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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 20:36 GMT 21:36 UK
Man Utd wreak Greek havoc
Mikael Silvestre bundles in Manchester United's opening goal
Man Utd 5-0 Panathinaikos

Manchester United destroyed Panathinaikos with a ruthless first-half display that gave Sir Alex Ferguson's men a flying start to their Champions League campaign.

Two goals in the first quarter of an hour by Mikael Silvestre and Quinton Fortune set the tone for what would end as a veritable Greek tragedy for the visitors.

A goalkeeping howler and some shocking defending then allowed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nicky Butt to get on the scoresheet before half time.

A major second-half reshuffle meant United were unable to find their stride, but Eric Djemba-Djemba added a fifth late on against ordinary opposition to the delight of the Old Trafford faithful.

13 mins: Silvestre puts United ahead
15 mins: Fortune hammers home United's second
33 mins: Solskjaer scores a third
40 mins: Butt rises to head in goal number four
83 mins: Djemba-Djemba scores his first goal for United

United signalled their intent from kick-off when Gary Neville rampaged down the right and whipped over a Beckhamesque cross for Ruud van Nistelrooy, who directed his header just inches wide of the Panathinaikos goal.

The United striker should have done better and he made amends soon after, distracting the Panathinaikos defence before Ryan Giggs' precision corner was bundled in by Silvestre.

The hosts doubled their advantage within a minute of taking the lead.

Some slick passing saw United pour into the Panathinaikos area and after the ball had pinged off several players, Giggs' miscontrolled lay-off fell kindly to Fortune, who made no mistake with a thunderous shot.

The Panathinaikos rearguard were put under relentless pressure and their cause was not helped by some hapless handling by Antonis Nikopolidis in goal.

The Greek number one was having a night to forget even before Solskjaer's low shot from Giggs pass squirmed in off his arm for United's third.

With the game already over as a contest, Panathinaikos were looking at damage limitation but they could not stop the red tidal wave and Butt scored his first goal in 18 months with a superb header from John O'Shea's sumptuous cross.

Tim Howard was forced to make one smart save from Michalis Konstantinou in the middle of the goal glut, but was otherwise a bystander as United took Panathinaikos apart.

Nikopolidis' nightmare was ended at half time when he was replaced by Kostas Chalkias, who at least only had to pick the ball out his net once when Djemba-Djemba slotted home his first goal for United from close range late on.

Sterner tests will surely await United, but the result will see Sir Alex's troops go into Sunday's Premiership encounter with Arsenal in good heart.

Man Utd: Howard, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea (Fletcher 57), Solskjaer (Bellion 45), Butt (Djemba-Djemba 57), Phil Neville, Fortune, Giggs, van Nistelrooy.
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Ronaldo, Keane, Forlan.

Panathinaikos: Nikopolidis (Chalkias 45), Seitaridis, Henriksen, Kyrgiakos, Fyssas, Zutautas, Goumas (Epalle 45), Papadopoulos (Olisadebe 62), Sanmartean, Maric, Konstantinou.
Subs Not Used: Maurice, Munch, Konstantinidis, Michaelsen.

Attendance: 66,520.

Referee: Alain Sars (France).

BBC Five Live's Alan Green
"Manchester United didn't play that well - they didn't have to"

Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
"To get the scoreline we did is an excellent bonus"

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16 Sep 03  |  Photo Galleries
Scholes boost for England
16 Sep 03  |  Man Utd

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