With Sir Alex Ferguson taking advantage of Manchester United’s 3-0 lead from the first leg to try and rest team captain Roy Keane, a few changes are to be seen in tonight’s line-up of Van der Sar, Neville-Ferdinand-Brown-Heinze, Fletcher-Smith-Scholes and upfront, Giggs-van Nistelrooy-Ronaldo. That’s got to be one of the most unusual United sides of recent years. To say nothing of the subs: Howard, Pique, Miller, Park, Bardsley, Richardson and Rooney. And the team are wearing their rather different blue away strip. Wild!
A very soggy pitch in Budapest (and they say it’s always raining in Manchester!) doesn’t bode well for an exciting football match but United are sure to do their utmost to proceed into the group stage of the European Champions League.
After about 10 minutes of fairly uninteresting football, mostly choppy midfield play, the first notable incident is a bad one for United, Neville’s down under a bad tackle and can’t go on. curiously, Sir Alex chooses to replace him with young midfielder Kieran Richardson with Fletcher moving into the back four.
Another bout of football not really going anywhere is brought to a halt when Van Nistelrooy wins a corner out on the right. Smartly taken by Paul Scholes (told you it was a weird night), the ball is met by Argentinian defender Gabriel Heinze at the far post and he heads the ball with power.
GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL! That’s more like it, 1-0 to United!
The rest of the first half is pretty uneventful, the best footballing moment being a late Debrecen free kick which brings a great save from Edwin Van Der Saar, who is really starting to bring a lot of confidence to United at the back.
United start the second half with young Phillip Bardsley replacing Paul Scholes in midfield, presumably being rested for the tough English Premier League match at Newcastle this coming Sunday. The match is effectively over as a contest with United now leading 4-0 on aggregate and the Hungarian champions looking defeated.
However, United don’t stop playing, with several players having something to prove to the manager. Just on the hour mark steady pressure leads to a foul on Ronaldo out on the left. Welsh winger Ryan Giggs takes the resultant free kick and Boom! There’s that man Heinze risng at the far post again for an almost carbon copy of the first GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL!
It’s 2-0 to United and certainly all over now for Debrecen!!
Sir Alex takes the opportunity to make his third permitted change of the night, bringing on Irish International Liam Miller for Fletcher. He has no time to settle in at all before United surge forward down the right with Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo combining before the Portuguese winger crosses to substitute Kieran Richardson on the edge of the penalty area. Taking one touch to control the ball, Richardson blast left-footed into the corner of the net and it’s GGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLL!!! 3-0 to the Reds.
Debrecen are totally dispirited now and starting to play with less discipline and leaving the foot in more. Unsurprisingly this leads to more injury worries for United, this time to goalscorer Richardson, who is taken off after 70 minutes. Sir Alex has already used all his substitutes so there’s no option but to play out the last 20 minutes with only 10 men. There are a couple of goal mouth scares and scrambles, at both ends, but no real danger to either goal and United are content to let the clock run down. Three minutes of extra time and it’s all over; United are through to the vital group stages with an emphatic 6-0 aggregate victory, their 4th straight clean sheet.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson post match commented that he was happy with the team’s performance.
“We don’t care where the goals come from. I’m quite happy when anyone scores.
“I’m very pleased with the performance on a difficult pitch. We kept good discipline and passed the ball well.
“Winning 3-0 away is a very good scoreline. There was too much importance attached to this game to lose concentration and focus.”