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  Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK
Man Utd crush Haifa
Giggs soars to head Manchester United's first goal
Giggs soars to head Manchester United's first goal
Manchester United 5-2 Maccabi Haifa
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Manchester United survived a scare before getting their Champions League campaign off to a winning start against Maccabi Haifa at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side - with sights set on the final on home turf next May - fell behind to a shock early strike from Yaniv Katan.

But once Ryan Giggs equalised inside two minutes, their march to victory was never in doubt.

The biggest cheer of the night, however, was reserved for Diego Forlan.

He rounded off an eventful encounter with his first goal in his 27th appearance for the club, scoring from the penalty spot.

Earlier, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer restored reality to the scoreline and put United in front before half-time after a delightlful link with Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Katan celebrates Maccabi's shock opener
Katan celebrates Maccabi's shock opener

And once Juan Sebastian Veron scored seconds after the interval, all United's early fears had evaporated.

Van Nistelrooy ended his goal drought with the fourth - and there was even time for Ferguson to give a debut to new Spanish goalkeeper Ricardo as United strolled to three points.

But he failed to keep his goal intact as substitute Rafi Cohen threatened to give the scoreline a measure of respectability for the Israelis with a second for the visitors.

I was very pleased with the confidence and the form of the players
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

It was left to Forlan to provide the final flourish, much to his and Old Trafford's obvious relief.

Ferguson's doubts about his rearguard have not been eased by the arrival of 30m Rio Ferdinand - and their vulnerability was exposed in alarming fashion after seven minutes.

Katan raced clear as Laurent Blanc was drawn out of position, evading the attentions of Ferdinand to score through Fabien Barthez's legs.

Maccabi Haifa's joy was short-lived as Giggs moved smoothly on to Phil Neville's cross to glance a header past Dudu Awate.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scores
Solskjaer puts Man Utd ahead

Giggs's goal signalled the end of serious resistance, and the only surprise was that the underdogs held out until the 34th minute before conceding a second.

Van Nistelrooy was the creator with a delightful pass to Solskjaer, which the Norwegian finished with typical efficiency.

And the contest effectively ended inside the first minute of the second half, when David Beckham's cross fell to Veron, who scored with a powerful drive.

Van Nistelrooy proved his goal touch was still as sure as ever when he took advantage of Veron's brilliant pass to score the fourth after 53 minutes.

Ferguson felt secure enough to give a debut to new 1.5m Spanish goalkeeper Ricardo, who replaced Barthez with 23 minutes left.

Juan Sebastian Veron is on target for Manchester United
Veron turns to celebrate his goal

But he was helpless as more sloppy play from Ferdinand allowed Cohen in for Maccabi's second

The game ended on a high note for United - especially for the previously hapless Forlan.

Beckham was brought down for a penalty with the dying seconds, and he graciously stepped aside to allow Uruguayan Forlan to break his duck.

Man Utd: Barthez (Ricardo 67), O'Shea, Blanc, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Beckham, Veron, Phil Neville, Giggs (Forlan 56), van Nistelrooy (Pugh 75), Solskjaer. Subs Not Used: Gary Neville, May, Chadwick, Stewart.

Goals: Giggs 10, Solskjaer 35, Veron 46, van Nistelrooy 54, Forlan 89 pen.

Maccabi Haifa: Awat, Harazi (Cohen 73), Benado, Ejiofor, Keisi, Almoshnino (Zano 56), Badir, Pralija, Rosso, Zandberg (Israilevich 64), Katan. Subs Not Used: Al Madon, Levy, Gabrin, Nagar.

Booked: Rosso.

Goals: Katan 8, Cohen 85.

Attenance: 63,439.

Referee: P Allaerts (Belgium).

BBC Sport's Simon Brotherton
"A comfortable three points for Man Utd"
Man Utd boss Alex Ferguson
"Our attacking play was terrific"
Man Utd's Diego Forlan
"I always knew it would come"

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18 Sep 02 | Champions League
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