The Only Flawless Team
United scored four again as they destroyed Dynamo Kiev without getting out of first gear.
Seeing Gerard Pique and Danny Simpson in the starting line-up confirmed that Sir Alex Ferguson isn't exactly scared of the prospect of facing the Ukrainian title holders (who are almost certain to lose their title to Sahtar, by the way...).
And he had little reason to be afraid. The midfield duo of Hargreaves and Anderson, working seamlessly in the last two games, was replaced by Fletcher and Carrick who also did their job efficiently, without any fuss.
The visitors' attacking ambitions can be summarised easily: none at all. Quite simply, for most of the first half they had eleven men behind the ball, man-marking all of our stars who seemed very reluctant to run or concentrate or work hard. I can't blame them: the gulf in quality was so glaringly obvious that they could be more or less certain that a goal would come.
It arrived in controversial circumstances as Vidic appeared to block Shovkovsy's line of sight in an offside position at Pique's header but this should not take away from the glory of the young Spaniard's first Champions League goal. It was reported that he wanted away in the summer - surely he's not regretting staying now.
It was all over because the Ukrainians could not mount a single threatening attack in the first half so it was clear United would win this game now. Then Tevez, doing nothing at all for 37 minutes, won the ball at the halfway line, sprinted forward, knocked it to Rooney who played him in with a clever flick and after controlling the ball, he fired into the net from 15 yards. Another quality goal.
Edwin van der Sar was taken off at halft-ime - presumably because of boredom and stiffening limbs due to the cold - and Kuszczak was surprised by the fact that Dynamo actually came forward and even had shots so the Polish keeper was forced to make two saves. But it was United, still not out of first gear, who created the bigger chances and had Tevez been more decisive, we would have been three up before long.
Eventually the third goal arrived but not before Evra showed some fantastic skill on the left only for Ronaldo's shot to be saved by Shovkovsky... Simpson could have smashed home his first ever Champions League goal but fired straight at the keeper again.
So, on to that third goal: it was really wonderfully simple. Saha created space for himself in the middle, chipped the ball out wide to Nani who looked up, delivered a great cross which Rooney turned into the net without difficulty. It topped the first goal for quality but United haven't reached their peak yet: it came on 88 minutes when Evra's magnificent pass released Ronaldo on the left, the winger produced a delicate piece of skill to beat his marker and unleashed a shot into the far corner.
It wasn't a good performance, actually. We played far better at the Emirates, with more commitment, skill and drive. But it was enough against the worst team of Champions League 07/08. And our goals were of great quality yet again.