Well it wasn’t quite many happy returns as United were in Moscow for the first time since the Champions League win against Chelsea 7 years ago.
This time the penalty spot luck shifted to the opposition and afterwards 19 year old Anthony Martial got the straight forward, Dutch, tell it like it is treatment from Van Gaal. This precis is courtesy of the club’s website and culled from TV and print interviews.
Van Gaal’s summary of the game: “It was a stupid reaction of Anthony [Martial, to give CSKA a penalty], but before that maybe it was offside. From the bench I thought it was, but I don’t know. It’s the first time he’s done it and there always has to be a first time! [Laughs] But for us it was very unlucky because I think we controlled the game. I don’t think we played too fast though in ball possession, it was too slow in the first half. We improved that in the second half and scored a fantastic goal. We could have won but ‘could have’ doesn’t count in football.”
On what he said at half-time: “I just gave my advice to the players about how we could win the game because that’s more important than just being angry. A reaction like Martial – yes, it was stupid, but it happens and we are all human beings. Angry is not the right word, maybe disappointed because we were playing too slowly in ball possession. We had a lot but you have to create something from that and we didn’t create much. That’s why I changed the shape and players and I think the second half was a better half and we deserved to draw and maybe also to win.”
On what pleased him in the second half: “We played at a higher tempo. We switched the ball from side to side more and that’s also why we got the goal and created more chances and didn’t give too much away.”
On forgiving Martial after he netted the equaliser: “Yes of course! [Smiles] He was playing again with a lot of threat to the opponent and he always plays at a certain level, he’s very consistent. For a 19-year-old boy I like that.”
On it being an important comeback ahead of derby: “Yes I think that. I can’t complain about the spirit of my team. I am very proud of my players that I can always say that, because last year I said once that it was not good, once. I am always honest, and I say that always to my players in the dressing room. And I can say that to you now because I am honest to you too.”
The positives were the second half performance, when both Rooney and Lingard missed good opportunities before Martial’s excellent header. The resilience to come back into the game. Schneiderlin’s workrate, Martial’s 5th goal in 9 games, and the oh so valuable point that keeps the Champions League momentum going.
Presumably the team were on an immediate flight home and we’ll know by Thursday afternoon whether there are injury concerns for Sunday when the line-up will be interesting. Darmian will be fresh, but Rojo had a relapse and all the CSKA danger came down the right hand side. City’s strength is out wide with Sterling and De Bruyne so as ever Van Gaal will have his tactical thinking cap on. Presumably Schweinsteiger will start with Schneiderlin and Herrera. So the question marks are Rojo/Blind and Lingard/Mata. The more I see of Lingard the more I understand why Van Gaal may have decided spending a bundle on Pedro wasn’t worth it. He’s quick, tenacious, obviously not the finished product yet but shows a lot of promise. His mobility just may get him the nod on Sunday.