United may not have been at their flamboyant best, nor even their most devastatingly ruthless, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal three minutes from half time was enough to see the Reds through to the Champions League quarter finals.
Ronaldo's 30th of the season gave the Reds a tenth straight Champions League win at Old Trafford. Lyon, solid and tactically tight but, to their detriment, unadventurous, set the tone for this game. But United broke the mould – if only once – in a game of few chances.
It’s always difficult to second-guess Sir Alex’s team selection, especially with the multitude of options available to him. But the Reds boss still managed to spring a surprise by picking a side that did not contain three of his most experienced outfield players. Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves both took up places on the bench, while a calf injury ruled Ryan Giggs out.
At the start of the season, it might have been difficult to picture a midfield trio of Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Anderson playing in such a critical last 16 second leg tie. But, that in itself is a signal of how strong United’s squad is.
Crucially, no player in Sir Alex’s front six had played the full 90 minutes against Fulham on Saturday. It’s a freshness that the United boss has sought in recent weeks.
The Reds started brightly enough in the opening minutes. With Sir Alex opting again for a 4-5-1 formation, Ronaldo and Nani pressed forward, Rooney worked tirelessly, while Anderson pushed ahead of Fletcher and Carrick.
Karim Benzema again looked dangerous when given space, and Juninho had a few early free-kicks to test United’s rearguard. But the Reds, marshalled by Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, looked solid. More and more the game was played out tactically; Lyon content not to concede, looking for a breakaway; United probing for a way through but not going