MAN UNITED 2, FC OTELUL GALATI 0.
Manchester United inched ever closer to a place in the knockout phase of the Champions League following an unconvincing win over Romanian champions FC Otelul Galati.
Antonio Valencia’s early strike and a late own goal from Cristian Sarghi set the Reds on the road to victory at Old Trafford which leaves them with eight points and within touching distance of a spot in the last 16.
One win from the remaining two group games against Benfica or FC Basel will secure United’s passage to the knockout phase, though on current form they are hardly looking like potential winners.
It was a laboured performance against opponents who are languishing mid-table in their domestic league and who are hardly one of Europe’s major players.
Sir Alex Ferguson was satisfied with the win, however, saying: “It was important to win the game against opponents who were very aggressive defending, pressed the ball well and had great energy. They made it difficult for us.
“If we beat Benfica in our next game we win the group. And given the history between the two clubs, it will be a great night.”
Ferguson was especially pleased with the performance of United’s back line.
“There has been a lot of criticism of our defending, but that is three games in a row without conceding a goal,” he continued.
United kicked off with Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov as their front pairing. Wayne Rooney was employed in central midfield while Nani and Valencia provided width in an attacking formation.
And Rooney, described by Ferguson as United’s best player, clearly relished the role as he had an 88-per-cent success rate with his passing.
Ferguson added that he used Rooney in midfield as Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley are injured while Darren Fletcher needed a break.
And when Valencia gave United an eighth minute lead, it looked likely to be the start of an avalanche of goals. Sadly, however, it was not to be.
Phil Jones provided the right-wing cross for the goal with Owen supplying the near-post flick and Valencia converting at the far post from inside the six-yard box.
That was Owen’s only significant contribution as he limped off in the 11th minute with a thigh-muscle injury to be replaced by Javier Hernandez.
Apart from another effort from right-back Jones, which was blocked en route to goal, that was about as good as it got for United in a lacklustre opening period. And it was a sad indictment of United’s play that Jones was their most dangerous attacker.
Galati also had their chances in the first 45 minutes as Marius Pena glanced a header wide while Silviu Ilie forced an excellent save from David De Gea.
The second half remained lukewarm, though United carved out more openings and ought to have extended their advantage.
Berbatov had three clear-cut chances, but such has been his nosedive in form that he failed to take any of them. Last season he would surely have taken at least one of them.
Hernandez was quiet by his standards only having one sniff at goal while Anderson did beat keeper Branko Grahovac only to see captain Sergiu Costin make a goalline clearance.
United’s second goal in the 87th minute summed up this far from memorable encounter.
Rooney had a speculative shot from 30 yards which was deflected off Sarghi to leave keeper Grahovac wrong footed as it found the net seemingly in slow motion.