By Andrew Embling
- United came from behind to take the three points
- CSKA Moscow beat PSV 3-2 in other group game, leaving all four sides on three points
Venue: Old Trafford Attendance: 74,811
Manchester United’s Champions League train got back on track as they won 2-1 against Wolfsburg.
Goals from Juan Mata and Chris Smalling helped United to a deserved three points, but it wasn’t without a few nervy moments. The first of those moments came early as Louis Van Gaal’s men made the worst possible start.
Caligiuri latched on to Kruse’s ball as he ghosted beyond the United defence to fire past David De Gea inside five minutes. Wolfsburg looked threatening as they came forward, galvanised by the early confidence-boosting goal.
Benaglio was fortunate though that Bastian Schweinsteiger didn’t connect fully to a poor clearance by the goalkeeper as United looked to level quickly. They would have done just that had Dante not produced a brilliant headed clearance to deny Mata after the Spaniard had got on the end of Darmian’s cross to the back post.
Martial was a whisker away from producing another moment of magic as he danced around Dante only to curl his shot just off target. United were enjoying a good spell, Mata shooting at Benaglio after good build up play by Van Gaal’s side.
When United quickened up the play they looked far more dangerous, but they weren’t able to find the finishing touch. Rooney was the next to fluff his lines as he blazed over after Martial’s dangerous run and cross whilst Memphis couldn’t beat Benaglio with a flying header as he connected with Mata’s pinpoint pass over the top.
But after 33 minutes United were given the perfect opportunity to level things up as Mata’s attempted cross struck the arm of Caligiuri and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Mata himself stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the corner of the net to give United the goal they deserved.
The Red Devils should have gone in ahead at the break as Mata turned provider, but Memphis was denied by the legs of Benaglio as United finished the half the stronger.
It was almost a case of deja vu as Wolfsburg threatened early in the second half, Darmian having to be alert to cut out a dangerous cross towards Dost, who was unmarked in the United penalty area. But United started to dominate and took the lead created by a piece of individual brilliance by Juan Mata.
The Spaniard received the ball on the edge of the area and flicked over the top for Chris Smalling to slide the ball beyond Benaglio.
Wolfsburg continued to offer a threat as Caligiuri tested De Gea at his near post, but United were always in control.
Substitute Schurrle fired across goal as Wolfsburg enjoyed a good spell with 20 minutes remaining and Dante was denied by Rooney’s intervention inside the penalty area as the Germans continued to threaten.
Rodriguez fired a free kick wide of goal late on but United held firm to get off and running in this season’s Champions League group stage.
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia (Young 46), Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Schweinsteiger (Jones 72), Schneiderlin, Mata, Rooney, Memphis (Pereira 62), Martial Substitutes Not Used: Romero, McNair, Fellaini, Wilson
Our Man Of The Match: Mata
Mata was the outstanding player for Manchester United, providing a threat from the right-wing. Cutting inside a lot of the time and causing the Wolfsburg defence problems. It was his cross that won a penalty after striking the hand of Caligiuri. Mata converted the penalty, then provide the assist for United’s winning goal.