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banner Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 21:36 GMT
Man Utd outclass Nantes
Manchester United midfielder David Beckham equalised with a trademark free-kick
David Beckham scored with another free-kick
Manchester United 5-1 Nantes
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Manchester United took a massive stride towards the Champions League quarter-finals with an emphatic victory over Nantes.

The French side exploited some early hesitancy in their hosts by taking the lead through Frederic Da Rocha.

However, United's riposte was swift as David Beckham restored parity with a trademark free-kick.

  Key moments
3 mins: Nantes' Mauro Cetto hits crossbar with header
17 mins: Frederic Da Rocha scores for Nantes
18 mins: David Beckham equalises for United with a free-kick
31 mins: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer puts United ahead
38 mins: Mikael Silvestre heads in United's third
63 mins: Ruud van Nistelrooy scores from the penalty spot
78 mins: Solskjaer nets second of the game
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mikael Silvestre scored one apiece before the break.

And a clinically-taken penalty from the prolific Ruud van Nistelrooy made sure the game was over as a contest as early as the 63rd minute.

But the evening belonged to Solskjaer, who celebrated his 29th birthday with a second to complete the rout.

Sir Alex Ferguson reverted to his more customary 4-4-2 formation for the game, allowing Solskjaer to partner Van Nistelrooy in attack.

And his decision to start with Solskjaer would eventually pay dividends.


We pushed them with some great attacking football - up front we were absolutely brilliant
Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
Despite the more balanced nature of United's line-up, the home side started uneasily.

Nantes exerted some good early pressure and were only denied the opener by the woodwork, Mauro Cetto's header hitting the crossbar after confusion in the United area.

And it was not long before the French side exploited more inadequate United defending.

Nantes striker Pierre-Yves Andre whipped in an inviting cross which United failed to clear and Da Rocha dispatched his shot past Fabien Barthez.

Goals galore

But United hit back immediately and Beckham's free-kick was immaculately struck to leave Nantes keeper Mickael Landreau with no chance.

The goal went some way to settling nerves among the Old Trafford faithful, as United stepped into a more familiar stride.

And it was a familiar face who headed United into the lead, Solskjaer finishing a three-man move involving fellow attackers Ryan Giggs and Van Nistelrooy.

Nantes' Frederic Da Rocha
Da Rocha's celebration was short-lived
Silvestre was then first to a Beckham free-kick and Landreau's heroics of last Wednesday seemed a distant memory with the young keeper looking decidedly unsure.

Admittedly United rode their luck on occasions, with Da Rocha striking the post with no-one on hand from Nantes to meet the rebound.

After the interval, Ferguson's men lost some of their urgency and concentration - yet managed to extend their lead even further.

Giggs struck the woodwork, before Van Nistelrooy added United's fourth from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Nestor Fabbri.

But Solskjaer made sure he was not eclipsed by his free-scoring strike partner, meeting another inch-perfect Beckham free-kick with his head 12 minutes from time.


Man Utd: Barthez, Irwin, Blanc (Johnsen 68), Gary Neville, Silvestre, Beckham, Veron, Keane (Butt 75), Giggs, van Nistelrooy (Forlan 69), Solskjaer.
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Phil Neville, Scholes, Yorke.

Nantes: Landreau, Deroff, Cetto, Fabbri, Armand, Ateba (Vahirua 62), Djemba-Djemba (Savinaud 57), Berson, Ziani (Quint 78), Da Rocha, Andre.
Subs Not Used: Grondin, Moldovan, Ahamada, Devineau.
Booked: Berson.

Att: 66,492

Ref: Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez (La Felguera).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Ian Brown
"A perfect platform for United to progress"
Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
"We played excellent attacking football"
See also:

26 Feb 02 |  Football
Reds' five-star victory
Links to more Champions League stories are at the foot of the page.

 

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