Dynamo Kiev 2 Manchester United 4: Ronaldo keeps United's goal machine purring
When Manchester United defeated Roma in their last Champions League tie it was their sixth 1-0 win in eight matches. "It's a disease, I'm trying to get a vaccine for it," said Sir Alex Ferguson.
It appears an elixir has been found. This was the third successive match in which United have scored four goals. With a vibrant display of attacking football, aided and abetted by some diabolical defending, Ferguson's team moved to the brink of a place in the knockout stages.
The last time United scored more than three goals on the road in Europe they went on to win the Champions League. There remains much to do before repeating that triumph but, to illustrate their creative potential, with better finishing last night they could have exceeded the six goals they put past Brondby in Copenhagen nine years ago this week.
This was their third straight victory in Group F and United will be confident of securing a fourth in the return at Old Trafford a fortnight's hence. Should Roma also take at least a point from Sporting in Lisbon the same night United will qualify.
Early goals from Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney put United in command in the Olympic Stadium and although Kiev threatened a rally when Diogo Rincon pulled a goal back after 33 minutes, two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo either side of the break confirmed United's victory. Ismail Bangoura's reply was a mere detail.
However, the journey back from Ukraine will not have been one of unalloyed joy, for United suffered two more injuries.
Their preparation had already been disrupted by a knee injury to Paul Scholes when Patrice Evra pulled out during the warm-up with a calf injury. John O'Shea took his place at left-back with Darren Fletcher coming into the team.
The extent of Evra's injury was not immediately clear. He was named among the substitutes and sat on the bench but was wearing trainers rather than boots and was well wrapped up against the cold.
Scholes felt his knee in training late Monday evening and it was clear by yesterday morning that he was unable to play. United tried to send him home for a scan but could not get him on a flight so Scholes instead returned with the team after last night's game.
"You would like everyone fit," said Ferguson, "but injuries happen. You can't get in a stew about it. We have good strength in depth, more importantly the changes we are making are not affecting performances."
Ferguson may nonetheless be concerned. He is already without central midfielder Owen Hargreaves, who has been suffering from tendinitis, and Michael Carrick who has a broken elbow. He is also without Mikael Silvestre, the obvious deputy for Evra since Gabriel Heinze's departure for Real Madrid.
Another player who may have been brooding on the plane was Edwin van der Sar. He was substituted after being beaten from 25 yards for the final goal. Afterwards Ferguson said the goalkeeper was not injured, and he was going to make the change before the goal.
When United drew here seven years ago the crowd was supplemented by several thousand soldiers but this time the ends of this vast but ageing stadium were unoccupied. The two banks of spectators alongside the pitch were initially vociferous but United soon silenced them. They quickly assumed control of the game with Ronaldo being given plenty of chances to ruin at the Kiev defence.
In the eighth minute this led to his being brought down on the left flank by Tiberiu Ghioane. Ryan Giggs, United's only survivor from the 2000 match, delivered the free-kick and Ferdinand shrugged off the attentions of Senegalese defender Pape Diakhate to head his first goal in 42 Champions League appearances for United.
Within less than 10 minutes the visitors had doubled their lead. Ronaldo broke, fed Wes Brown on his right, and Rooney tapped in his low cross. It was the seventh goal in his last six matches for Rooney, who is 22 today.
United looked to be cruising to a facile victory but, after 33 minutes, Rincon was left free to head in a corner from his Brazilian compatriot Carlos Correa. The crowd began to work it self into a frenzy but just seven minutes later Ronaldo, again unmarked, headed in Giggs's cross.
Kiev refused to surrender and should have had a penalty after 62 minutes when Nemanja Vidic dragged down substitute Artem Milevskiy. To Kiev's fury the referee Viktor Kassai, making his debut at this level, then gave a penalty against them after Goran Gavrancic handled a Carlos Tevez cross. Ronaldo cooly converted.
Ferguson said of the goal shortage after the Roma match, "It's not a concern. The goals will come." Again he has been proved right.
Dynamo Kiev (4-2-3-1): Shovkovskiy; Ghioane (Milevskiy, h-t), Gavrancic, Diakhate, Nesmachniy; Yussuf, Correa (Rotan, 83); Gusev, Rincon, Shatskikh (Belkevich, h-t); Bangoura. Substitutes not used: Rybka (gk), Vaschuk, El Kaddouri, Markovic.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar (Kuszczak, 80); Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, O'Shea; Ronaldo, Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs (Simpson, 80); Tevez (Nani, 73), Rooney. Substitutes not used: Pique, Evans, Evra, Eagles.
Referee: V Kassai (Hungary).
Results: Roma 2 Dynamo Kiev 0; Sporting Lisbon 0 Manchester Utd 1; Dynamo Kiev 1 Sporting Lisbon 2; Manchester Utd 1 Roma 0; Dynamo Kiev 2 Manchester Utd 4; Roma 2 Sporting Lisbon 1.
Remaining fixtures: 7 Nov: Manchester Utd v Dynamo Kiev; Sporting v Roma. 27 Nov: Dynamo Kiev v Roma; Manchester Utd v Sporting. 12 Dec: Roma v Manchester Utd; Sporting v Dynamo Kiev.