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BBC Fvie Live's Steve Wilson
"United had been ripped apart"
 real 14k

banner Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK
Man Utd's Euro nail-biter
Denis Irwin
Denis Irwin slips as he slots home Manchester United's penalty
Anderlecht 2-1 Manchester United

Manchester United's Champions League hopes hang by a slender thread after they slumped to shock defeat against Anderlecht in Brussels.

Sir Alex Ferguson's Premiership pace-setters were a shadow of the side that dominate the domestic game as they were outplayed by the Belgian champions.

United now stand precariously on the brink in third place in Group G - and must beat Dinamo Kiev at Old Trafford in a fortnight to emerge successfully and qualify for the second phase of the competition.

Canadian international Tomasz Radzinski was United's tormentor with two first half goals as only the brilliance of French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez kept United in the hunt.

Andy Cole
Cole wins United's penalty
Denis Irwin gave United hope with a penalty late in the first half - but United got what they deserved on a night of misery for the 1999 Champions League winners.

Barthez was even reduced to taking long range shots at Anderlecht's goal in injury time as United - without injured captain Roy Keane and Teddy Sheringham - were reduced to desperate measures.

United's performance in the first half must rank alongside one of the worst in their recent European history - and was highlighted by the sheer quality of Anderlecht's attacking play.

It was only the bravery and agility of Barthez that kept Anderlecht's lead down to respectable proportions as United were stretched in almost every Belgian attack.

Anderlecht had already posted the warning signals for United in the early stages, showing a movement, width and invention that was not in evidence when they were thrashed 5-1 at Old Trafford.

And it was no surprise when they took the lead their play deserved after 15 minutes,

Radzinski stole in behind the United defence, holding off the attentions of Mikael Silvestre to steer a finish high past Barthez.

If we had defended properly in the first half it would have been a different result. The defending was very poor - but we can still get through
  Sir Alex Ferguson
Giant Czech Jan Koller was a physical threat, but United were grateful his footwork was clumsy two minutes later, when a poor first touch forced him wide, allowing Barthez to block at the near post.

United were unable to establish any sort of foothold in the game as Anderlecht poured forward.

Barthez was forced to deny Radzinski brilliantly twice more before the inevitable second goal arrived after 34 minutes

Radzinski was the scorer again, sweeping home a brilliant first time finish past Barthez from 15 yards from Koller's right wing cross.

It was a desperate time for United, but they clutched gratefully at an unlikely lifeline two minutes later.

Andy Cole charged towards the penalty area when he went down under challenge from Glen de Boeck.

Italian referee Stefano Braschi ignored Anderlecht's protests and pointed to the spot.

United got another stroke of luck when they needed it most. Irwin slipped as he took the kick, but Anderlecht keeper Filip De Wilde was wrong-footed as the penalty dropped tamely into the centre of the goal.

Andy Cole
Andy Cole fights for possession
Boss Ferguson was visibly furious with his side's shambolic display, and United inevitably upped the tempo after the break.

Scholes, one of the few United players to emerge from the first half with credit, looked to have created an opening after 58 minutes.

But he deliberately handled David Beckham's pass and was shown the yellow card - an indiscretion that will rule him out of the home meeting with Dinamo Kiev.

Silvestre had endured another uncomfortable evening, and he was the victim of the first United re-shuffle when he was replaced by Wes Brown on the hour mark.

And Ferguson gambled with 15 minutes left, replacing Irwin with striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in an attempt to snatch a point from a dismal performance.

It was all to no avail - now United face a date with destiny against the notoriously poor travellers of Kiev to keep their hopes of qualification alive.

Anderlecht: De Wilde, Vanderhaeghe, De Boeck, Staelens, Goor, Koller, Dheedene, Baseggio, Stoica, Radzinski, Crasson. Subs: Milojevic, Ilic, Oyen, Doll, Dindane, Youla, Mbemba. Man Utd: Barthez, G. Neville, Irwin, Johnsen, Beckham, Butt, Cole, Giggs, Scholes, Yorke, Silvestre. Subs: Van Der Gouw, P. Neville, Solskjaer, Wallwork, Brown, Fortune, Greening. Referee: Stefano Braschi (Prato)

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