[Champions League] Manchester United 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
ManUtd: Phil Jones (67)
Manchester United completed a satisfying Champions League group stage with a 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk that clinched top spot in the section.
David Moyes' men got back to winning ways after successive home league defeats thanks to Phil Jones' 67th-minute effort and the hard-earned triumph should boost confidence ahead of the weekend trip to Aston Villa.
The Ukrainians were confident in possession and a frustrating first half unfolded with Ashley Young spurning the Reds' best two openings. The left-winger did well to beat Darijo Srna to a Ryan Giggs chip but then lofted a lob inches off target before flashing off target when put clear by Wayne Rooney.
Adnan Januzaj turned to fire straight at Andriy Pyatov and Rooney went close with a free-kick that brushed the netting but Shakhtar had chances of their own and looked a real threat. Alex Teixeira clipped wide of the far post after being released by Taison and ran through again unchecked to work David De Gea. Teixeira also robbed Rio Ferdinand, only for the defender to block Fred's effort from the cross.
There was a fright at the start of the second half when a corner was allowed to run to Yaroslav Rakitskiy and his shot deflected off Jones and clipped a post. United responded with a Shinji Kagawa effort and a measured chip over the bar by Rooney but the goal only arrived after the introduction of Robin van Persie and Tom Cleverley.
Van Persie's corner fell to Jones and the midfielder executed a controlled volley past Pyatov to break the deadlock and earn the acclaim of the Old Trafford faithful. Srna fizzed in a left-footed strike that De Gea held confidently but it was one of very few late chances for the visitors, who lost out to Bayer Leverkusen for second place in the group.
The Match The Reds did not reach the giddy heights of last month's BayArena performance but proved again that the form in Europe is rock solid. Phil Jones' strike ensured top spot in Group A was secured and, although both teams missed chances, it was probably a fair result on reflection. Shinji Kagawa was given another start in his preferred role just behind the striker while Adnan Januzaj enjoyed his Champions League debut.
Goals Robin van Persie came off the bench and it was his corner from the right that led to the winner. Jonny Evans made a valiant attempt to reach it but, when the ball eluded the Northern Irishman, Jones showed expert technique to hook a volley past Andriy Pyatov. The goal was instantly reminiscent of his strike in the Capital One Cup against Norwich City.
Star men Phil Jones caught the eye in midfield and worked tirelessly for the cause, showing real aggression when celebrating his strike. Alex Büttner performed capably on the left-hand side of defence while Lee Sharpe and Lou Macari in the MUTV studio were also impressed by Januzaj and Jonny Evans.
Sub-plots After consecutive home defeats in the Barclays Premier League, to Everton and Newcastle, there was intense focus on United's form. Top spot in Group A was the target to ensure the best sides like Bayern Munich are avoided in the next round. Wayne Rooney was welcomed back after his suspension and captained the team - the third time he has donned the armband since David Moyes took charge.
Opposition Shakhtar kept possession tidily and frustrated the Reds for long periods. Their Brazilian players added attacking impetus and drifted into dangerous positions with some penetrative runs. The goal knocked the stuffing out of them and there was disappointment as they lost out to Bayer Leverkusen for second place.
Move of the match There was a neat attack down the left when some fine link-up play between Ashley Young and Rooney led to Kagawa flying in to volley goalwards. Pyatov helped it wide, even though it looked to be drifting off target anyway.
In the stands The Stretford End livened up the atmosphere with a couple of renditions of the '12 Cantonas' song and also some noisy backing for the manager at the start of the second half. Some fans in other areas of the ground were half-celebrating Rooney's free-kick only to realise it had gone the wrong side of the net.