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BBC Five Live's John Roder
"Spurs hung on for a valuable victory"
 real 14k

Saturday, 4 November, 2000, 17:27 GMT
Man Utd deny spirited Coventry

Andy Cole fired Man Utd ahead on the half-hour
Coventry 1-2 Manchester United

Gordon Strachan's men were left without any points to show for their efforts after two first-half goals secured Manchester United victory at Highfield Road.

Strikes from Andy Cole and David Beckham brought little response from the home side in the first half.

An inspired second-half display gave Coventry hope though, and there was all to play for when Ysrael Zuniga found the net halfway through the second half.

Ultimately however, the spirited attempt at a comeback proved fruitless and Alex Ferguson's men held on to their slender lead.


We played against the reputation of Manchester United in the first half rather than the team which was out there
  Coventry manager Gordon Strachan

Without what possibly would have been his first choice strike partnership of Cedric Roussell and Craig Bellamy, Gordon Strachan was facing an uphill battle before the game began.

In contrast, Sir Alex Ferguson had all four of his strikers fit and was able to recall captain Roy Keane into the fray.

Keane, making a timely return from injury ahead of his side's crucial Champions League clash against Dynamo Kiev at Old Trafford on Wednesday, wasted no time in picking up his traditional role as the midfield maestro.

Manchester United forced a corner within seconds of the start and Sheringham, in a fine vein of form, almost got his head to a cross from the industrious Irishman.

Brilliant sunshine was accompanied by lashing rain resulting in a dazzling rainbow over Highfield Road, but if the Coventry faithful were hoping for gold they will have been sorely disappointed.

On ten minutes Mustapha Hadji launched an audacious chip toward Fabien Barthez in the Man Utd goal which the Frenchman found himself having to stretch to reach.

David Beckham forced his free-kick through the wall
David Beckham forced his free-kick through the wall
But Coventry soon found themselves under pressure when Paul Scholes went down under the challenge of Richard Shaw giving Manchester United a free-kick.

Beckham's resulting shot appeared to be turned away by Coventry's teenage keeper Chris Kirkland but the decision went against the visitors.

Shortly before the half hour Manchester United turned their superior possession into a goal advantage thanks to an instinctive tap in from Andy Cole.

Beckham had chased the ball all the way down the right before firing in a hopeful cross along the ground which Cole was able to turn in.

A foul by Paul Williams on Ryan Giggs 25 yards out gave Man Utd their second on 37 minutes.

Giggs, who had shimmied his way toward the penalty area, cut across Williams but the decision went against Strachan's men.

The free-kick, not one of Beckham's best, threaded its way through the wall and although Kirkland got a hand to it he was unable to keep it out.


We created a lot of chances but at 2-0 if you start missing opportunities you can live to regret it. Fortunately I don't think Coventry had enough, with the team they had out, to come back at us at 2-1
  Sir Alex Ferguson
A minute later Coventry were almost dead and buried but Andy Cole's header was a touch high and ended up on the roof of the net.

Coventry had found it difficult to get into the final third for much of the half and only a fine defensive display from the home side prevented the deficit being any greater at half-time.

While a greater sense of urgency was visible in Coventry's play after the restart, the men in red shirts remained dominant and Strachan brought striker John Eustace into the contest in an attempt to claw back a goal.

The change increased Coventry's attacking options and shortly after the home side had their best chance when Hadji had worked a promising opening, but the through ball was just an inch too far away from the boot of Youssef Chippo.

Tempers began to fray as Coventry continued to push forward and John Eustace and Roy Keane found themselves booked for an unsightly fracas off the ball.

Coventry's renewed vigour deservedly resulted in a goal on 64 minutes lifting the spirits of players and crowd alike.

Gary Breen towered above Teddy Sheringham to head Paul Telfer's corner goalward - but the ultimate touch was credited to Ysrael Zuniga who headed in on the line.

Manchester United found themselves with chance after chance - Yorke hitting the post late on - but were unable to convert their advantage into goals and Coventry were left with a lifeline throughout the game.

Eventually they had to accept being beaten by the clock after an impressive effort under trying circumstances.

Teams:

Coventry: Kirkland, Edworthy, Williams, Shaw, Thompson, Chippo, Hadji, Breen, Guerrero, Quinn, Bothroyd. Subs: Hendry, Zuniga, Telfer, Eustace, Miller.

Man Utd: Barthez, G. Neville, Irwin, Beckham, Cole, Sheringham, Giggs, P. Neville, Keane, Scholes, Brown. Subs: Van Der Gouw, Yorke, Solskjaer, Silvestre, Chadwick.
Referee: G Poll (Tring)

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