When the lights go out, Manchester United will show you what it’s all about, according to season debutant Chris Smalling.
Shortly after Alan’s penalty gave SC Braga the lead in the 49th minute, a power failure plunged the Estadio AXA into total blackness and the Champions League tie was halted for 15 minutes.
And after returning to the pitch following an additional team talk, Smalling was delighted to end his first return to the pitch in six months with a victory.
And when asked if the floodlight failure was the catalyst to United’s win, Smalling said: “Yes, I think it did in a way.
“Especially after their goal. We knew we really had to pick ourselves up.
“We had a lot of the ball but we weren’t really getting anywhere. So yes, it really helped us.”
With just ten minutes on the clock, substitute Robin van Persie dragged United back to level terms – only a point was needed to seal qualification into the next round.
But a hungry United pushed for more and a Wayne Rooney penalty and Javier Hernandez striker sealed their progression as group winners with a 3-1 victory.
Smalling heaped praise on Van Persie’s influence on the team and Rooney’s composure to step up and convert a penalty, just four days after sending one wide of the post in the Premier League.
“[Van Persie] is a person who only needs one chance,” the England centreback said.
“That was crucial and he’s proved that all season so far, and long may it continue and [Rooney] is one of those who wants to put himself back in the firing line.
“I think he showed he’s got the courage. You never have to doubt him really from the penalty spot.”
Having been forced to watch from the sidelines as United kicked off their witch-hunt to bring back the Premier League title from rivals Manchester City, Smalling was delighted to be back playing.
“It’s been so long and it’s been frustrating watching from the sidelines,” he said.
“But it’s good to be able to come in and come back with a win as well so I’m feeling happy.”