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Nov, 8, 2012

United maintain perfect European record

Manchester United have avenged their early exit from last season's Champions League, with Wednesday's 3-1 win over Braga securing their qualification to the knockout stages.

• Blog: United far from comfortable
• Braga 1-3 Manchester United

United were once again forced to come from behind to claim the three points, after Alan netted a penalty early in the second half to give Braga the lead.

But goals from Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez maintained the Red Devils' perfect record in Europe this season and guaranteed them a spot in the last 16.

Assistant boss Mike Phelan believes United were buoyed by last year's third place finish in the group phase.

"Our intention this year was to get into [the knockout phase] very quickly," Phelan said. "We were disappointing last year - the players and staff knew that, and I think the supporters wanted a reaction to that.

"I think it was really important that we got into it quickly and we have done that - four games gone and we are more than happy with it.'"

A power outage forced a delay in the match, but it seemed to benefit United who came out on top after the play resumed.

"It is a little bit surprising that we have scored three goals here tonight,'' Phelan said. "In the first half we were not really doing anything in the game other than keeping possession of the ball.

"Possibly with the way the evening panned out - with the lights going out and the heavy rain, and then us having to make a quick substitution, bringing Rio Ferdinand on - that changed things for us, with the tempo of our game going up.

"Robin was instrumental in getting us further up the field. We played a little bit more in behind their midfield once Robin came on, and obviously he took his goal really well.

"It fell to him in a very good position on his left foot, he saw the goalkeeper probably trying to get to the ball a bit too quickly, and managed to hit it into the back of the net."

Phelan admitted he didn't expect Wayne Rooney - who missed from the spot against Arsenal on the weekend - to take the penalty which he converted in the 84th minute.

"We were actually surprised that he took it. We thought maybe someone else would step up to take the penalty, but credit to him - he wanted to get that disappointment behind him quickly and he finished it."

Jonny Evans and Nani were both substituted during the match after picking up minor injuries, but Phelan insists it was merely a safety measure ahead of Saturday's Premier League trip to Aston Villa.

"Jonny Evans felt his groin a little bit - I think it probably happened during the penalty incident," he said. "He did start feeling his groin, so as a precaution we took him off quickly.

"With Nani I think it was probably just a lack of games and his hamstring started to tighten up, so we weren't taking any chances with that.''

Despite Braga slipping to the bottom of the group, coach Jose Peseiro believes his team showed the potential to progress along with Manchester United.

"I didn't see a clear opportunity for Manchester United until 80 minutes," Peseiro said. "I think they played well after the lights went off and we made some mistakes, which will happen against Manchester United.

"But in this game I think my team was fantastic - better than at Old Trafford. My team did not deserve this result, in my opinion.''

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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