United beats Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 to top group
Manchester United rediscovered the winning feeling at Old
Trafford by beating Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 in the Champions League on
Tuesday to finish top of Group A and eliminate the Ukrainian
Phil Jones’ fiercely struck volley in the 67th minute ensured
United finished the group stage unbeaten and is more likely to face
a weaker team in the draw for the last 16.
It was scrappy and unconvincing, but any win will do for United
and its under-pressure manager David Moyes after back-to-back home
losses to Everton and Newcastle in the Premier League in the past
”I thought there wasn’t much difference to the Everton and
Newcastle games,” said an unsatisfied Moyes, who admitted to
getting tough with his players at the break for giving the ball
away ”terribly” in the first half. ”Tonight we got the goal. In
those other games, Everton and Newcastle got the goal.”
A victory would have guaranteed Shakhtar a place in the knockout
stage alongside already-qualified United, but the visitors failed
to cap their early dominance with a goal and ended up third in the
group behind Bayer Leverkusen, which beat Real Sociedad 1-0.
Shakhtar drops into the Europa League, where it hasn’t played
for four years.
”The first half and the second half were like two different
games,” Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu.
It was a morale-boosting win for United, whose successive
defeats left the team languishing in ninth place in the Premier
League, 13 points off leader Arsenal. Not since October 1962 and
the week before the outbreak of the Cuban missile crisis had United
gone down to three home defeats in succession, but that gloomy
prospect was avoided and Moyes can celebrate a successful start to
his first season in the Champions League.
It will get much tougher from here, though.
”I think the club itself needs to be classed as one of the
favorites but I think we all know we as a team have to improve if
we are to keep progressing in the competition,” Moyes said.
”Hopefully we have given ourselves the best chance by winning the
There was an air of nervousness throughout the first half as
Shakhtar’s busy, Brazilian-heavy midfield pulled the strings.
United center backs Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans were often left
exposed as Shakhtar’s playmakers, particularly Alex Teixeira,
scythed their way through to create chances.
Teixeira wasted two of them, first shooting just wide after a
through-ball by Taison and then firing at David de Gea, while Fred
miscued at the end of another incisive Shakhtar break. Those misses
proved to be costly.
”The way our players were playing in the first half, we could
have scored and finished the game 2-0,” Lucescu said.
There was an openness and fragility to United early on that will
worry Moyes, especially his central midfield where the 40-year-old
Ryan Giggs and Jones – a center back playing out of position – were
often overrun. Giggs was hauled off midway through the second half
whereas Jones improved as the game wore on, eventually getting his
Robin van Persie, on as a substitute, swung in a corner that
went through a mass of bodies, struck the side of Yaroslav
Rakitskiy and fell invitingly for Jones, who lashed home low into
the center of the goal from 10 yards.
That sucked the life out of Shakhtar, which failed to create a
clear-cut chance in the final quarter as the game petered out.
However unconvincing, United brought an end to its sorry run of
home defeats, something Moyes will look to feed on when the team
returns to Premier League action this weekend.
”We know we’ve had a disappointing couple of weeks and we hope
that we can kick on from this now,” Jones said.