Manchester United 2-2 Benfica – as it happened
Manchester United got what they deserved. Very little.
93 min: It’s a corner for Manchester United. It’s probably their last chance. It doesn’t clear the last man. It’s full time.
91 min: Cross, clearance, cross, clearance, cross, clearance. Two minutes left.
89 min: A forceful run from Rodrigo, and down the inside left channel he hits the side netting. So little time left.
88 min: United switch play from left to right, right to left. Benfica could do this for another twenty minutes. United could be Sven Goran Erikssonning their way out of Europe, right here.
84 min: United have been so bereft of real skill and ideas that it’s been like watching England’s Golden Generation. Benfica are settling in to defend, and unless something magical happens they should be fine. Maxi is booked for a rough challenge on Young.
82 min: Another substitution, and Fabio is going off to be replaced by Chris Smalling. He’s not bad going forward and Fabio has tired as is usual. Aimar is coming off, probably the best player of the match, with Amorim the man coming on.
80 min: The disappointing Valencia is the man to go off. Ten minutes left and I’m predicting a Benfica win, Ferdinand to drop a bollock.
78 min: Oh, Dimitar. A great cross from Fabio, and Berbatov reaches behind him to volley over. Hernandez is coming on any minute, most of the United players deserve to be the one replaced.
76 min: Carrick fouls Aimar from behind as he broke forward. His yellow card means he won’t be able to play in the next match, having earned himself a suspension. I’m not sure they’ll miss him. I’m not sure they’ll play any better without him, either.
75 min: Corner from Young. You do the math.
70 min: To all those people wondering how much financial trouble the Glazers will be in if United go out at the group stages, the answer is: not much, this reflects the evil nature of the takeover. Benfica will be pleased with this result but they shouldn’t hold back, they could definitely win tonight.
66 min: Cesar gives away a corner. Benfica make a change. Matic comes on for Gaitan, who has been a lot less prominent this half. Young takes it and it doesn’t clear the first man. Pathetic stuff.
64 min: Nani dives unconvincingly after being brushed in the box. He just fell over as if his nerves no longer functioned. He wins the ball back and his cross for Berbatov is too long.
63 min: Berbatov turns in a square pass from Young, but he’s already been called offside.
60 min: Goal and incompetence! Manchester United 2-2 Benfica. Aimar rifles a shot pushed out by De Gea into the roof of the net. Pathetic defending.
58 min: Goal and technical problems! Manchester United 2-1 Benfica. A cross from Young is repelled, and Evra picks up the pieces, he puts in a low, curling cross between defence and keeper, like Beckham at his best. Fletcher is there to poke it home. That had been coming.
57 min: Young takes a corner, won after he couldn’t be bothered to run for an Evra cross. It’s claimed by Artur. All of Young’s crosses have been too close to the keeper today, which is a nice change from the Premier League, where no corners beat the first man.
54 min: Fannying about/patient work from Fabio, Nani and Bertbatov ends with a powerful bundle from Jones putting Fabio in the clear to shoot. He’s obviously unused to this as the shot is saved easily by Artur. The pressure is building, Manchester United are having much more of the possession. Luisao is limping off, I expect him to be subbed in a moment.
52 min: It’s straight at the wall. I should have just included that in my last entry. Berbatov is getting his achilles iced, and is off the pitch.
51 min: Great work in parts from Manchester United. Berbatov and Nani both get round the back of the defence with clever footwork. Both crosses are cleared, and Carrick is tripped on the outside of the box. Free kick for United.
50 min: Corner for Manchester United. It’s won after Berbatov puts Carrick in, and Carrick’s pass is cut out. Young and Nani combine, and Nani’s cross is punched clear. These foreign keepers.
48 min: Nani evades challenges from three players, he slips, put the ball in to Young who clips the ball round the defender. His cross, though, is no good, out for a goal kick. Now Gaitan has a go, curling a shot into the arms of David de Gea from outside the box. An open start.
47 min: Here’s Callum Hamilton on a man he has little time for: ‘The Carrick bandwagon is rolling again, then. The usual in the Michael Carrick Cycle Of Esteem: start playing well in the meaningless games, so you get picked for a big occasion. Then, you can be utter toilet again. How many years, and we still haven’t learned.’ I agree, but he really hasn’t been that good tonight. Better than usual, but his usual of the last few years has been almost entirely dog dirt.
45 min: Alright, it’s the second half. Let’s just get through this and then we can all go home/move two or three yards to the bed.
Half time emails. The sole email is from Ethan Dean-Richards, who I speak to more than my own mother: ‘I’m watching Real Madrid. No English team can do what they’re doing to Dynamo Zagreb tonight – it may well be illegal here. But that’s not the main point; the main point is: I’m watching Real Madrid and you’re watching Manchester United/City. I win. I’m also wearing a woolly hat in the house because it’s freezing in here, but that’s not the point either; I already made the point.’
45 min: Ok, that’s it. Half time. You can find videos of the goals here.
42 min: A decent ball over the top from Young is brought down well by Berbatov, whose shot is deflected over for a corner. It’s not a bad corner from Young, but is claimed by Artur easily as nobody in a red shirt challenged for it.
39 min: Disallowed goal. The whistle blew well before Evra was put in the clear on the left of the area. He was well offside, and the admittedly very attractive Dimitar Berbatov slid one in. Artur is booked for timewasting.
37 min: Bruno Cesar is checked by Fabio. Judging from his reaction, I think Cesar has been mortally wounded. Oh no, he’s got back up and is actually perfectly well. Phew.
