Anthony Martial conceded a penalty before scoring as Manchester United drew 1-1 with CSKA Moscow in their Champions League clash this evening.
There was a subdued start from both teams as they felt their way into the game. Former Man United forward Zoran Tosic cut in from the left but his shot veered wide of the goal. Moments later, CSKA were awarded a penalty when Martial handled in the box. David de Gea saved Roman Eremenko’s initial effort and then tried to kick the ball to safety, but it only went as far as Seydou Doumbia, who tapped in from close range.
It was a good start for the home side but Ahmed Musa was lucky not to see red as he went in two-footed on Antonio Valencia. The Nigerian then stung the hands of De Gea with an effort from 25 yards.
Louis van Gaal responded by bringing on Marouane Fellaini at the break and the Belgian got himself about well. Another handball, this time from Marcos Rojo, threatened to give CSKA a second penalty but the referee waved away the protests from the hosts. United took advantage of the lucky break and grew into the match before Martial eventually levelled things up with a superb diving header. United endeavoured to score a winner in the final minutes but CSKA held out, meaning both sides earned a point.
Martial had an eventful game at the Arena Khimki as he conceded a penalty with a handball before bringing United back on level terms with a wonderful header.
Latching onto Valencia’s ball into the box, Martial guided the header into the far corner of the net and past Igor Akinfeev. It was the perfect way to make amends for his handball and it really demonstrated just how resilient of a character he is. More of the same against Manchester City, please!
United were below par in a disappointing first half which meant De Gea saw plenty of action.
The Spaniard saved Eremenko’s penalty superbly and was unlucky that the ball ricocheted to Doumbia, who could barely believe his fortune. De Gea then saved well from Musa as CSKA hit United on the counter-attack. United will experience ups and downs throughout this term but De Gea will no doubt remain a reliable performer right up until the last game of the season. His displays could well be the difference between a successful campaign and a poor one.
Lack of incisiveness in first half
United, as they have done all season, saw plenty of the ball against CSKA but they struggled to do anything of note with it during a frustrating first 45 minutes in Russia.
CSKA did defend well but it was surprising to see United so lacklustre up top, particularly given the fact they have impressed from an offensive point of view as of late, barring, of course, the Arsenal defeat. The trip to Russia would have inevitably played a part but van Gaal would have been very concerned with his side’s slow start.
How much longer is the captain going to get? Only David de Gea (19) had fewer touches than Rooney (22) for United in the first half.
Rooney’s contribution was disappointing yet again but van Gaal refused to bring off the Englishman. His performances have come under question time and time again this term but nothing is being done about what is quite clearly a huge problem. It is time for van Gaal to wake up and smell the coffee.
Better second half
Eyebrows were raised when van Gaal chose to bring Fellaini on at half time but the big Belgian helped United put in an improved performance during the second period. United were encouraging after 60 minutes played in particular but it is still worrying that United seem to need to grow into games. Sooner rather than later, they need to learn how to hit the ground running from the first whistle.