Far from brilliant but total, professional, efficiency which has pretty much been the hallmark of Manchester United this season. The scoreless draw at the Marseille Velodrome should see the Reds safely through to the quarter finals in the return leg. It must be said that keeping substitute hit man Javier Hernandez on the bench was surprising as the young Mexican could have snatched a winner in the last 10 or 15 minutes as he did at Valencia in the Group stage. But Sir Alex Ferguson is fully aware that a home and away Cup tie presents a different challenge.
He confessed after the game that United must improve in the return leg saying that “The game was disappointing to me. OK, the pitch was lively and Marseille made sure they weren’t going to lose a goal. We expected more, that goes without saying. We got into some good positions at times, but it wasn’t enough.” Ferguson also admitted that he was wary about the return leg saying “Nil-nil can be a dangerous scoreline if you lose a goal at home but it’s about winning the game, if we win the game we’re through. We’re confident, I think we’ll be much better.”
Marseille 0 v Manchester United 0
Daily Telegraph – Manchester United withstood a second-half mistral from Marseille, showing good organisation and resilience to resist the French champions. Although the Premier League pace setters would have liked to have returned from the Cote D’Azur with an away goal, they can take comfort from their defensive excellence here, particularly another fine performance from young Chris Smalling. An England career, and lengthy United prominence, awaits. There was a maturity about Smalling, a refusal to panic when Brandao and company came calling that marks him out as a true United player. Confident. Unfazed. He was an able assistant to Nemanja Vidic, United’s captain who took a nasty elbow from Brandao in the face but soldiered on.
The game also witnessed a selfless, industrious 90 minutes form Wayne Rooney, who willingly played out of position, curbing his attacking instincts to help the cause. Nani also impressed in parts, demonstrating his preparedness to cover back when Marseille attempted to pressure down the wings. Full Report
Uefa.com – Olympique de Marseille failed to find a way through Manchester United FC’s resolute defence as two former UEFA Champions League winners cancelled each other out in a tactical contest in southern France. With both teams missing key men through injury, this eagerly anticipated contest struggled to live up to the pre-match hype, although there were positives for both sides ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford on 15 March.
Despite the absence of striker André-Pierre Gignac, Marseille posed frequent problems through their lively wingers André Ayew and Loïc Rémy yet rarely tested Edwin van der Sar. Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, will have been pleased with the way Chris Smalling performed in the absence of Rio Ferdinand, the young defender impressively neutralising the threat of Brandão. Competing in a UEFA Champions League knockout tie for the first time since 1993, the year they won the trophy, the Ligue 1 titleholders were quickly on the attack, Ayew surging down the left inside the first minute and crossing for Rémy who shot wildly into the stands. Yet the visitors, who had won nine of their last ten European away games, soon steadied the ship and began posing a threat of their own through Nani. Full Report
Manchester Evening News – Manchester United and Marseille battled out a goalless draw in a tight Champions League last-16 first leg at the Stade Velodrome. Both defences were on top – Chris Smalling again impressed for the Reds – and neither goalkeeper was seriously tested. The game is now finely balanced ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday March 15.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson sprang a pre-match surprise when he opted to select Darron Gibson ahead of Paul Scholes. Presumably, the United boss was looking to utilise Gibson’s extra energy in midfield, where he had already been deprived of Anderson and Park Ji-sung, two of seven first-team stars to miss the trip. To that end, the Irishman did his job during a pretty poor first half. Full Report
Manchester United – Van der Sar, O’Shea, Vidic, Smalling, Evra, Fletcher, Gibson (Scholes 71), Carrick, Nani, Berbatov, Rooney
Do you expect United to win the return leg at Old Trafford?