Almost perfect European performance. It was a very confident start from Manchester United. Many people expected Shakhtar Donetsk to dictate play from the first whistle but United took the game to the Ukrainians and deserved to take the lead after Welbeck pounced a stabbed cross from Fellaini.
Donetsk played much better in the second half but United were strong defensively and were watertight at the back, until the ball fell kindly to Taison for him to rifle the equaliser home but United held on for the draw. That fortunate chance aside, we would have walked away with three points.
David Moyes and United were under real pressure to perform tonight and we did. Up against a side with a 100% home record against English teams at home, we played well in the first half and defended well in the second. Performances like tonight were typical of United in Europe under Ferguson.
Midfield three. Michael Carrick sat at the back of a midfield triangle that included Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley who were afforded more freedom to roam forward because of Carrick’s discipline.
United having a real presence in the middle forced Donetsk out wide and given how much space teams have been afforded in front of our defence in recent games, it was very refreshing to see that space closed out.
The trio complimented each other well. Carrick did the dirty work while Cleverley and Fellaini concentrated on bringing the attacks up the pitch. It was a marked change to how we have been playing domestically.
That being said, Fellaini was the weak link on the night despite his assist for Welbeck’s goal. He struggled and was guilty of giving away possession too often.
David Moyes in Europe. United have played poor domestically so far this season but in Europe, we have played very well in the two fixtures so far. It has been very Jekyll and Hyde.
Many touted Moyes’ lack of European experience as one of the biggest problems with him becoming United’s manager but if our first two performances are anything to go by, we are going to do just fine in Europe this year.
Defensive wall. Nemanja Vidic was back to his best tonight against Donetsk. He didn’t take any prisoners tonight and was imperious. He won every 50/50 ball and was indomitable.
Alongside him, Smalling put in another impressive performance. So far, he has played well whenever called upon and he has clearly put his injury woes behind him.
But a lot of United’s stability has to be attributed to Carrick who sat in front of the defence. His presence forced Donetsk out wide to find space and it stopped our centre backs from being isolated in any one-on-one situations.
United were really unlucky to concede the equaliser but done well to hold on against Donestk’s last 15 minutes of intense pressure.
Isolated attack. Robin van Persie struggled to get involved in the game tonight. As it was a European away night, the onus was always to stay strong defensively and hit on the counter but van Persie wasn’t able to get a foothold in the game at all.
Up top, he was isolated and players weren’t close enough for him to play off of them. On the night, it may have been simply down to the tactics rather than the players but you would have expected slightly more from United going forward, especially in the second half.