They had to come from behind to do it, but both Manchester clubs restored pride to English football’s UEFA Champions League campaigns on Wednesday.
Having taken a battering with five defeats from the opening six fixtures for the Premier League clubs, it was left to Manchester United and Manchester City to improve the reputation of a league many consider to be the finest in Europe. Yet it looked at one point as if another miserable evening loomed as both found themselves a goal down against Bundesliga opposition.
Over in Germany at the Stadion im Borussia-Park, Joe Hart had performed minor miracles to ensure the Blues remained on level terms with Borussia Monchengladbach, but he could do little to prevent Lars Stindl firing low into the corner of his goal on 54 minutes. The England international goalkeeper has earlier made a number of fine saves, including a first half penalty save.
City, who lost their opening fixture at home to Juventus, equalised a little more than 10 minutes later through defensive summer signing Nicolas Otamendi, who bundled home for his first goal for the club after defensive team-mate Martin Demichelis’ shot was deemed not to cross the line. And another Argentine, Sergio Aguero, wrapped up the points with a last-minute penalty.
Back in Manchester, it was also a penalty which was greeted with much cheer at Old Trafford. Having trailed to an early Daniel Caligiuri goal, United levelled matters with Wolfsburg when Juan Mata stepped up to convert on 34 minutes. And the Spaniard provided a delightful assist for Chris Smalling to score on 53 minutes to give the Reds their first win in the competition since March 2014.
On that occasion United, then under the leadership of David Moyes, defeated Olympiakos to progress to the last 16. The Greek side were back in England on Tuesday, when they finally recorded a win on these shores with a remarkable 3-2 win over Arsenal. This was the Gunners second defeat in as many games in this season’s competition, a likely uphill battle to reach the knockout stages.
On the same night, Chelsea’s recent poor form continued when they lost 2-1 on Jose Mourinho’s return to FC Porto. Once more captain John Terry was left on the bench, but more headlines were dedicated to trio Radamel Falcao, Oscar and Loic Remy, all of whom were left behind in England as the champions look to rediscover a winning way which has largely deserted them this term.