Champions League Review: 17th September
The two Manchester sides got their European campaigns up and running with successful starts as they won 4-2 and 3-0 respectively.
At Old Trafford, United overcame German outfit Bayer Leverkusen in impressive fashion as the hosts hit four in what was arguably their best performance of the season so far. The victory provides a great starting point as they bid to reach the knockout stages for the 7th time in 8 years and also capped a perfect win for manager David Moyes, who had claimed his first home league win on Saturday with the 2-0 triumph over Crystal Palace.
The match also capped a perfect week for striker Wayne Rooney as the England man followed up Saturday’s goal with another two here. The second of his brace was his 200th goal for the club as he became only the fourth man in United’s illustrious history to achieve this incredible tally. Quite fittingly, the landmark was reached in the competition that the player scored a debut hat-trick against Fenerbache nine years ago.
His individual display against Leverkusen was every bit as magical as that memorable debut hat-trick. In the space of just a few weeks, Rooney has returned from the shadows and once again looks like a man at the top of his game; great news for club and country.
As was the case on Saturday, Rooney was joined on the score sheet by Robin Van Persie. If the partners in crime continue to find the net consistently then David Moyes will fancy his chances of lifting silverware within his first year in charge. Whilst the Champions League may be beyond the Red Devils, the comfortable win here has set them on course to at least remain in the competition until after Christmas.
The other home goal came from Antonio Valencia, whilst Bayer’s goals came from Simon Rolfes and Omer Toprak. United are joined at the top of Group A by Shakhtar Donetsk, after the Ukrainians secured a 2-0 victory away at Real Sociedad.
Meanwhile, the blue half of Manchester made the trip to Bohemia where they took on Czech champions Viktoria Plzen. With a miserable away record of just a single win on the road in their past two European campaigns, along with a lacklustre showing at Stoke at the weekend, the pressure was on Pellegrini’s men. Questions were being asked from all directions but City’s answer was emphatic as they strolled to a 3-0 victory thanks to three goals in just 11 second-half minutes.
After a first-half of foreplay, City opened the scoring just three minutes into the second as the impressive Edin Dzeko broke the deadlock with a tidy finish. The away side soon had a two goal cushion as Yaya Toure doubled the lead with a 25-yard curler. Sergio Aguero added a third just before the hour to confirm the victory.
In each of the past two seasons City were handed the unenviable ‘group of death’ but this time around they will be confident of progressing in spite of the fact they are pitted against last year’s winners.
Whilst Bayern Munich (who beat CSKA Moscow by the same 3-0 score, albeit at home) will be favourites to top Group D, the English side are far better than both CSKA and Plzen. The only potential stumbling block was the tricky away trips to Plzen and Moscow but, with the first challenge having been negated so categorically, those fears appear to be unfounded. At the third time of asking, City really should qualify for the last 16.
If they fail to do that from this position then Pellegrini will be treading on thin ice, even at this early stage of his managerial career at City. Fortunately for him, that scenario should remain hypothetical. Both he and his counterpart David Moyes can now turn attentions to Sunday’s colossal Manchester derby full of confidence thanks to their respective Champions League wins and the scene is set for another fantastic battle between these two titans.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, ex-United hero Cristiano Ronaldo hit three as Real Madrid smashed six against Galatasaray. Juventus were also away in Group B but could only manage a draw against FC Copenhagen. In Group C, Benfica overcame Anderlecht 2-0 whilst Thiago Motta scored a rare brace for PSG as they beat Olympiakos 4-1 in Greece.
Manchester successfully completed their half of making it a perfect start for English teams in Europe. Over to you, London.