Manchester United were able to create the perfect early start against Bursaspor, however little of the performance on the night was of the expected standard for a successful side in this competition.
Following Nani’s stunning strike it was an extremely subdued performance from United which did little to inspire a quiet crowd inside Old Trafford.
United did, however, start the game quickly and purposefully with both Nani and Anderson looking the most obvious danger men. The goal from the Portuguese underlined his continual improvement showing he has the capabilities to inspire this United side when a moment of magic is required. It was the perfect tonic for the supporters considering recent events. The rest of his performance was typical of a player who continues to both thrill and frustrate the Old Trafford faithful.
Arguably the real plus of the night was the performance from Anderson. The Brazilian showed the kind of energy which many felt was lost from his game following a long lay-off. He pressed and harried the Turkish midfield and played with the kind of purpose shown in his early United career. This drive was in evidence early in the second half when the former Porto man picked the ball up deep in the United half, starting the move and then involving himself on the edge of the opposition area, laying the ball into Federico Macheda. Another positive which Sir Alex Ferguson will look to was the performance of Patrice Evra. The Frenchman has enjoyed a torrid start to the season but looked to regain some of his attacking composure in this outing, being a real threat down the left in the second half.
Unfortunately for Ferguson, that is where much of the positives from the performance end. When Anderson began to tire in the second-half, eventually being withdrawn, the poor form of both Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick became painfully apparent. Fletcher may have put in his customary shift but when in possession of the ball he appeared laboured, often hesitating and under-hitting passes. Carrick continued his run of poor form and seemed unable to unlock his range of passing. Countless times the England man lofted balls into wide or forward areas giving the likes of Nani, Macheda or Ji-Sung Park little chance in the air. For a player that looked so calm and composed in his early United career his form since the 2009 Champions League final will be increasingly worrying his manager.
If either Carrick or Fletcher is involved away at Stoke City this weekend a vastly improved performance is required. Similarly the experienced Nemanja Vidic will be required to improve on the level of this performance which saw him hesitate in possession, lose his footing and do little to rid the United defence of continual individual errors.
A win is exactly what was required to ensure United sit top of Group C and they did just that. However, it was clear for all around Old Trafford if United are to do anything in this competition a vast improvement on this performance has to be achieved.
21 Rafael – 15 Vidic – 12 Smalling – 3 Evra
16 Carrick – 8 Anderson – 24 Fletcher
17 Nani – 27 Macheda – 13 Park
71 – 26 Obertan on for 13 Park
77 – 14 Hernandez on for 8 Anderson