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  Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK
Man Utd outclass Olympiakos
Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Solskjaer finished a sweeping move for United's fourth
Man Utd 4-0 Olympiakos

Manchester United moved closer to the second phase of the Champions League with an emphatic victory over Olympiakos at Old Trafford.

Two goals from Ryan Giggs, one in each half, a sublime chip by Juan Sebastian Veron and a clinical finish by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer capped a superb display by the home side.

United could have scored more against a Greek side reduced to 10 men after Jose Moedin Ze Elias was sent off on the stroke of half-time, but were denied by goalkeeper Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos

There was the odd lapse of concentration in the United defence, yet Olympiakos never really looked like punishing their hosts and were comprehensively outplayed.

  Key incidents
8 mins Beckham header cleared off the line
19 mins: Giggs opens the scoring for Man Utd
26 mins: Veron chips in second
46 mins Ze Elias shown straight red for late challenge on Veron
66 mins: Giggs adds another courtesy of a wicked deflection
76 mins Solskjaer finishes sweeping move

As if slighted by the richly-deserved eulogising of domestic rivals Arsenal, Sir Alex Ferguson's men were eager to redress the balance.

The return to the starting line-up of Gary Neville restored a certain equilibrium to United, the right-back quickly re-establishing his understanding with captain David Beckham.

Too often this season, Beckham has been caught in two minds as to where he should be, drifting inside and thereby failing to deliver his telling crosses from the right.

But he stuck to his task against Olympiakos and United looked all the more threatening for it.

Despite the absence of Ruud van Nistelrooy, who failed to recover from a troublesome hamstring, there was a sharpness about United's attack that suggested there would be goals.

Indeed, a high-tempo start to the game saw Beckham's goal-bound header from a Giggs corner cleared off the line by Eleftheropoulos with eight minutes gone.

Paul Scholes - pushed forward alongside Solskjaer - was full of running and the United pair combined to devastating effect after sustained pressure.

Solskjaer slipped the perfect pass to Scholes, who burst into the Olympiakos area and cut the ball across for the waiting Giggs.

The Welsh wizard, back to his bewildering best, duly despatched United's opener after a fortuitous ricochet.

The hosts' second was the perfect example of the creativity and confidence coursing through the side.

Another one-two, this time between Beckham and the impressive Veron, culminated in a sumptuous chip by the Argentine.

Manchester United's Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt celebrate
All smiles as Giggs scores United's opener

Olympiakos had arrived at Old Trafford without an away win in 19 Champions League encounters.

And once the second goal had gone in, the game was over as a contest.

The Greeks' cause was not helped either by the dismissal of Ze Elias for a crude tackle on Veron a minute into first-half injury-time.

After the interval, United pressed forward with the same enthusiasm they had displayed in the opening period.

Again, Giggs was the beneficiary of some good fortune as his attempted cross took a massive deflection to beat Eleftheropoulos at the near post.

But there was nothing lucky about United's fourth which involved the evening's star performers.

Veron, who displayed his much-vaunted vision, found Scholes on the edge of the area.

Instead of shaping to shot, the England midfielder unselfishly picked out Solskjaer, who finished a sweeping move with his customary unerring precision.

United have registered five consecutive wins and with it have rediscovered some of their old swagger.

Now they must do the same against stronger opposition. Arsenal for example.

Man Utd: Barthez, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Blanc (O'Shea 69), Silvestre, Beckham, Butt, Veron, Giggs (Fortune 69), Scholes (Forlan 77), Solskjaer.
Subs Not Used: Ricardo, Phil Neville, May, Stewart.

Booked: Veron, Gary Neville, Ferdinand.

Olympiakos: Eleftheropoulos, Amanatidis (Patsatzoglou 73), Anatolakis, Antzas, Venetidis, Giannakopoulos (Dracena 45), Karembeu, Ze Elias, Djordjevic, Zetterberg, Ofori Quaye (Alexandris 59).
Subs Not Used: Giannou, Giovanni, Kostoulas, Niniadis.

Sent Off: Ze Elias (45).

Attendance: 66,902

Referee: G Beissire (France).

BBC Five Live's Mike Ingham
"Olympiakos were swept aside"
Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
"This time we've got ouselves going early"
Man Utd's Gary Neville
"We want shooting if we don't advance as winners"

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See also:

24 Sep 02 | Champions League
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