35 min: A poor touch from Young stops a Manchester United break. On balance, Young has had quite a disappointing start to his Manchester United career. He excelled initially but has been off the pace for the majority of his games now. It probably is injury, but maybe he is about as good as we suspected all along. Nani gets to the byline but his cross is claimed by the keeper, the ball being far too close to him.
33 min: A yellow card for Darren Fletcher, who puts his arm over the right back. The right back crumpes to the ground, presumably for raising his hands. It was a dive, I think, as United were in space and threatening, but I’m no use.
31 min: Bloody Hell. A through ball sets Young free, he only has the keeper to beat, and puts the ball straight at the keeper. Benfica break, and I think it’s Aimar who gets through on goal, and this time he can’t aim away from the keeper, a hard left-footed shoot being pushed away by De Gea.
29 min: Goal! Manchester United 1-1 Benfica. Free kick slightly to the left of centre, thirty five yards out. Ashley Young clips it left, it comes to Evra, whose fantastic header is placed well enough to evade the goalkeeper. A simple move, a great cross from and a very good header.
28 min; Valencia scoots down the right, he has time to put in either Berbatov or Ashley Young who are in the channels between the retreating defenders. The winger plays an exquisitely brainless pass, chipping it forward over everyone.
26 min: Patrice Evra or Rio Ferdinand. who has fewer games left in a Manchester United shirt? Fabio kicks out at Witsel in a sliding tackle. It was probably deliberate, an act of vengeance a moment or two after Witsel had ended Fabio’s jinking run with a hefty challenge of his own.
25 min: United have more of the possession now, but Benfica are not by any means on the ropes. The passing is off, Berbatov is too slow. It’s a ludicrous choice of team considering Hernandez is fit. By the way, I should mention that Ashley Young is playing just off Dimitar Berbatov, and he’s having no great success. Despite all my criticisms of the football, my chicken stock is coming along stormingly. Free kick for Benfica on the left hand side. Aimar puts in a good, curling cross that Garcia can only head wide.
20 min: A lovely, controlled run from Nani gets Manchester United into the Benfica half, and Nani then Nanis a slide rule pass straight to a Benfica defender. That is a surprise. Nani has to be played every game, otherwise he might as well be sold for all that he offers when he’s in and out of a team.
18 min: It’s wasted, straight into the arms of the ‘keeper. Here’s Iraq War criminal John Reid, ‘I know that you lot at the FCF are big fans of the languid genius Berbatov, wouldn’t it be best for him to go to a team where he’d be a fulcrum of the team? He’s deserves to be more than a ‘squad player’.’ Speaking of Berbatov, he’s done nothing tonight. I’m starting to worry about him.
15 min: First yellow card of the game. Nani picks the ball up in the centre circle and beats five men until Garay gets sick of it, and scythes him down. A free kick from twenty five yards, centrally, is theirs.
14 min: Democracy denier Callum Hamilton puts his electric pen to electric paper. Here’s his bullshit, ‘As a United fan, I’ll be terrified when Ferguson’s gone. We can’t expect the likes of Mourinho (3-0 up already) to continue our proud tradition of attacking football.’ God, I love that man more than I love, well, everyone. United continue to dither, Fabio loses the ball in the right back position and wins it back, possibly illegally. Benfica have it straight back now, though.
12 min: Manchester United are calm but their passing is ever so slightly off which is preventing them from creating any pressure or getting the ball to any really dangerous positions. Benfica, for their part, are pressing where possible and are passing neatly.
9 min: United have a decent spell of possession but lose it on the left touchline. Where’s Ravel Morrison? FERGIE OUT.
6 min: Cesar’s shot from outside the box, to his team’s right hand side, goes well over. United are looking not very good at football right now. Luckily they can turn to the leadership of Roy Ke-erm, Wayne Roon-oh. Oh, dear.
3 min: Goal! Manchester United 0-1 Benfica. Own goal! Benfica slice right and a through ball to Gaitan plays him in. He rifles in a cross and Phil Jones stretches instinctively to put it past De Gea.
2 min: Free kick for United on the left hand side of the box as Luisao clumps Ashley Young. The cross from Young is far too high and goes out for a goal kick. In other news, Michael Carrick has a moustache. Red card, you wacky man. Get off.
1 min: We kick off, and boos immediately from the Benfica fans. Nobody has scored yet. Modern football is rubbish.
Feel free to send in your emails. When I write for this site, I’m nice.
Here’s my prediction. Manchester United 1-1 Benfica. Got yours? Keep them to yourself.
Team news stolen, like everything good in life, from goal.com.
Manchester United: De Gea, Evra, Duncan Beckenbauer, Ferdinand, Fabio, Carrick, Nani, Young, Fletcher, Valencia, Berbatov
Subs: Lindegaard, Smalling, Rafael, Giggs, Park, Gibson (GIBSON), Hernandez
Benfica: Artur, Pereira, Conceicao, Luisao, Garay, Garcia, Cesar, Aimar, Gaitan, Witsel, Rodrigo
Subs: Eduardo, Vitor, Amorim, Matic, Cardozo, Nolito, Oliveira
Preamble. Conservatism is never nice unless you’re applying it to food (pickles, potted meat, pate, and that’s just the P’s). It’s especially disgusting in football, where the thrill of the new perhaps exceeds the thrill of success. For years, that was Manchester United’s USP, kids doing it for themselves on a scale not seen elsewhere.
Anyway, that was ten year ago and this is now. Is it because of the Twin Towers or is that just coincidence? Well, that’s for you to decide, but Alex Ferguson clearly thinks that risk is no longer worth the reward, and that’s reflected in the team selection today.
For God’s sake, man.