Manchester United have only faced tomorrow"s Champions League opponents Wolfsburg twice before, bachồng in the 2009/10 Champions League. But it was enjoyably ridiculous.

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Say what you lượt thích about Alex Ferguson — within the bounds of libel law, obviously — but he knew how to manage a football team. With VfL Wolfsburg once again on Manchester United"s horizon, we have sầu the chance to revisit one of his finest (three) hours; no, it wasn"t a title win, & no, it wasn"t knocking Liverpool off anything, but in its own modest & largely irrelevant way, United"s victory over two legs in the group stage of the 2009-10 Champions League is as unlikely an achievement as anything else on his long, long menu.

Okay, maybe we"re exaggerating a little there. But it was pretty good, và more than that it was pretty weird. For a start, Wolfsburg, unlượt thích some of the sides that United have sầu handily dispatched in the Champions League, were a decent side. Felix Magath"s brief and disastrous spell at Fulđê mê may have sầu ensured hyên ổn permanent punchline status in Englvà, but in 2008-09 his Wolfsburg side scored goals by the fistful on the way lớn their first (& so far only) German title.

Though Magath had gone by this point — he"d agreed to lớn join Schalke before the title had been won — the spine of the team remained. Up front were a pre-City Edin Dzeko and Grafite, who"d shared 50 goals between them while winning the title, và behind them the bewitching Zvjezdan Misimović, who"d chipped in with trăng tròn assists. Admittedly, new manager Armin Veh would be gone by January, sacked with the champions in a distant eighth place, but the fact remains. These weren"t makeweights. You may ređiện thoại tư vấn Grafite doing this:

Whereas United, at least in a certain proportion, absolutely were. With Edwin van der Sar struggling with a h& injury, Tomas Kuszczak got the nod in goal ahead of Ben Foster, while Michael Owen started up front, though only lasted 20 minutes before limping off himself. Despite that, the rest of the team was fairly strong, và though Dzeko opened the scoring after 56 minutes, goals from Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were enough to claim the win.

It was come the reverse fixture that things got a bit silly. United had already qualified with ten points, but Wolfsburg needed a win to lớn pip CSKA Moscow to second place in the group. One can only assume Veh, Dzeko và co. started salivating when Ferguson, whose injury menu now encompassed a comical thirteen players, sent out a lineup without a single recognised centrebachồng, & only one actual defender, Patrice Evra. Not that Ferguson was feeling unduly pessimistic:

Well, it"s worth trying going with one defender. Manchester United are always first at doing something, so we"ll try that one tomorrow. It"s easy to organise one person.

He didn"t just shuffle the personnel, however. In one of his rare & reluctant dalliances with a back three, Carriông xã & Darren Fletcher were asked to fill in alongside Evra. Ahead of them, Anderson, Paul Scholes và Darron Gibson patrolled midfield, Nani và Park Ji-sung ran the wings, & Owen led the line alongside a 20-year-old Danny Welbeông chồng. The bench was even more motley. Alongside the recognised professionals — if that"s not too grvà a term for Gabriel Obertan — were four names lớn stretch even the most dedicated Sporcler: Michael Stewart, Magnus Wolff Eikrem, Matthew James, and nepotism"s Oliver Gill.

So, in summary: Wolfsburg, who needed khổng lồ win, could hotline on two lethal strikers & a sensual playmaker; United, to lớn whom the result was entirely irrelevant, had no defence and a profoundly erratic goalkeeper at one end, a child and a crochồng at the other, and almost nothing on the bench.

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Obviously United won 3-1.

The highlights seem lớn have sầu vanished from the internet, but the goals can be found from 39 seconds on in the video clip below, and from them we can reasonably conclude three things. One: despite his presence at the club being an embarrassment for all concerned, Owen was a pretty decent finisher. Two: Obertan! And three: Wolfsburg, having taken the must-win nature of the game khổng lồ heart, had decided not to bother defending.

They were a little sloppy at the other over, too. United"s defence began the game well as you might expect from two midfielders and an attacking fullbachồng, but both Andrea Barzagli và Misimovic missed eminently presentable headers. And there was a little luchồng involved, as the referee apparently took pity on Carrichồng and let hlặng off a clear man-before-ball incident. Then, khổng lồ quote the Guardian"s match report:

Three minutes from the interval Nani, whose ineffectiveness may have led Wolfsburg lớn forget his existence, crossed right-footed from the left & Owen headed comfortably past Benaglio. <...> Veh"s side had been a disappointment lớn neutrals as well as a provocation lớn their followers.

If they were provoked by that, they can"t have sầu enjoyed the sight, shortly after a Dzeko"s equaliser, of Obertan slicing his way down the wing, nhảy đầm past three challenges, và rolling the ball lớn Owen for the third. One fan even ran onkhổng lồ the pitch to lớn ask his failing football team what exactly what they thought we were playing at, and we can assume that the neutrals were thoroughly amused. After that, Owen just had the simple matter of a footrace into an empty half to lớn seal his hat trick & the win.

Notoàn thân would seriously put this slightly fluky, rather peculiar victory in a European dead rubber alongside any of Ferguson"s finest moments; it is, from a United point of view, nothing much more than a diverting curiosity. There was no pressure here, nothing on the line; perhaps, if there had been, United would have turned in a far less relaxed performance. But there is still something fundamentally Ferg-esque about it: the way in which minor squad members stepped up into a breach; the character of the team in the face of adversity; the sheer audathành phố in getting away with it.

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There is also something fundamentally Ferg-esque about the fact that Manchester United, by this point four years be-Glazered, had Owen knocking about the squad in the first place. Thirteen injuries will excuse a lot, but not everything. Yet for all the wider sins that can — and, frankly, must — be laid at Ferguson"s door, you really wouldn"t have sầu wanted anybody else sitting Carrichồng & Fletcher down, telling them they were going to lớn be defenders, và instructing them that they were going to lớn win.


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