Zenit St Petersburg lifted the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco, despite an admiral Reds resurgence in the second half.
United were 2-0 down after 59 minutes before a rare Nemanja Vidic strike buoyed Sir Alex’s men. John O’Shea twice went close to forcing extra time – and Paul Scholes even found the net – but the UEFA Cup holders hung on to register a 2-1 win.
Scholes’ effort, it must be said, was more a moment of madness than a valid strike on goal. In the 89th minute, the Reds’ midfielder slapped the ball in with his hand and was duly shown a second yellow card for his attempt to deceive referee Claus Bo Larsen. Scholes will now miss United’s opening group stage fixture in this season’s Champions League competition.
Sir Alex, who would have become the Super Cup’s most successful ever manager had United won, was dealt his first blow on Thursday evening when England midfielder Owen Hargreaves felt his knee flare up again during training.
As a result, the Reds’ central midfield berths were occupied by Anderson and Scholes. The Reds’ boss also found room for Nani and Gary Neville, who were in urgent need of minutes on the pitch. They were both busy in the opening stages – Neville getting forward down the right wing, Nani employing his silky skills out on the left.
But it was Zenit St Petersburg striker Pavel Pogrebnyak who had the game’s first real chance. The 24-year-old, who finished top scorer in last year’s UEFA Cup, found himself unmarked 12 yards out but fired his shot well over Edwin van der Sar’s goal.
The Russian side were skilful and sharp, and particularly dangerous down the right flank. Full back Aleksandr Anyukov strode forward at every opportunity and proved a real handful for Patrice Evra. Anyukov’s desire to attack was so strong, Evra had to temper his own trademark forward runs.