Manchester United cruised into the last 16 of the Champions League with a remarkable 5-0 triumph at Bayer Leverkusen’s BayArena fortress.
The Bundesliga outfit were strongly tipped to cause the Reds a host of problems but were dismantled in front of their home fans, who had hoped to see their own side clinch qualification. Wayne Rooney was involved in four of the goals while Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia also sparkled throughout. Valencia, an Emir Spahic own goal, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Nani registered on the scoresheet for an emphatic win – the biggest away success in European Cup since hammering Shamrock Rovers 6-0 in 1957.
It took 16 minutes for United to post a first real attempt on goal but the threat was ever-present once Nani curled over the bar from Ryan Giggs’ intelligent pass. When Bayer responded, Evans produced a marvellous goal-saving challenge after Stefan Kiessling dribbled past Rio Ferdinand and it proved vital with the opener coming seconds later when the visitors cleared the corner.
Shinji Kagawa dispossessed Stefan Reinartz and the ball was fed to Rooney via Giggs. The striker’s cross from the left was too high for Kagawa but Valencia arrived at the far post to sneak the ball home off the upright to follow up his strike in the first encounter between the two clubs back in September.
Rooney was again the provider from the left-hand side when his free-kick was back-headed into his own net by Spahic with the centre-back under pressure from Smalling and Evans. The Reds were rampant and Kagawa was unable to find a finish to match a penetrative run through the middle while Valencia worked Bernd Leno as the interval approached.
Kagawa received a clattering challenge from keeper Leno when bidding to extend the advantage in the second half before Nani fired wide after a swift interchange of passes with the alert Rooney. Reinartz headed against the woodwork with Rooney grounded and appealing for a foul from a corner but it proved a rare scare with Rooney unlucky to bend a drive wide after knocking the ball through Simon Rolfes’ legs.
The points were sealed on 65 minutes when Giggs’ corner was headed on by Evra for Rooney to force a sprawling save out of Leno. Evans reacted quickest to the rebound to smuggle the ball in for a third. There was no let-up from David Moyes’ side and lofted passes by Kagawa and Rooney led to Smalling getting in on the act by netting from close range.
It always looked like getting worse for Leverkusen but Leno dived to pull off a one-handed stop to thwart Jones and substitute Anderson was unable to finish off Nani’s inviting pass. A fifth goal did arrive two minutes from the end when Giggs’ through ball was chested past Leno by Nani and the Portuguese winger produced an exquisite finish with the outside of his right foot, jabbing the ball in from an acute angle.
David De Gea was given a chance to show his class when denying Eren Derdiyok. United need a point against Shakhtar Donetsk in the final Group A game to qualify in first place. Following this result, confidence will surely be sky-high for the Reds.
And the Reds go marching on on on!
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