind him and forget the transfer saga in no time.
- Antonio Valencia seems to be getting back into his groove and we can expect a lot more assist from him this season.
And the only negative?
- Let’s hope that the United defence sorts their communication out as soon as possible and I can see ourselves going far in the Champions’ League again this season.
Man of the match, Wayne Rooney: A vintage Wayne Rooney performance and scored his 199th and 200th goal for United. I’ve said this again and again, but I’ll say this again, when Wayne Rooney is on song Manchester United is on song simply because he is what makes United tick, every play goes through him. Hopefully he can put the summer transfer saga behind him now and lead United to Champions’ League glory this season.
United - Rooney 22’ 70’ van Persie 59’ Valencia 79’
Bayern Leverkusen - Rolfes 54’ Toprak 87’
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fellaini; Valencia, Rooney, Kagawa; van Persie.
Subs: Lindegaard, Fabio, Evans, Anderson, Cleverley, Young, Hernandez.
Bayer Leverkusen (4-3-3): Leno; Donati, Spahic, Toprak, Boenisch; Can, Reinartz, Rolfes; Sam, Kiessling, Son.
Subs: Palop, Wollscheid, Bender, Hilbert, Oztunali, Derdiyok, Kruse.
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
Sometimes I think that’s all you need to lead a fulfilling life. It’s the one thing that nobody can change in you, the thing that you can keep reaching for even if nothing else works out. The thing that lifts your heart.
Stumbled upon thoughtcatalog and it is beginning to make me look at things in a different light.
5. That you could have done something different.
Look, we all have our regrets, something we wished we could’ve done differently. But there’s no time machine that will take us to that exact moment in time to change the turnout. Maybe you cheated on a boy/girl friend and that person you hurt was the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Rather than moping and wishing you could have taken a step back and reassessed the situation, look towards and not back. Be that better version of you starting today.
8. Changing someone.
I’ve always held the mentality that if I were giving somebody space to do their own thing, I always figured I could be the one leading by example. Unconsciously, this was my way of trying to change somebody. But when you can completely accept someone for every flaw and likeable characteristics, your judgment of them dissipates. Every action or words that come out of them, is there own being. It’s just the way they are. Whether someone is fearful of showing love in a relationship due to having hurt someone in the past, you can only listen to them and accept them as they are.
9. That happiness is found through another.
You may think you’re in an ideal ‘loving’ relationship when you can adore the characteristic and qualities of a person. This ranges from how their hair smells, to their intelligence, or the way they bbq, but thinking you’ve found the right person and telling yourself your happy because you share common characteristics will only go skin deep. The root of happiness comes from you, and finding that is a personal journey. Happiness, is of course meant to be shared, and sharing it with another who also contains a dose of this can be quite momentous.