Wayne Rooney led #Manchester United out on to the Arena Khimki pitch knowing they were about to play a game which they dare not lose.

Blame it on the synthetic pitch or the weather, but United put in yet another lack lustre first half performance. After an impressive display against Everton, it was starting to look like a case of déjà vu . Under Van Gaal, and indeed David Moyes before him, it has constantly been a case of two steps forward and one step back. No consistency. No creativity. No free flowing attacking football that United are known for.

To say United were pedestrian in the first half would be an understatement.

Advertisements
Advertisements

They dominated possession, amassing 70% of it. But in terms of chances, let alone clear cut ones, they were found wanting. Again.

CSKA were surprisingly good. They sat back and allowed United to dominate possession in the middle third of the pitch, striking on the counter attack when the opportunity arose. In the 13th minute they were awarded a penalty when Martial handled in the box.  

De Gea saved brilliantly from Eremenko, but was helpless to keep out Doumbia’s follow up.

Far from being galvanised, United continued with their slow passing game, played almost entirely in the middle third of the pitch. But for a great save by De Gea, United would have been two down in the 30th minute, when Musa shot from long range.

The half time score line of 1-0 was just about right, with CSKA perhaps feeling the more aggrieved.

Advertisements

The faces were glum. In the crowd, in the BT Sports studio, and most likely in the United dressing room too. It has been a long time since United have been so inept in Europe. Going back to their 3-0 Nous Camp defeat in 1994.

The problem was that Mario Fernandez was having an outstanding game, forcing Martial to defend. At this stage, the young Frenchman was having his worst performance in a United shirt.

In the second half, Van Gaal brought on Fellaini for the ineffective Schweinsteiger, serving up a more direct option. The first ten minutes of the second half was a carbon copy of the first. United had all the possession, with CSKA carrying the greater attacking threat.

When Daley Blind came on for the woeful Rojo in the 63rd minute, United looked far more composed. It was at this point that they seized control of the game and started to show glimmers of their Everton form.

With 65 minutes elapsed, Antony Martial equalised with a header from the penalty spot. After going four games without a goal, the boy wonder had struck again.

Advertisements

It’s been a few years since another United teenager had that tag.

CSKA started to tire and United found their feet. They dominated proceedings from the 65th minute until the final whistle. In the closing stages, both sides appeared happy with a draw. United never looked like stealing the points.

Speaking in the BT Sports studio, ex United legend Paul Scholes summed up United’s play:

“When you watch Man United, you expect them to be better. You expect them to be creative.”

The result leaves them in second place in Group B. With two home games to play, two victories would give them the ten points that Rio Ferdinand deems necessary for progression. In years gone by, they would have been a certainty to progress, but those days are gone. This new United side are inconsistent, void of creativity; and dull. #Champions League