Hannover 3-4 Manchester United
Manchester United completed their preseason preparations by edging a seven-goal thriller in Germany. It was also, arguably, the first truly entertaining match United have played this preseason and the Red Devils were in enough of a capricious multi-personality set of moods to give Sybil a run for her money. With manager Sir Alex Ferguson absent for other business, his assistant Mike Phelan proved himself worthy of his minder’s job for the night.
After coming back in style from 1-0 and 3-1 down to win, United were once again the team we know and love. Wayne Rooney scored twice – one a free-kick and the other a penalty – and new recruit Shinji Kagawa netted the winner. The win is a positive psychological boost for the club as they seek to yank back the Barclays Premier League title from the clutching hands our rich, vindictive neighbor, starting at Goodison Park against Everton on Monday next week in our first league fixture.
United started out nervously, repeating their atypical preseason bad habit of its strikers overrunning the ball in a chaotic lack of tandem with their wingers. One might be excused for referring to Javier Hernandez as ‘The Offside Kid’ instead of Chicharito! Still, that what the preseason is for, isn’t it?
Indeed, the Red Devils’ first decent chance came within minutes as Nani crossed perfectly from the right, only for a sprinting Javier Hernandez to be off in making contact by a microsecond. Michael Keane then squandered a sitter after a Kagawa’s cross was missed by Hernandez, and then, gifted with an empty net, Keane had panic-attack, sweeping the ball sideways. Seconds later, still in shock, Keane fluffed another sitter wide after a scorching Nani shot was parried to his feet by his ex-United youth team teammate Hannover goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler. Welcome to life playing with the big boys, Mike!
An almost punchy United, temporarily exhausted by the relentless adrenaline rush of the early game saw a schoolboy mistake by keeper Anders Lindegaard punished in the nineteenth minute as, instead of making a clean gathering of a soft attempt by Jan Schlaudraff, he chose to push it back out with his fingertips as Hannover’s Polish striker Artur Sobiech was on the spot to slam home the rebound.
To their credit, being down a goal stiffened United’s resolve and the midfield tandem of Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa eventually started to make their passing count. Six minutes later, a beautiful rising shot from .Kagawa at the edge of the area was sensationally saved by Zieler. But United then managed to tie it up as a Wayne Rooney shot off a Nani cutback was spilled by Zieler, dropping at the feet of Hernandez, who pushed it home.
Hannover came out for the second half much changed, bringing on most of their starting team which had finished seventh in the Bundesliga last season. Once again, United inexplicably retrogressed to their ugly habits off sloppy tackling and passing, giving the Germans back their lead after only three minutes as Christian Pander fired an exquisitely accurate left-footed cross from the left, which their unmarked substitute center back Karim Haggui nodded home from close range past a stranded David De Gea..
Played at breakneck speed and full of tackles from a Bundesliga team that refused to play like the game was a friendly, the game began to get edgy. Zieler made a fantastically athletic save from Hernandez, forcing him to blast the ball wide after an exquisite setup by Wayne Rooney, who persevered despite being repeatedly, brazenly and outrageously kicked by defender Sergío Pinto.
But then Hannover somehow pulled a third goal out of nowhere, as Lars Stindl crossed from the right and and their big Norwegian striker Mohamed Abdellaoue turned in mid air like a pirouetting ballerina, firing an exquisite back heel past De Gea. It was a move United’s own crown Prince of finesse, Eric Cantona, would have applauded.
Minutes later, however, after another ludicrously blatant foul by Pinto on Rooney at the edge of the penalty area, the Scouse striker fired an equally marvelous curving rocket of a free kick past a frozen Zieler. to make it 3-2.
Then, 35 minutes in, after Christian Pander had a thumping left-footed volley saved by De Gea, the game was suddenly tied. After a brilliant run of passing by Cleverley and Kagawa, Rooney was on his own in the six yard box, rounding Zieler, and about to fire home, when the goalie dived into his path, forcing him to fall down before the referee blew for a penalty. Despite having missed his last penalty attempt, Rooney stepped right up to confidently fire home the equalizer.
And, finally, six minutes later, Kagawa sealed United’s joyful comeback with a very difficult finish from an obtuse angle after a fine headed pass from Rooney had set him up perfectly. Hannover, who were unbeaten at home last season in both Bundesliga and Europa League play. ended up losing their record. Perhaps they would have been wise to ease up on their tackling and carried on coasting to victory. Instead, they chose to throw down the gauntlet and play tough. It is a decision their coach surely regrets in retrospect. At any rate, a bit of aggro did the lads good!