Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Manchester United
United earned what may prove to be an extremely valuable point in Donetsk, leading for much of the game and producing a disciplined and spirited display against lively opposition. While pressure from the home team ultimately led to an equaliser, the Reds can be happy with a very good away European performance in arguably their most difficult fixture in the Champions League group stages.
Shakhtar will claim, with some justification, that they might have had a first half penalty when Cleverley brought down the impressive Teixeira in the area, but it was United who reaped the reward of a composed start when they capitalised on a defensive error to take the lead. Fellaini had done well to take the ball to the goal line and cut back, but it looked an easy ball for the Ukrainian defence to deal with. Under little pressure, Rakitskiy sliced his attempted clearance and Welbeck was on hand to beat the keeper from close range. Straightforward finish it may have been, but it’s the sort of opportunist goal Reds fans would like to see Welbeck on hand to score more often and his speed of thought was symptomatic of United’s performance for much of this match.
Shakhtar increasingly pushed United back after the goal but United’s rearguard was solid and the decision to play a three-man midfield looked well-judged. While Fellaini could be criticised for being caught in possession more than once, United worked hard in the middle of the park to cover and Carrick, Cleverley or a back-tracking Valencia or Welbeck were invariably on hand to snuff out the danger. The home team was forced to rely on the flanks as their main supply chain, but consistently found Vidic and Smalling on hand to deal with incoming crosses.
United were required to soak up more pressure in the second half. Fellaini, an odd candidate for mistaken identity, was booked for a foul that appeared to be committed by Valencia, and then was substituted, allowing Giggs to go ahead of Raul at the top of the Champion’s League appearance list. United’s best chance of the half came when Van Persie spurned a chance that he and Rafael had linked well to create, finding a defender’s leg in the way when he attempted to steer the full-back’s cross towards goal.
After a masterful performance from Vidic at the back, it was the Serbian’s weak clearance that allowed the home side to equalise. Deceived by a ball into the area that fell unexpectedly to him, his instinctive attempt to stab the ball away from danger fell only to Taison, who fired emphatically into the roof of the net. With United now on the back foot, De Gea made an excellent save from a deflected shot to keep the scores level. It was to be the last meaningful chance of the game and, while it was disappointing that we couldn’t hang on for victory, an away draw against good opposition, and more importantly the way United went about their business in achieving it, is something David Moyes will be more than satisfied with.