United’s show of strength

It was for the fifth time in the past six matches that Manchester United had scored four goals, and the feat was made even more impressive given that it was an experimental side, writes Daniel Taylor.

Manchester United have gone through Group F like a team in a hurry and on this form they will be in a rush, too, to begin the next phase of the competition. Sir Alex Ferguson’s team look like a side who mean business and their immaculate record in this season’s competition was never going to be endangered by opponents with Dynamo Kiev’s limitations.

United’s domination was such that Wayne Rooney, now with nine goals in his last nine games, complained that he had been “bored” with winning so easily.

Ferguson will never find tedium in the routine of 4-0 victories. This was the fifth time in the past six matches United had scored four goals and the feat was made even more impressive on the night of November 7 given that it was an experimental side, incorporating two 20-year-old reserves in defence.

One of them, Gerard Pique, can reflect on a particularly satisfying evening’s work, setting United on the way with his first goal for the club. Carlos Tevez doubled the lead before half-time before Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo added the final flourish on an evening of such superiority that Ferguson could afford to rest, among others, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves.

Kiev had not won a point in their preceding three group games and to trace their last victory in the Champions League one has to go back to November 2004 or, outside their country, to March 2000.

Pique, who spent last season on loan at Real Zaragoza and impressed the Spanish club so much that they offered £7m to sign him on a long-term basis, was making his first start in the Champions League and it will matter little to the former Barcelona youth player that his goal could have been ruled out for an earlier offside. Ronaldo had whipped in a free-kick and Michael Carrick’s glancing header had ricocheted off Tevez to the far post, where Pique was first to react.

Until that point, United’s performance had been, at best, six out of 10 but Kiev obligingly capitulated and six minutes later Ferguson could relax. This time Tevez won the ball in the centre circle and set off towards goal, running at the heart of the Ukraine defence. A swift exchange of passes with Rooney was followed by a shot which was too powerful for a poor goalkeeper, Olexandr Shovkovskiy, even though he got his fingertips to the ball.

The result was such a formality now that Ferguson brought on his substitute goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak at half-time and Edwin van der Sar, 11 years older than any of his team-mates, passed the captain’s armband to Nemanja Vidic.

Kuszczak was at least required to do something that had not been required of Van der Sar: to make a save. Yet there was never any hint of a comeback and there were half a dozen opportunities for United to make it 3-0 before Rooney swept in the third from Nani’s right-wing delivery.

Tevez had made way for Louis Saha by that point and the Frenchman seemed eager to impress against a tiring defence. Kiev were looking as ragged as Besiktas at Anfield the night before and, a minute from the end, Ronaldo picked up the ball on the left wing, cut infield and lashed in a diagonal shot to conclude the scoring.


November 7: Barcelona 2 (Henry 7, Messi 43) bt Rangers 0. Half-time: 2-0; Fenerbahce 2 (Kazim-Richards 28, Senturk 30) bt PSV 0. Half-time: 2-0; Inter Milan 4 (Ibrahimovic 32 & 75, Cambiasso 33 & 67) bt CSKA Moscow 2 (Jo 22, Vagner Love 30). Half-time: 2-2; Lyon 4 (Ben Arfa 5 & 37, Kallstrom 15, Juninho 90) bt VfB Stuttgart 2 (Gomez 16 & 56). Half-time: 3-1; Manchester United 4 (Pique 31, Tevez 37, Rooney 76, Ronaldo 88) bt Dynamo Kiev 0. Half-time: 2-0; Slavia Prague 0 drew with Arsenal 0; Sporting 2 (Liedson 23 & 64) drew with Roma 2 (Cassetti 4, Pizarro 89). Half-time: 1-1; Steaua Bucharest 0 lost to Sevilla 2 (Renato 25 & 65). Half-time: 0-1.

November 6: Celtic 1 (McGeady 45) bt Benfica 0. Half-time: 1-0; FC Porto 2 (Sektioui 27, Lopez 78) bt Marseille 1 (Niang 47). Half-time: 1-0; Lazio 2 (Rocchi pen-57 & 68) bt Werder Bremen 1 (Diego pen-89). Half-time: 0-0; Liverpool 8 (Crouch 19 & 89, Benayoun 32, 53 & 56, Gerrard 69, Babel 79 & 81) bt Besiktas 0. Half-time: 2-0; Olympiakos 0 drew with Real Madrid 0; Schalke-04 0 drew with Chelsea 0; Shakhtar 0 lost to AC Milan 3 (Inzaghi 66 & 90, Kaka 72). Half-time: 0-0; Valencia 0 lost to Rosenborg 2 (Iversen 31 & 58). Half-time: 0-1.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007