United 0 Rangers 0

15 September 2010 08:29
Battle of Britain? There'll be more intense and fierce conker fights in school playgrounds this autumn than this Champions League opener. A European night that never lived up to explosive and edge of your seats occasions under the floodlights ended with United embarrassed. The mini cavalcade of Scottish fans heading north returned home in better mood than their last visit to Manchester. They couldn't have been happier had they won the UEFA Cup at Eastlands in 2008.

United 0 Rangers 0: MEN interactive player ratings A measure of just how far the Scottish SPL has diminished as a general threat was glaringly obvious scouring Sir Alex Ferguson chosen XI on the team sheet. Only Darren Fletcher remained in his opening side from the team that had played at Everton last Saturday. There were first appearances of the campaign for Rio Ferdinand, Tomasz Kuszczak, Wes Brown and Darron Gibson. It was more a Carling Cup line up than a Champions League selection but had this been Valencia in the Euro opener it is doubtful the Reds boss would have risked the same strategy of getting minutes under so many player's belts. Contrast that to the last time Rangers had come to Old Trafford seven years ago. In November 2003 seven players kept their place after a home match against Portsmouth when the games against the Scots came five days before a visit to Anfield. A total of ten players who'd started the Champions League match played in the follow up game against Liverpool. Many of last night's line up would consider themselves in dreamland if they remained in Fergie's select for the Anfielder's visit this Sunday. It was even suggested this was a warm up outing for a number of players ahead of next week's Carling Cup tie at Scunthorpe! And many predicted Scunthorpe might give the Reds more of a match.

United 0 Rangers 0: MEN interactive player ratings Seven years ago there was a lot more pre-match swagger about the Scots coming south of the border. They still held firm belief that the standard south of Hadrian's Wall wasn't that much greater. They fancied their chances and were prepared to fight fire with fire in the build up verbal exchanges. But this week there was no chest beating, William Wallace-style bravado and rhetoric. It was all about gaps and chasms when the quality of the two leagues was discussed. Rangers boss Walter Smith had made no secret of the fact he had arrived in Manchester with damage limitation thoughts paramount. The depleted Glaswegian Tartan Army high up in the East Stand were slightly more bullish with cries of You're not the Champions directed at the United support. Hollow But there was something of a hollow ring about it with anyone prepared to offer a judgment on the current SPL holders believing there was more chance of the Krankies winning the X-factor than the visitors returning north with some reward. Nobody inside Old Trafford seriously thought that Fergie was going to end up with egg on his face. Nobody, in fact, was even describing his team choice as a gamble but his plan backfired on a miserable night. Once Ibrox's 40-year-old skipper David Weir had sent a glancing header harmlessly into Kuszczak's gloves to open the shots on target stats for the match after ten minutes the Scots retreated and stiffened their defence. There was no further test for a Reds defence who were all starting their first competitive match of the season. It was all down to United to provide the entertainment and the worry there was if the cobwebs on so many of their boots could be swept off. With a blue wall parked in front of keeper Allan McGregor it was going to prove a frustrating and uninspiring night. It had all the feel of a final group game dead rubber than a Euro opener.

United 0 Rangers 0: MEN interactive player ratings A close header from Chicharito and two trademark long range thumping efforts from Darron Gibson was all that could be drummed up. A measure of the Scots intentions became even more clear when keeper McGregor was booked for time wasting in first half injury time! With only an additional Gibson blockbuster added to the Reds goal attempts early in the second half even Rangers began to get a touch excited that they might just snatch something and became slightly more adventurous. The seriousness of Antonio Valencia's horrific leg break was immediately apparent after 58 minutes with the nearest Rangers player Kirk Broadfoot involved in the accident clearly upset at the nauseas sight that greeted him as the winger lay stricken. Five minutes elapsed in shocked silence before the Ecuadorian was stretchered off desperately sucking in oxygen. There wasn't much sting to take out of the game but the incident did momentarily take whatever edge there was out of it. United though now sensed that they were facing acute embarrassment directly in the face as the minutes ticked away and they couldn't come up with anything ingenious to outwit the stubborn Scots. Gibson was getting closer and closer with every rocket he unleashed from distance. The Irishman remained the Reds only capable weapon but he was unable to produce the one that mattered. You wonder never have believed it at the start but you ended up wondering if the Reds might even slip up late once again. They survived that fate but it was the only positive. Wembley seems an awful long way off.

United 0 Rangers 0: MEN interactive player ratings

Source: Manchester_EveningNews