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Article:Man Utd 1 - 0 Lyon (Champions League Match Report)

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This was quite an interesting game, because I got to see Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa in a live match for the first time. And with Ronaldo, Rooney, Nani and Anderson in red, I was expecting some decent attacking play from both sides, even if 4-5-1 was the order of the day.

But probably the deciding factor in the end was how effective United's pressing was; Lyon had no time at all, and to get any decent possession high up the pitch they had to beat people. United were snapping in all over, and Ferdinand was his usual unfussy, effective self. So the two young French internationals were quietish, but both showed enough flashes to see why they're exciting. Ben Arfa has lovely quick feet and good wiry strength for his size. I also like the way that when he's marked he receives passes side-on and pushes off the defender with his arms. He's very calm and relaxed when defenders are close (in quite a Pires-y way) and is quite unselfish in interplay. He'd fit in very nicely at Arsenal, though he looks like he could carry more of a goal threat than he does now. Benzema's touch wasn't perfect on the dodgy pitch (I was expecting it to be better) but otherwise he's as advertised - strong enough (though he doesn't seek contact), quick, wants to go direct when he gets possession, great ceaseless movement and a real work ethic. One chest down and lay-off from a throat-high pass was exquisite. I like the look of him (he's a better player than Trezeguet and Guiv'arch, and they both started for France up front..).

Otherwise, Lyon were tight and tidy but didn't commit much forward. Clerc at RB has a terrific engine and got through an amazing amount of work. Squillaci is really quick and Toulalan is vigilant and tidy and takes responsibility. United had a lot of the ball up around the Lyon box in the first half and it stuck out how little aerial threat they've got at the moment. Ronaldo is their best header (Grosso clearly agrees, because he was wrestling with him at every set-piece), but apart from him they had Nani, Rooney and Anderson going in, none of whom will beat defenders aerially very often.

Darren Fletcher again played like a man trying to avoid being sold, running about a lot. And again I suspect it's not going to help when a good offer comes in for him..

World football's previous next big thing, Mr Rooney, had a funny game, coming deep much too often (and really, what is the point of it? Utd have got good midfielders, and even if he beats a player with the finest piece of skill EVAR he's not in on goal. It's not like his long passing is better than Carrick's) and wasting chances in his usual manner. Late on he took a pass with his back to goal in the box, and there was one solitary defender around. Instead of taking a touch, turning and hitting the target, or taking a touch and laying it off the unmarked colleague waiting at the far post he instead back-heeled it into his own standing leg. And on another occasion, on a break, he hit the first defender with a cross, collected the rebound and zinged it by Tevez at the far post. He's the most talented (and is physically the best-equipped) English player but his wastefulness and bad decisions deserve more comment - he ought to be scoring at least as many goals as Ronaldo. When he was playing up on the last defender he did a good job, taking high balls and moving them on, and linnking play well round the box.

So in the end Ronaldo's 30th goal in 30 games (an otherworldly record) settled it - a shoddy Wes Brown cross was half-cleared and Anderson moved it on until it found the Portugese who moved it sharply and clipped it in round Coupet. United are as strong as any side in the competition, but they seem sometimes to lack focus and intensity in Europe, so it might suit them best to get English opposition in the quarters.

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