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 Friday, 27 December, 2002, 07:31 GMT
Man Utd back on track
David Beckham helps Diego Forlan celebrate
David Beckham helps Diego Forlan celebrate his goal
Manchester United 2-0 Birmingham City

A fine team performance put Manchester United back on track after a poor start to the festive period.

After dominating possession, a well-worked move and Diego Forlan's eighth goal of the season put the home side in control.

When Manchester United have their big aircraft flying they are a wonderful team

Blues' boss Steve Bruce

And a delightfully cool chip from David Beckham with 17 minutes to go sealed the points for Sir Alex Ferguson's men.

Birmingham coped well with a side which had clearly been stung by back-to-back defeats.

But despite several second-half chances, Steve Bruce's battling Birmingham succumbed to a technically-superior side.

Forlan on fire
37 mins: Forlan finish gives United the lead
55 mins: Kirovski header cleared on line by Barthez
65 mins: Aliou Cisse has point-blank header saved by Barthez
73 mins: Beckham puts Man Utd 2-0 up

Four changes to the home side saw Ruud van Nistelrooy out because of injury, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville left on the bench, and Laurent Blanc left out full stop.

Rio Ferdinand replaced Blanc and David Beckham made his first start since the start of November.

And the changes freshened up a United attack which put the Birmingham back four under pressure from the start.

The Blues struggled to defend four corners in five minutes - but Stan Lazaridis and Robbie Savage managed to make crucial clearances.

Former Man Utd captain Steve Bruce signs an autograph for a young fan
Steve Bruce returned to Old Trafford for the first time in six years
Towards the end of the half though, Birmingham began to settle - Devlin and Lazaridis attempting long-range shots.

But their increased confidence was ultimately their undoing.

Wes Brown won the ball in his own penalty area and a sublime breaking move begun by John O'Shea, Paul Scholes, and Juan Veron resulted in a Silvestre cross, a Beckham nod-down at the far post and a good finish from Forlan.

Bruce's half-time talk clearly had some impact on his players and his resilient side started the second half brightly.

It would have been a travesty if we had not won but we have Fabien Barthez to thank for the fact that we got there

Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Their first chance came 10 minutes after the break - Paul Devlin swung in a cross which Jovan Kirovski met at the far post - his header almost crossed the line but was just kept out by United keeper Fabien Barthez.

Barthez was again forced to pull off a magnificent save when he stopped a point-blank header from Aliou Cisse.

But Manchester United gradually won back possession and Beckham found himself one-on-one with Nico Vaesen after 73 minutes.

He hit the back of the net with an impressively subtle chip - as the fight finally went out of Birmingham.


Man Utd: Barthez, Brown, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Beckham, Keane (Giggs 85), Veron, Scholes (Richardson 75), Forlan, Solskjaer (Phil Neville 76).
Subs Not Used: Ricardo, Gary Neville.

Booked: Brown.

Birmingham: Vaesen, Kenna, Cunningham (Powell 63), Michael Johnson, Sadler (Woodhouse 68), Devlin, Savage, Cisse, Lazaridis (Horsfield 50), Morrison, Kirovski.
Subs Not Used: Bennett, Hughes.

Booked: Kenna, Cisse.

Attendance: 67,640

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Five Live's John Murray
"Man Utd created so many chances"
 Man Utd's Sir Alex Ferguson
"The performance was excellent"
 Birmingham boss Steve Bruce
"It's a wonderful place to go back to"
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