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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Man Utd stroll past Bolton
Manchester United goalscorer Ryan Giggs
Giggs scores from a free-kick a la Beckham

Man Utd 4-0 Bolton

Manchester United started the defence of their Premiership title with victory over Bolton at Old Trafford.

Debutant Cristiano Ronaldo announced his arrival in the Premiership with a scintillating performance in the second half, acting as the catalyst for United's three-goal haul after the break.

Ryan Giggs had opened the scoring with a brilliant first-half free-kick and, although Bolton battled on, United moved up a gear following Ronaldo's arrival on the hour.

Giggs was on hand to tap in his second, Paul Scholes added a third, while Ruud van Nistelrooy made up for his earlier penalty miss by converting for the ninth successive time in the league in the dying moments of the game.

9 mins: Jaaskelainen makes brilliant save to deny Solskjaer
11 mins: Howard tips over Nolan's chipped effort
35 mins: Giggs scores a brilliant free-kick for United
74 mins: Giggs adds a second
77 mins: Scholes nets United's third
87 mins: Van Nistelrooy completes the rout

Bolton have proved to be United's bogey team in recent seasons, having beaten them twice in the last four encounters.

And Sam Allardyce's men started in defiant fashion against the Premiership champions, playing the better football with Ivan Campo orchestrating proceedings from just in front of the back four.

Bolton's Ivan Campo and Manchester United's Nicky Butt
Campo was influential for Bolton

Despite their perennial struggle against relegation, Bolton have class throughout their side and the enigmatic Jay-Jay Okocha provided flashes of brilliance during an entertaining opening period.

Both goalkeepers were called into action early on and both Jussi Jaaskelainen and Tim Howard produced saves of the highest order to keep the scoreline level.

Yet there was nothing Jaaskelainen could do to prevent Giggs' 30-yard free-kick - awarded after Van Nistelrooy was fouled - from crashing into the back of the net courtesy of the post.

The Welsh international has taken over dead-ball duties following the departure of David Beckham and proved equally as devastasting as his former team-mate.

United's opener was harsh on Bolton, who did not deserve to go into half time a goal behind.

Yet Bolton refused to buckle and indeed could have restored parity soon after the restart.

Henrik Pedersen flicked a long ball into the path of Kevin Nolan but the Bolton striker, United's nemesis in previous matches, dragged his shot just wide.


That scare acted as a wake-up call to United, whose passing and movement were typically incisive at times, and the hosts looked to score again, bringing on Ronaldo to a standing ovation.

Before Giggs doubled his tally, Van Nistelrooy had a second successive penalty saved although the Dutchman did not let the miss damage his confidence, following Scholes onto the United scoresheet.

But the afternoon belonged to Portuguese wonder kid Ronaldo, who displayed the dazzling skills that convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to bring him to the self-styled Theatre of Dreams for 12.24m.

Man Utd: Howard, Phil Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Fortune, Solskjaer (Djemba-Djemba 67), Keane, Butt (Ronaldo 61), Giggs (Forlan 80), Scholes, van Nistelrooy. Subs not used: Carroll, O'Shea.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Laville, N'Gotty, Gardner, Giannakopoulos (Facey 76), Okocha, Campo, Nolan (Frandsen 72), Pedersen (Djorkaeff 59), Davies. Subs not used: Poole, Barness.

Booked: N'Gotty, Giannakopoulos, Nolan, Gardner.

Attendance: 67,647.

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).

BBC Five Live's Mike Ingham
"A bit hard on Bolton but that's life at the top"

Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
"The scoreline doesn't really reflect how the game was going"

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