The Reds Devils and their Russian demons: Man Utd’s Moscow misery and more…

The game between Manchester United and CSKA Moscow on Wednesday in Champions League Group B comes exactly six years since the two met at the same stage of the tournament in 2009.

The game will be the seventh time United have taken on a team from Russia in European tournaments with only a single victory and five draws from their previous six meetings.

Add to this the 2008 UEFA Super Cup defeat by Zenit St. Petersburg and United fans may be a little concerned about swapping M16 for Moscow on Wednesday night.

With Premier League leaders and neighbours City heading to Old Trafford on the Sunday after the trip to Moscow, some supporters have questioned if the long trip would affect United’s performance.

The Reds’ record of one win in their three league matches played immediately after games in Russia could signal an alarming omen ahead of the vital Manchester derby.

Here, MM looks at the Russian heroes who have rocked the three-time champions of Europe in the early stages of continental competition and United’s following fortunes.

1992-93 UEFA Cup 1st round

First leg: September 16 1992 Man United 0-0 Torpedo Moscow

Second leg: September 30 1992 Torpedo Moscow 0-0 Man United (Torpedo win 4-3 on penalties)

Just 19,998 saw United held to a goalless draw at Old Trafford by Torpedo Moscow in the knockout stages of the 1992-93 UEFA Cup, their lowest home attendance that season.

The poultry gathering must have reassured the ZIL automobile plant side about their own home gates as two weeks later a meagre 11,357 crowd turned up to Torpedo Stadium for the second leg.

The ground was the setting for 120 minutes of frustration for United as they ultimately failed to penetrate Torpedo’s defence in normal time, owing, in no small part, to the heroics of captain and goalkeeper Aleksandr Podshivalov.

The towering Russian stopper made saves from Mark Hughes and Neil Webb in normal time to keep the English club at bay. Three minutes from the end of the 90 and Hughes was sent off.

Neither Torpedo nor 10-man United were able to find a breakthrough and with the scores dead level on aggregate the game went to penalties.

Despite taking an initial 2-0 lead in the shootout thanks to Peter Schmeichel, United were soon on the back foot. The colossal Podshivalov mirrored his counterpart’s feats by denying Denis Irwin before Brian McClair placed his shot high over the bar.

Centre back Gary Pallister was left with the deciding kick and he could only lift the ball feebly towards the net for Podshivalov to duly save at a comfortable height.

Torpedo’s rain-drenched but ecstatic players bolted from the halfway line as if they’d won the cup itself. Their players, some earning as little as £4 per week, had won the shootout 4-3 and sent England’s best-paid professionals plummeting out of the UEFA Cup.

Result after Russian trip: Drew 1-1 – Middlesbrough (A) 1-1, 3.10.1992

Ferguson’s men could only manage a draw away to Middlesbrough in their next league game thanks to a Steve Bruce penalty. The result meant they dropped to sixth in the table. United nonetheless went on to win their first league title in 26 years that season.

1995-96 UEFA Cup 1st Round

First leg: September 12 1995 Rotor Volgograd 0-0 Man United

Second leg: September 26 1995 Man United 2-2 Rotor Volgograd

Victory arena in Volgograd will serve as one of the grounds to host games at the 2018 World Cup. For any local of the town formerly called Stalingrad the name of the stadium brings about memories of the most famous victory by their local football team Rotor 20 years ago.

A record 36,800 crowd flocked to Centralniy Stadion on the banks of the River Volga to see a midfield comprising perhaps the Old Trafford club’s greatest quartet of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and David Beckham held to a 0-0 draw to create an intriguing second leg. 

Before the return leg, just two weeks after Rotor’s home heroics, Ferguson told his side it was paramount to keep a clean sheet.

The fearless Russians had other ideas and on 18 minutes Vladimir Niederhaus played a smart one-two with Aleksandr Zernov to bewilder United talisman and captain Steve Bruce before slotting home.

Just six minutes later Veretennikov pounced on a Bruce mistake and advanced to rattle home a low shot from 20 yards that went in off the post. Rotor were 2-0 up at half time in the theatre of dreams, creating a nightmare for their fans.

A goal from Scholes on the hour gave United hope.

Then, with just a minute left to play, goalkeeper Schmeichel surged forward. The image of him rising to nod home a late header has become iconic.

It extended United’s unbeaten run to 57 home games in Europe but it wasn’t enough to stop them from crashing out of the UEFA Cup to the relative unknowns.

After the game Ferguson admitted Rotor’s quick brace had sounded the death knell for his side.

“You go 2-0 down and you have a mountain to climb in Europe,” the Glaswegian said.

“They were bad goals to lose because the last thing we said before the match was that a clean sheet would win it for us.”

Result after Russian trip: Won 3-0 – Bolton Wanderers (H)

Goals from Scholes and Giggs sank Wanderers giving United their only Premier League win after a trip to Russia to date.

2009-10 UEFA Champions League Group B

October 21 2009 CSKA 0-1 Man United

November 3 2009 Man United 3-3 CSKA

It wasn’t until United met CSKA Moscow in Champions League Group B that they recorded their first and to date only victory over a Russian side.

It was the first time United had returned to Luzhniki Stadium since their Champions League win against Chelsea in 2008. This match was played on the artificial surface in Luzhniki, a change from the specially laid grass for the 2008 final.

Antonio Valencia struck on 86 minutes clipping a half volley home after a Dimitar Berbatov header left him with a tight angle.

A fortnight later young Russian starlet Alan Dzagoev announced himself to Western prominence as the 19-year-old drew first blood for CSKA before Michael Owen levelled.

Two minutes later Milos Krasic put the Russians back ahead and Dzagoev then turned provider for Vasili Berezutski to further enhance his growing fledgling reputation.

Only a late rally preserved United’s 22-match unbeaten home run in Europe as goals from Paul Scholes and a deflected effort from Antonio Valencia in the last six minutes ensured the match ended level at 3-3.

Result after Russian trip: Lost 2-0 – Liverpool (A)  

A trip to Anfield awaited the Reds on returning home from Russia where they went down 2-0 to goals from Fernando Torres and David Ngog. The result meant they dropped to second in the table, where they would finish behind Chelsea.

Image courtesy of Carl Recine/Action Images, with thanks.

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