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  Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 21:35 GMT
Veron shows the way
Jan Simak misses the penalty in the Champions League between Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen
Manchester United survived an early penalty scare
Manchester 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen
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Manchester United returned to winning ways against Bayer Leverkusen but the manner of victory reinforced the view that Sir Alex Ferguson's side is still some way off their best.

The good news was that Juan Sebastian Veron again shone on the European stage.

He scored the first goal - his fourth in five Champions League games - with an accomplished volley and it was his pass that made the second for Ruud van Nistelrooy.

  Key incidents
20 mins: Jan Simik misses a penalty for Leverkusen
42 mins: Juan Veron volleys home from outside the box
69: Ruud van Nistelrooy makes it two from close range
The win also emphasised United's Group F superiority and means the 1999 winners will be seeded in Friday's draw.

The bad news was that United's back four - Gary Neville and Fabien Barthez sat this game out - is still struggling for cohesion.

No more so than when a lack of communication between Rio Ferdinand and Mikael Silvestre led to an early Leverkusen penalty, which Jan Simak contrived to miss.

With six minutes left, United's defensive worries increased when Ferdinand pulled up holding his right thigh and then limped out of the game.

Still without a goal in the Premiership this season, Veron's stirke exemplified his technical virtuousity.

Picking the ball up in midfield he pinged a wonderful pass out to the right before scampering forward.

The ball eventually arrived at the feet of Van Nistelrooy on the edge of the box, who touched it off into the path of Veron.

The Argentine flicked the ball up and then volleyed it past Hans-Joerg Butt

Midway through the second half Paul Scholes cleverly dummied a driven Veron pass providing Van Nistelrooy with time and space to prod the ball past Butt.

Ruud van Nistelrooy of Man Utd battles with Thomas Kleine of Bayer Leverkusen
Van Nistelrooy claimed his 10th goal of the season
Soon after the Leverkusen keeper did well to block Veron's diving header, following another flowing move that had been initiated by the former Lazio player.

Van Nistelrooy could feasibly have had a hat-trick in the opening 10 minutes, but after surviving those early scares, Leverkusen began to probe United's defensive frailities.

That was an area that Manchester City had exploited to devastating affect in last Saturday's Mancunian derby and on 16 minutes so too did Thomas Brdaric.

After Ferdinand had played the Leverkusen striker onside, Brdaric strode into the box, pushed the ball past Ricardo, before being brought down by the Spanish keeper.

After Ricardo had been yellow carded, Jan Simak blasted the penalty embarrassingly over the bar.

Midway through the second half, Simak produced an altogether more accurate effort, a swerving shot that Ricardo did well to tip away.


Man Utd: Ricardo, O'Shea, Blanc (Gary Neville 77), Ferdinand, Silvestre, Beckham (Solskjaer 77), Veron, Fortune, Giggs (Chadwick 81), Scholes, van Nistelrooy.
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Phil Neville, Forlan, Nardiello.

Booked: Ricardo.

Bayer Leverkusen: Butt, Zivkovic, Kleine, Ramelow, Sebescen, Balitsch (Preuss 81), Babic, Simak, Bierofka (Dogan 78), Berbatov (Franca 62), Brdaric.
Subs Not Used: Juric, Dzaka, Bozic, El Kasmi.

Booked: Kleine, Simak, Sebescen.

Attendance: 66,185.

Referee: Vladimir Hrinak (Slovakia).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Simon Mann
"United won with ease"
Man Utd boss Alex Ferguson
"It was a good game to take part in"
Man Utd's Quinton Fortune
"Everyone worked hard tonight"

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