A European Cup semi final in 2002 where United went out on away goals to Bayer Leverkusen, a side that conformed to all the German stereotypes of bland strong efficiency, is still the most heartbreaking and gut wrenching night of my time watching United. I bear no ill to either Leverkusen or their fans, United should’ve beaten them but didn’t due some resolute defending by the Germans and some rank bad luck. When the draw for this seasons group stage was made and with the memory of 2002 coming back like some long forgotten nightmare, I was wary of Leverkusen. I was wrong to be.
Another example of saturation point for European football
Leverkusen were garbage, they were nearly as bad as the Schalke 04 side that came to Old Trafford in April 2011. United dominated possession from the off and when Wayne Rooney scored his 199th goal for United on 21 minutes it was well deserved for both player and team. When Rooney wasted a great chance on 52 minutes, Leverkusen went straight up the pitch and equalised with a Simon Rofles shot from 20 yards which deflected in off Michael Carrick past a gobsmacked David De Gea. There was a sense of Déjà vu from 2002 with that equaliser. Any worry of that was dispelled five minutes later when Robin Van Persie put United back in front with a brilliant volley from an Antonio Valencia cross going past Bernd Leno on his near post into the Stretford End net. Ten minutes later, David De Gea saved brilliantly from Simon Rofles to launch a counter attack in which Wayne Rooney scored his 200th goal for United, Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno again beaten on his near post. On 79 minutes, Antonio Valencia scored a typical goal, hammering it past Bernd Leno who yet again was beaten on his near post. This wasn’t a good night for Leno, for a goalkeeper to beaten at all on his near post once can be unlucky but it is always a mistake. For a keeper to be beaten three times on his near post in the same match is sacrilegious. After a near imperious twelve months, David De Gea proved that he can still get caught flapping when he came out wildly for an Emre Can corner and finding himself stranded four yards off his line nowhere near the ball. By the time he could get back into position, Stefan Reinartz had already headed against the bar before Ömer Toprak smashed in the rebound past a bamboozled United keeper. If De Gea has to make a mistake like that, then being 4-1 with three minutes to go in a European match is a near perfect time to make it.
As per usual for a group stage European match, the atmosphere was a bit flat. There must’ve been 5-7,000 empty seats in the ground even if the official attendance was 74,000. Leverkusen fans were more noisy on the walk down Warwick Road than they were in the ground. On the walk to the ground, flanked by the riot squad and clad in what could most nicely be described as retro fashion, Leverkusen fans were in quite a boisterous mood. For all their front though, this was nothing compared to the visit of Ajax eighteen months ago, for sure. I was slightly taken aback by them singing ‘You Only Sing When You’re Winning’ before the match kicked off, they obviously had advance knowledge of just how rubbish their side was going to be. They were right.
6 thoughts on “A Sense Of Deja Vu From 2002 – Manchester 17th of September 2013”
Rooney & RVP both missed howlers…RVP to sympathy after a brilliant and hard working display. Rooney to derision after selfishly refusing to square the ball to his infinitely superior strike partner. United are unquestionably stronger with an in form scouse ct in the ranks, but it’s yet more evidence to display why he’s no longer top dog: Effort, application, attitude, execution & that whining sense of being hard done to, he falls short of the Dutchman in every way.
If Moyes had more balls he’d have yanked him off at 1-0 to teach him a lesson after that disgraceful act of schoolyard petulance in front of the Stretford End net. Fair enough he went on to.score a belter & play an instrumental role in the Tony V bullet, but he needs to learn to stop being a prick all the same. Especially with the none complaining, grafting, goal machine Hernandez waiting for his chance.
On the plus side, Fellaini looks just what we’ve been missing & RVP is just class.
One question Murph: I think you’ve missed a 1 in front of your 5,000
empty seats, there were bloody loads!
Not massive enough for 20,000 but still ,a few
I thought Rooney was magnificent yesterday, though this was partly because of the how poor Leverkusen were. For all his transfer drama over the summer, he put in an honest shift and that is what all matters. He may still want to leave in the next opportunity, but his overall play and commitment on the pitch was first class.
Scouse C***s defiant refusal to dismiss speculation and confirm he was happy at the club suggest that even if he does manage to achieve the great accolade of being uniteds top goalscorer ever, he wont ever be known as a united legend.
I think on 199 goals rooney only saw 200,and the bad play could be put down to that [it will never happen again,well maybe if he’s on 299], persie’s miss no excuse,i doubt it but I hope the two misses and the two goal against don’t come back to haunt united
Some good performances last night. Smalling seemed on his game as did Valencia. I also noticed Fellaini being in the right place at the right time. If he, Fellaini plays with that kind of timing, he could turn out to be a good buy. Bigger tests than last night are on the way though, but the all round show was OK. As with the De Gea flap, missing two sitters last night was the time to do it. Rooney? While he has our Shirt on his back I will support him. He plays well for United. What more do us fickle fans want? I know this may read sacrilegious But compared to the shenanigens of the sainted George Best, Rooney has a long way to go before he matches him.
Like others here I’m not convinced by Rooney’s attitude and no matter how many goals he scores, I don’t think he’ll ever meet the criteria for ‘legendary status’ – we might not altogether like the term, but I think we know a legend when one falls into our gravy and Rooney just doesn’t qualify.
Not that he seems to have a problem with us, the fans, nor should he, nor with Moyes, who must take some credit for the way he’s handled this situation – so far. Rooney’s problems seem to be with the suits higher up and with the lurking presence of you-know-who behind the scenes.
Oddly, I have some sympathy with him about that, but on balance I’d say he’s ludicrously well paid for what he does, so the sympathy only goes so far.
On another note, I thought Valencia and Smalling both had their best games for a long while the other night; well done to both.
And finally, thanks for changing the format Murph – the previous one was giving me eye-strain!