Champions League – Aalborg give United scare
Manchester United won Group E of the Champions League despite being held to a 2-2 draw by Aab Aalborg at Old Trafford.
Ten-man Villarreal slumped to a 2-0 defeat at bottom club Celtic, which handed a disappointing United the top seed for the last 16 draw.
Defensive mistakes and poor finishing meant it was not the greatest game, but there was entertainment to be found in United’s mishaps.
Wayne Rooney levelled with a rasping low drive on 52 minutes but despite dominating the second half they could not break down a stubborn Aalborg, who had already qualified for the UEFA Cup.
Most worryingly for United was not that they conceded against a sprightly Aalborg side but the manner in which their guests scored.
Tevez’s opener was typical of the Reds, finishing with aplomb after latching onto an excellent pass from Ryan Giggs.
But what followed showed a lack of understanding in a relatively makeshift back five that included young Northern Ireland stopper Jonny Evans, returning veteran Gary Neville, utility man John O’Shea and disappointing Polish keeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
United had bossed the opening half hour without managing to add to their lead, with Tevez in particular guilty of missing one clear-cut chance soon after his opener.
Aalborg’s stand-in boss Allan Kuhn was chasing an 11-match unbeaten record since he replaced Bruce Rioch, and his side exploited United’s profligacy from a set piece.
Defender Jacobsen was given the freedom of United’s penalty area to run across the back-line and cutely flick the ball across Kuszczak and in off the former West Brom man’s outstretched right arm.
Kuszczak was surprisingly preferred to Ben Foster, who arguably would have stopped what was a straightforward save once he had got down quickly enough.
United huffed and puffed and bossed the ball for the next quarter hour, but it was the Danes who took the lead with more slack marking allowing Curth to arch a looping header over Kuszczak after Anders Due swung over a hanging cross from the left.
United were shell-shocked but the introduction of Park Ji-Sung and Paul Scholes gave them more shape and pace and they came out fighting.
Six minutes into the second half Brazilian midfielder Anderson sent a pinpoint pass that split the visiting defence and Rooney made no mistake with a vicious low drive from the edge of the box.
The momentum swung almost entirely United’s way but they somehow could not add to their tally.
Tevez forced a smart parry from Karim Zaza, Steven Olfers denied Scholes a simple finish with a brilliant last-ditch tackle, and Park could not convert a low ball from Rooney.
Neville was unlucky not to get a rare goal when he chested down and volleyed Rooney’s crossfield pass in one movement, while United hit the bar when Olfers’s defensive header bamboozled Zaza.
Tevez had another good chance late on but his first touch took him wide of Zaza and his finish hit the side netting, while Nani smashed a rising drive over the bar in the last minute.
The result means that United have topped their group despite only winning two matches.