The Real Footie Analyst

Manchester United’s route to the CL final

Group Stage: Advanced top of Group C ahead of Valencia (Spain), Rangers (Scotland) and Bursaspor (Turkey)
United started slowly with a 0-0 draw against visiting Rangers, a 1-0 win at Valencia only secured through Javier Hernandez’s 85th-minute goal, and a 1-0 win over Bursaspor. The Red Devils burst into life with a 3-0 win in Turkey but that was the exception to much of a campaign in which defense dominated. United was never in danger of elimination but only clinched top spot and a favorable second-round draw with a 1-1 draw against Valencia in their final group match. United finished three points ahead of Valencia despite scoring seven goals to the Spanish side’s 15. Crucially, United conceded just once in six matches.

First Knockout Round: Advanced past Marseille (France) 2-1 on aggregate
United would go on to become the first team ever to reach the final without conceding an away goal, and that defensive solidity was fully apparent in the solid 0-0 draw in France that laid the platform for progress past Marseille. United restricted Marseille to just two attempts on target, and Hernandez scored a goal in each half to put his team fully in control of the second leg two weeks later. A second-string central defense of Wes Brown and Chris Smalling denied Marseille’s players a goal at Old Trafford, with the visitors’ only getting on the board through Brown’s 82nd-minute own-goal.

Quarter-finals: Advanced past Chelsea (England) 3-1 on aggregate
While the Red Devils needed a penalty shootout to beat Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final, they beat the same opponent home and away in this season’s quarter-finals. Veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs continued his vintage season with the feint and cross that set up Wayne Rooney for the first-half winner in a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, and Hernandez struck just before halftime at Old Trafford to double the aggregate lead. Didier Drogba equalized late but United refused to buckle and restored their lead less than a minute later through Park Ji-sung. Chelsea’s players looked crushed and United strolled through to a fourth semi-final in five seasons.

Semi-finals: Advanced past Schalke (Germany) 6-1 on aggregate
United lost to German teams in two previous semi-finals and last season’s quarter-finals but never looked like slipping up against Schalke after dominating the first leg in Gelsenkirchen. Schalke were a shadow of the side that won 5-2 in the previous round at defending champion Inter Milan, and only a stellar performance by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer restricted United to 2-0. Away goals by Giggs and Rooney put their team in total control before Brazilian midfielder Anderson scored two rare goals in a comfortable 4-1 victory at Old Trafford.

Source: Independent

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