Belfast Telegraph

Red Devils make it a party to remember

Glentoran 0 Manchester United 3

By Chris Holt

The Manchester United circus rolled into east Belfast last night, and rolled back out again leaving almost everyone with a smile on their face.

A 3-0 victory told the story of their dominance but it mattered little as Glentoran's 125th anniversary celebrations were hardly spoiled - a huge cash windfall brought in by a sell-out crowd at a packed-out Oval more than making up for the scoreline.

And a decent display on the pitch will have warmed manager Alan McDonald.

A strong squad was brought over - though Sir Alex Ferguson stayed in Manchester to help his wife move house - with England duo Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick and newcomers Nani and Anderson among the star turns.

Even the Glentoran team were a little taken aback by the class and were guilty of trying to be as casual as their much superior counterparts when, after just five minutes, United went into the lead.

Colin Nixon had the ball in his own box and dwelt too long allowing Lee Martin to dispossess him and cross from the byline for Fraizer Campbell to volley home acrobatically.

Nine minutes later it was two as the east Belfast men found it difficult to stem the intense flow of attacks that cascaded into their half.

In one quick swoop the ball went from the United half to the Glentoran box via the clinical right foot of Campbell and Evra turned sharply before firing into the far corner from just inside the area.

The Glens have played some top-quality sides during this pre-season including Spanish giants Espanyol, but what United brought to the anniversary celebrations was a class above any side that has graced the immaculate turf at the Oval for many, many years.

Their skill level was phenomenal, with more than a couple of players picking up the step-over mantle in the absence of Ronaldo, who was left in Manchester to rest an ankle knock, and the pace at which they pressed forward was simply frightening.

It was Glentoran's party, but the Premier League champions were the ones doing the entertaining.

Alan McDonald's side were, unsurprisingly, no match but their effort couldn't be faulted. Just when they thought they'd stuck their finger in the dam, another spurt of genius shot through – this time in the shape of new sensation Nani.

On 36 minutes with nothing on and little to aim at, the brilliant Portuguese looked up and shot amazingly into the top corner from 25 yards at an angle.

He capped it off with his trademark somersault which wowed the crowd - though Sir Alex Ferguson, who banned the sensational celebration, won't be too happy if he was watching on television while packing up his hairdryer. But while the cat's away....

After the break, an almost completely new team emerged in the black of Glentoran as McDonald gave everyone their chance to play against some of the world's top players. Only skipper Leeman and goalkeeper Michael Dougherty were saved from the cull.

That pairing were heavily involved in United's first chance of the second half as Anderson's free-kick was beaten away into the path of Martin whose attempt to lob the keeper was foiled by an overhead kick off the line by Leeman, who was named Glentoran's man-of-the-match by sponsors.

Glentoran were much better after the changes and had a renewed vigour in their play

They had a bit more pace about them though perhaps the Old Trafford kingpins had taken their foot off the pedal.

That said, Michael Ward was a real threat, as was United fan Michael Halliday, while Gary Smyth was a steadying influence at the back.

Halliday's cross to BJ McMenamin should have yielded a goal late on as the striker beat a path to the line but the young winger failed to make proper contact.

It would have been the icing on the cake on a superb night - but then, there will hardly have been too many complaints.

GLENTORAN: Dougherty, Nixon, Leeman, Carson, Hill, Scullion, Simpson, Fitzgerald, Fordyce, Hamilton, Hamill. Subs: McFrederick, Neill, McCann, Smyth, Halliday, McGovern, Adamczyk, Berry, McMenamin, Morgan, Glendinning, M Ward.

MANCHESTER UNITED: Heaton, Simpson, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, O'Shea, Nani, Carrick, Campbell, Anderson, Martin. Subs: Gibson, Dong, Lea.

Referee: Adrian McCourt (Bangor)

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