Javier Hernandez saves the day after Braga stun Man United
Diminutive Mexican who's been warming bench this season steps up with two match-winning goals
Manchester United 3 Braga 2. Not for the first time this season, United's forwards dug their defenders out of a hole. In front of a stunned Old Trafford, United found themselves trailing the unfancied Portuguese side 2-0 after just 20 minutes in their Group H Champions League clash.
One might argue their manager Alex Ferguson had only himself to blame after his decision to rest Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra and field a back-four including the inexperienced Alexander Buttner and Michael Carrick.
The first goal came within two minutes when Braga's Hugo Viana, the former Newcastle midfielder, whipped in a cross from the left and Alan headed past keeper David de Gea. If that quietened the United faithful, Alan's second on 20 minutes left them gobsmacked, the Brazilian veteran converting Eder's cross after Michael Carrick's defensive frailties had been ruthlessly exposed down the left.
"Unbelievable," was how Alex Ferguson later described his side's defence, and who could argue?
It was the eighth time in 12 matches this season that United have gone a goal down but once again they fought back in magnificent style. Leading the charge against Braga was Javier Hernandez, the diminutive Mexican striker who has spent much of the autumn looking on from the bench as Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have spearheaded United's attack. But last night the man they call ‘Little Pea' was given a run and he didn't disappoint his manager.
Just five minutes after Braga had doubled their lead, Hernandez pulled a goal back for the hosts with a far post header from Shinji Kagawa's cross. Jonny Evans bundled the ball over the line from a corner for the equaliser on the hour mark and then Hernandez completed the comeback on 75 minutes. Rising to meet Tom Cleverley's beautifully weighted cross, Hernandez headed past Beto to break Braga's hearts.
"His goal ratio for us is fantastic," said Ferguson. "For his second goal he bends around the back of the defender. It is a great ball in from Tom Cleverley but his movement is terrific."
The 24-year-old Hernandez later played down his bit-part status at Old Trafford, telling reporters: "I'm enjoying it here even if I'm not playing much. It's not about who is the hero — it is about getting the three points."
The three points United picked up against Braga mean they are now runaway leaders of Group H. In the group's other tie of the night, Turkish side Galatasaray were held to a 1-1 draw by CFR Cluj-Napoca, a result that leaves the Romanians in second spot, five points behind United who have the maximum nine points at the halfway stage of the group phase.
United travel to Braga in a fortnight and Ferguson is determined to tighten his defence before then. "I can't understand our defending," he said. "I can't get to the bottom of it. We certainly make it difficult for ourselves. If you analyse the goals we are conceding they are all different types... [but] we will sort it though, I'm sure of that."