BRAGA 1, MAN UNITED 3
THE lights are still shining brightly for Manchester United in Europe despite a floodlight failure at the Estadio Municipal de Braga.
The Reds’ victory at Braga, which suffered a 10-minute delay, clinched their place in the knockout phase with two matches still to play.
United, with a 100-per-cent record from four matches, became the first side to qualifying which is a stark contrast to last season when they bowed out after a disastrous group phase.
And after their latest success, Sir Alex Ferguson challenged his side to match Liverpool’s record of five European Cups.
He said: “In terms of the history of our club, we should have won more.
“I want to win it again and get into the bracket of winners like Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Ajax.
“AC Milan and Real Madrid have got separated from the rest, but that definitely drives me on.
“I get really frustrated when I think about the opportunities we have had to win it, but you can’t be greedy.
“You look at my career and I have won two European Cups and the Cup-Winners’ Cup, and I am proud of that.”
It was a case of the late, late show for United in Portugal as it looked as if their qualification would be delayed.
Braga led for half an hour and it took three goals in a dramatic last 10 minutes to tilt the balance of power the way of the Old Trafford side.
The game was a carbon copy of the game against Braga in Manchester a fortnight earlier as the Reds again had to come from behind.
Braga took the lead three minutes after the restart when Jonny Evans conceded a penalty after impeding Custodio as he burst into the box. Brazilian forward Alan scored from the spot.
The blackout gave Ferguson an unexpected chance for give a further team talk. He also sent on Rio Ferdinand for the injured Evans to play alongside Chris Smalling who was making his first appearance for six months following a broken metatarsal.
It was the introduction of Robin van Persie for Danny Welbeck midway through the second period which helped provide the missing spark.
After failing to muster a goal attempt in 80 minutes, the transformation and turnabout in the last ten was amazing.
Van Persie conjured the equaliser racing on to a through ball and beating the keeper before curling in a shot from 25 yards.
It was United’s turn to then win a penalty after Custodio tripped Wayne Rooney who made no mistake from 12 yards as he made amends for his miss last weekend against Arsenal.
And there was still time for Javier Hernandez to add a third goal at the death to give United a somewhat flattering margin of victory as they finished the game in a blaze of glory.