Power cut helped Manchester United to victory over Braga says Chris Smalling
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling feels the team benefited from the unexpected break provided by a power cut in their 3-1 Champions League victory at Braga.
United had not long fallen behind to Alan's 49th-minute penalty when some of the lights went out at the Estadio AXA, which led to play being stopped for around 15 minutes.
The visitors had struggled to fashion much from the possession they had had up to that point, and the improvement in their game after the unscheduled interval suggested Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson had made the most of the opportunity to deliver an additional team-talk.
They resumed with Rio Ferdinand having come on for Jonny Evans and following further substitutions to bring Robin van Persie and Rafael into the fray, United turned the contest on it's head.
Van Persie guided in an 80th-minute effort from outside the box, Wayne Rooney converted a penalty five minutes later and Javier Hernandez added a close-range strike in stoppage-time as Ferguson's men registered their fourth win in four Group H games to confirm their qualification for the last 16 as group winners.
Asked if he thought the floodlight failure had helped United, Smalling - who was making his first appearance of the season having recovered from a broken metatarsal - said: "Yes, I think it did in a way.
"Especially after their goal. We knew we really had to pick ourselves up.
"We had a lot of the ball but we weren't really getting anywhere. So yes, it really helped us."
Smalling hailed the clinical finishing of Van Persie, whose expertly-taken shot over the stranded Beto was his 11th goal of the season, and the courage shown by the Dutchman's fellow striker Rooney in stepping up to take a spot-kick only four days after missing one in the Barclays Premier League win over Arsenal.
"He (Van Persie) is a person who only needs one chance," Smalling said.
"That was crucial and he's proved that all season so far, and long may it continue.
"He (Rooney) is one of those who wants to put himself back in the firing line.
"I think he showed he's got the courage. You never have to doubt him really from the penalty spot."
Smalling last featured for the first-team in May, and asked about his return, the 22-year-old said: "It's been so long and it's been frustrating watching from the sidelines.
"But it's good to be able to come in and come back with a win as well so I'm feeling happy."
Having collected the maximum 12 points on offer so far, United can go into their final two Group H fixtures knowing they cannot be caught by Galatasaray or Cluj, both on four points, or Braga, who have three.
It has been a considerable return to form for the Red Devils after they failed to get out of their group last season, and means that for the time being, their focus can be concentrated on the Premier League, which they also currently lead.
Smalling said: "It's a massive improvement on last year. We knew that wasn't good enough."
Latest in Sport
When cyclists look back on their careers spanning many hundreds (and in some cases possibly thousand...
by Martin Ayres
20 May 2013 06:12 PM
As England’s new football strip – made by Nike – is revealed today, new research shows the English F...
by Alex Miller
20 May 2013 04:52 PM
A tight game could be in prospect here. Northampton have been keeping things very tight of late and ...
by Gareth Purnell
18 May 2013 02:01 AM
Gareth Bale agrees new £130,000-a-week Tottenham contract - but can leave next season for £50m
The Last Word: As David Beckham bows out, spare a thought for the ordinary players facing a crueller end
Arsene Wenger says Arsenal 'need stability and to strengthen in the summer' after qualifying for Champions League
Sam Wallace: The second coming of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea will be a reunion that can only end in tears
James Lawton: When will Arsène Wenger's Arsenal enter the Champions League as anything but a disposable asset?
- 1 The ‘Beverly Hills’ of Surrey pays more income tax than big cities of the North
- 2 Gareth Bale agrees new £130,000-a-week Tottenham contract - but can leave next season for £50m
- 3 'Revenge porn' is no longer a niche activity which victimises only celebrities - the law must intervene
- 4 The moral case on tax avoidance is overwhelming - and we all know Google wants to do the right thing
- 5 Sam Wallace: The second coming of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea will be a reunion that can only end in tears
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.