‘Smalling Shines In Stalemate’ 5 Things I Noticed – Marseille v United (UCL L16 – 1st Leg)

3. Lack of Penetration

I knew it was likely to be a 0-0 as soon as Berbatov was being asked to play up front alone. Unless Nani scores or produces magic time after time, it is very easy to prevent United from creating regular goalscoring opportunities due to the fact that Rooney despite his improving fitness, doesn’t possess the agility to be a genuine menace on the left flank and Berbatov lacks the pace to get in behind defences and the aerial prowess to flick balls into the path of a Nani or Rooney when they make late runs off the flank. He’s basically a decoy forward, a guy just there to occupy space and its not the United way to not really look to be a goal threat and just focus on stifling opponents, we need to at least look dangerous on the counter if we are to progress against more potent sides away from home.

4. Lack Of An Away Goal… Dangerous?

  • 99/00: Lost v R. Madrid (QF) 3-2 at home after drawing first leg away 0-0.
  • 00/01: Lost v B. Munich (QF) 2-1 at home after losing first leg away 0-1.
  • 07/08: Won v Barcelona (SF) 1-0 at home after drawing first leg away 0-0.
  • 08/09: Won v I. Milan 2-0 at home after drawing first leg away 0-0.

So I’ve been having a look at our CL campaigns since 1999, to see if the lack of an away goal would have any significance in the second leg. Well as you can tell from the stats, its pretty inconclusive.. if anything it suggests that United are a more solid outfit in general these days, less likely to go overly gung-ho at home in order to compensate for the lack of an away goal and more measured in their approach. So hopefully this conclusion can wipe the smile of Deschamps face and prove that Fergie was right to be content with that result and the side he put out.

That said in the second leg, we musn’t forget that Valbuena and Gignac (the french Higuain – even though Gonzalo could’ve played for France himelf) will both be back barring further injury and provide a  genuine bite to Marseille’s counter-attack. Will be interesting to see how highly Fergie rates their capability to get a goal at Old Trafford and whether he’ll treat it as a one-off cup tie where he expects us to just score more goals than them or whether he’ll adopt a more clinical approach and rely on keeping tight and getting a goal through a moment of magic/set piece.. for the sake of entertainment I hope its the former.

5. Opposition MOTM: Andre Ayew

The son of 3 Time African Footballer Of The Year Abedi Pele, this lad clearly has quite a pedigree to live up to. Some of you might remember him for providing the assist for the game-winning goal scored by Asamoah Gyan in the World Cup for Ghana against the USA after sending a lob pass into the United States defence, which Gyan collected and then converted. For his performance in the match, Ayew was named Man of the Match by FIFA. Sadly for him and his nation, Ayew missed the team’s quarter-final defeat on penalties to Uruguay due to yellow card accumulation robbing them of a genuine match-winner.

After having signed a new contract this season, he has settled now and is seen as a key figure in the first-team set up and we saw why today.. barely 21, he has that raw direct dribbling style reminiscent of Charles N’Zogbia, not afraid to go into areas that most conservtative wingers, stay away from and unless you’re Ryan Giggs succeed in. He looked a menace and whilst his end product is lacking for now, if he can develop a right foot and learn how to make the most out of defenders backing off him, he could win himself a move to a bigger club.


One of those displays where despite our mediocrity in midfield, we should still have expected to brought home a lead. It’s hard to tell how this game will go but I’m hoping we’ll just be positive and relieve some pressure off our midfield and surround them with attacking talent capable of putting this decent but not frightening Marseille side to the sword.

Uefa Champions League L16 (1st Leg) – Match Facts
Score: 0-0 Venue: Stade Velodrome Date: Wednesday 23rd February Kick-off: 1945 GMT

Man Utd (4-5-1): Van Der Sar, O’Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Fletcher, Gibson, Rooney, Berbatov. Subs: Scholes (72nd).

O. Marseilles: Mandanda, Fanni, Diawara, Cisse, Heinze, Gonzales, M’Bia, Kabore, Brandao, Remy, Ayew Subs: Cheyrou (70th min), Valbuena (79th min) Referee: Brych

Written By

Raees www.twitter.com/redrae7