A late Carlos Tevez goal levelled the scores on the night, but handed United the advantage in the Reds’ Champions League last 16 tie with Olympique Lyonnais.
Tevez fired home in the 87th minute after Karim Benzema, French football’s finest young talent, scored against the run of play early in the second half. Benzema’s goal looked to have handed Lyon a famous victory on a night that yielded few clear-cut chances but plenty of engaging football.
United travelled to Lyon on a high after a tremendous 4-0 defeat of Arsenal in the FA Cup. Despite producing one of his finest performances in that match, Darren Fletcher had to be content with a spot on the bench in Lyon, alongside Tomasz Kuszczak, Michael Carrick, John O’Shea, Nani, Louis Saha and Tevez.
Before kick-off, Sir Alex admitted some players were unlucky not to retain their spot after the FA Cup victory, but explained the need for experience when playing away from home in Europe.
Of course, nobody in the Reds’ squad can boast Ryan Giggs’ experience. It was his quick thinking that handed United a 1-0 win against Lille the last time United travelled to France (at the same stage of last season’s competition), and on Wednesday night, almost 14-and-a-half years after his Champions League debut, the Welshman joined a elite group of players who have made 100 appearances in the competition.
The Reds’ no.11 only had fleeting touches early on. The home side was happy to gift United possession, but only in deep-lying areas of the pitch; any ball played into the final third induced a strong challenge from the Lyon centre-backs.
Lyon’s early play was concentrated down the left flank, with full back Fabio Grosso keen to get forward as much as possible. It was Grosso who supplied the cross that almost led to a Lyon opener in the 7th minute. Sidney Govou was first to the ball, but his