Date: 16th April 2009 at 1:04pm
Written by:

We are used to Sir Alex trying out a new formation in every single Champions League game and it was no different at Porto. We’ll probably never see this line-up in such a formation again.

I had guessed the starting eleven but I had thought Rooney and Ronaldo were going to play wide and Berbatov was going to be the lone striker, ahead of Ryan Giggs. Well, no.

Ryan Giggs was on the left wing, in a somewhat more withdrawn role than what Wayne Rooney occupied on the opposite flank. Cristiano Ronaldo was the lone, marauding striker ahead of Dimitar Berbatov who played quite deep, more like an attacking midfielder than a second striker.

It was a strange move: it negated Giggs’ effectiveness and placed him in a role for which he’s no longer suited. Berbatov, on the other hand, played his part excellently in the first half: kept the ball well and distributed it precisely. He faded in the second half, because of tiredness I guess.

Rooney did his job with the amazing tactical discipline that he usually displays in Europe, even though it is largely unheralded – and I’ve already devoted an article to the contribution of Cristiano Ronaldo.

It worked out in the end but one has to wonder why Fergie is constantly experimenting? For some reason he loves to have Ronaldo as a lone striker away from home in Europe – see Barcelona and Roma last season. But Berbatov could have performed that role while Giggs, I think, would have been able to fulfil the task of ball retention excellently, as he did at the San Siro.

But we don’t have to overanalyse things – we won 1-0, deservedly so and should have scored more but for some profligate finishing. After a 2-2 home draw in the first leg, we couldn’t have wished for more.