Manchester United’s hard-earned point may prove invaluable
David Moyes leaves the Donbass Arena as the first manager of an English team to nick a point from a trip to Shakhtar in this competition
David Moyes shows his frustration in last night’s Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Donbass Arena.
Shakhtar Donetsk 1 Manchester United 1: The night called for unashamed resistance from Manchester United and David Moyes’s men duly delivered to take a merited point. It was not pretty, it was by no means a typical United performance, but given the build-up to arguably his toughest assignment in Group A, their manager will care not a jot.
Danny Welbeck’s third goal of the season meant the Premier League champions became the first English club to avoid defeat in a Champions League tie at the home of the Ukrainian club. Only a 76th-minute equaliser from Taison soured the evening for United and while their heads were bowed on the final whistle, the point may well prove invaluable.
United’s preparations were not helped by another training-ground injury to Wayne Rooney. The champions’ stand-out performer of the season suffered a shin injury on the eve of the game.
The visitors were compact and disciplined from the start, with a clear understanding of addressing the threat from the Ukrainian champions. Marouane Fellaini, Carrick and Tom Cleverley formed a central midfield trio that stuck diligently to the task of denying Shakhtar’s Brazilian front four time or space.
Shakhtar had their moments in the first half. Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano almost capitalised when Fellaini was dispossessed deep in the Donetsk half and the home side broke unimpeded. Costa left Rafael da Silva trailing and released Adriano for a low cross that flashed along de Gea’s six-yard box, and United were reprieved when Cleverley clipped Alex Teixeira inside the penalty area. Replays suggested Donetsk were right to be aggrieved.
Cleverley created the first opportunity when he scooped a pass over Shakhtar’s central defence for Van Persie. The Dutchman shifted to his right and unleashed a trademark shot with his left, only for the ball to rise over Andriy Pyatov’s crossbar. Fellaini was instrumental in the breakthrough.
United were awarded a throw-in after the ball went out of play off Valencia. From Rafael’s throw, Fellaini eventually escaped on the right of the Shakhtar area, held off his marker and crossed low to the near post where Yaroslav Rakitskiy crucially lost his footing. With the central defender on his backside, Welbeck was left unmarked to steer Fellaini’s delivery beyond Pyatov and into the far corner.
The Ukrainians enjoyed the majority of possession without stretching De Gea until Taison’s equaliser. United were encamped on the edge of their penalty area for sustained spells, leaving Van Persie inevitably isolated up front, but remained solid with Chris Smalling deputising for the rested Rio Ferdinand alongside Nemanja Vidic. It was not until the 52nd minute that De Gea was required to make his first save of note after Welbeck’s goal, when the left-back, Vyacheslav Shevchuk, breezed past Rafael and swept a dangerous low cross towards Adriano. United’s keeper bravely collected at the feet of the forward.
Fellaini and Vidic went into the referee’s book in rapid succession for fouls. Fellaini was withdrawn shortly afterwards, his yellow card and sloppy distribution presenting a potential problem that Moyes rightly stopped at source. The Belgium’s replacement, Ryan Giggs, applauded on to the field by the entire crowd.
Van Persie had a chance to double United’s advantage when Rafael led a rare counter-attack down the right, beat Shevchuk and centred for the striker who, with his back to goal, managed to shoot towards the bottom corner.
Rakitskiy intervened with a crucial block, and just how crucial became apparent minutes later when he helped to breach United’s resistance. The central defender strode down the left and drilled a cross into the area. Vidic intercepted but only as far as Taison who beat De Gea with an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net from 12 yards. Taison almost scored again with a deflected shot off Smalling with six minutes remaining but De Gea reacted superbly to tip over.