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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
Man Utd see off Boro
Van Nistelrooy scored his first goal of the season against Middlesbrough
Van Nistelrooy scores from the penalty spot
Manchester United 1-0 Middlesbrough

Ruud van Nistelrooy's penalty ensured Manchester United were able to write headlines for the right reasons with a comfortable victory over Middlesbrough.

After four days dominated by Roy Keane's disciplinary and injury problems, United returned to on-the-field matters with their customary sense of purpose.

In truth, the match was average Premiership fare with excitement limited.

  Key moments
28 mins: Van Nistelrooy scores
45 mins: Giggs shoots narrowly wide
73 mins: Barthez saves from Boateng
Nevertheless, United were the vastly superior team and once Van Nistelrooy had scored from the spot after 28 minutes, their lead rarely seemed in danger.

Middlesbrough - who beat United twice last season - were well organised and proved hard to break down, but they lacked any sort of ambition until the final period of the game.

And United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez - making his first appearance of the season - had precious little to do.

United enjoyed the majority of the possession but - apart from a Ryan Giggs' shot after a trademark run at goal - posed little real threat until Van Nistelrooy's goal.


We made it hard for ourselves but Boro kept kept fighting
Sir Alex Ferguson
The Dutch striker was put through on goal by Giggs' deft ball over the Boro defence, but as he shot he was pulled back and referee Mike Riley awarded a penalty.

Van Nistelrooy smashed the ball into the roof of the net from the subsequent spot kick for his first goal of the season.

Replays showed that Van Nistelrooy had been pulled back by Ugo Ehiogu - and although the contact was minimal the referee was correct to award a spot kick.

Having taken the lead, United briefly threatened to overrun Boro but their intricate passing continued to lack a cutting edge.

And Boro continued to restrict the home team's attacking threat until Giggs shot narrowly wide on the stroke of half-time.

Joseph Desire-Job and Phil Neville leap for the ball
Job and Neville compete for the ball
Superb approach work from David Beckham - who went into the game carrying a calf injury - and Paul Scholes crafted a good scoring chance for Giggs after 62 minutes, but he shot wide from the penalty spot.

As the game wore on - and following United's failure to convert their dominance into goals - the visitors did grow in confidence.

Massimo Maccarone had a rare shot at goal for Boro after 68 minutes, but he was forced wide the ball flew wide of Barthez's goal.

George Boateng then almost beat Barthez with a vicious long drive after United had been guilty of over-playing the ball deep in their own half.

But United substitute Diego Forlan could have doubled the home team's lead - and scored his first Premiership goal for his club - shortly before the end but his header was saved by Mark Schwarzer.


Man Utd: Barthez, Phil Neville, Silvestre, Blanc, Ferdinand, Beckham (O'Shea 90), Veron, Butt, Giggs, Scholes (Forlan 79), Van Nistelrooy (Solskjaer 71).
Subs Not Used: Ricardo, Pugh.

Booked: Veron.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Stockdale, Ehiogu, Southgate, Cooper, Queudrue (Marinelli 72), Boateng, Geremi, Greening, Job, Maccarone (Whelan 73).
Subs Not Used: Crossley, Gavin, Wilson.

Booked: Southgate, Ehiogu.

Attendance: 67,464

Referee: M Riley (W Yorkshire).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton
"Man Utd stayed in their comfort zone"
Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
"We put too much icing on the cake"
Boro boss Steve McLaren
"We held our own"
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