Man Utd v Europe XI on BBC3 last night (13/3/07) Did anyone record the game?
Wayne Rooney set the tone for an entertaining game with the opening goal in the 6th minute, after sprinting through a porous backline to pick up Paul Scholes' sliderule pass.
Europe XI goalkeeper Santiago Canizares raced to meet the Reds striker at the edge of the box but was thrown off-balance by Rooney's fine dummy and then beaten by his cool finish.
Wes Brown doubled United's lead in the 9th minute when he stretched to stab in Ryan Giggs' low cross at the far post. But again the beauty was in the build-up, a drag-back by Giggs fooling Gattuso at the near post following the Reds' short corner.
Two Europe defenders had four United attackers flying at them in the 16th minute but they breathed again when the man in possession Ronaldo drilled a shot wide instead of playing in Rooney, Ji-sung Park or Alan Smith.
Scholes almost claimed his second assist moments later when he picked out Giggs' run and floated a ball onto the Welshman's toe. Only the width of the near post denied Ryan from crowning the move, before a defender blocked Park's rebound effort.
The two goalkeepers were tested as play swung from one end at the halfway point of the first 45. First, Canizares was equal to Rooney's effort, delaying a third United goal. Then Tomas Kuszczak was stretching in vain as Florent Malouda's rasping left-foot drive whistled past his fingertips
from 25 yards, following cultured approach work by Milan playmaker Andrea Pirlo. French international Malouda beamed as the scoreboard showed United 2, Europe XI 1.
The Reds restored their two-goal cushion in glorious style just 12 minutes later when Park's trickery drew a foul in the perfect position for Ronaldo, 30 yards out and central. Canizares barely moved as the Portuguese flyer fired the free-kick over the wall, but motion might have been futile anyway as the shot swerved wickedly to the right.
When Wes Brown wrapped his right leg around Ibrahimovic to bring down the big Inter Milan striker in the 38th minute, the Stretford End braced itself for a farewell goal from Henrik Larsson. But to the chagrin of the home faithful, Brown's victim insisted on taking the spot-kick himself, denying Larsson. The same fans jeered when Ibrahimovic blasted the penalty against Kuszczak's crossbar.
Cheers followed the jeers when Rooney wrapped up an impressive opening period with a six-yard tap-in from Park's first-time cross. Again Ronaldo was involved, making a stirring run from the centre circle and shrugging off Gattuso's challenge before laying the ball off to the Korean on United's right flank. Half-time: United 4 Europe XI 1.
Fourteen substitutions were made at half-time. The two prompting the biggest reactions from the crowd were Liverpool's Steven Gerrard on for Europe XI - roundly booed - and the rather more welcome introduction of ex-Reds star Andrew Cole in place of Wayne Rooney.
Every touch by Gerrard or his Anfield colleague Jamie Carragher was booed by sections of the crowd, and the entire stadium might have joined in had the Liverpool skipper's early strike not been deflected wide for a corner.
Another corner, following a near miss by Larsson, led to a polished second goal for Europe XI. Bolton's El Hadji Diouf started and finished the move, taking the corner short and seconds later popping up at the near post to profit from Stefanovic's header back across goal and nod past United's substitute goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
France's number one Gregory Coupet had two fierce shots to cope with as he settled into the fray and he dealt far better with Scholes' effort, diving to clutch it, than he did with Richardson's, which he spilled onto the post before picking up at the second attempt.
The next goalmouth activity was fashioned in the United area by Scholes, unwittingly - or was it? TV replays failed to show if the midfielder grinned after dribbling around his own penalty spot and leaving Heaton exposed with an awful backpass. Fortunately the young keeper passed the test, to block Kim Kallstrom's close-range shot.
However, Heaton couldn't save the game's second penalty in the 88th minute, scored cheekily by Diouf after Heinze handled a pass from Gerrard. The Bolton player dinked the ball down the middle and it bounced once before creeping over the line.
The handful of mid-half substitutions were notable for Larsson's standing ovation as he left the field and the boos for his replacement, another Liverpool man Robbie Fowler. Also, for Dong Fangzhou getting his first taste of the Old Trafford atmosphere as he came on for Alan Smith for the last 19 minutes or so.
And what an atmosphere it was too, albeit more party-like than it would be for a competitive match in Europe. Hard to imagine, for example, that Mexican waves will again reverberate around all four stands and three tiers when Roma come to Old Trafford for next month's Champions League quarter-final.
But if a delighted Sir Alex Ferguson can carry any elements of this carnival night into that
crucial game, he'll take the free-flowing football of the first half. In particular, the ever-youthful exuberance of Giggs, the passing artistry of Scholes and those fine goals scored by Rooney (2), Ronaldo and Brown.
Starting Line-ups (all substitutions made at half-time except where stated)
United: Kuszczak (Heaton), Neville (O'Shea), Brown, Heinze, Richardson, Ronaldo (Eagles), Scholes, Giggs (Carrick), Park, Rooney (Andrew Cole - guest), Smith (Dong, 72).
Europe XI: Canizares (Coupet), Zambrotta (Campo, 64), Ayala (Stefanovic), Materazzi (Christanval), Abidal (Kallstrom), Mancini (Gerrard), Pirlo (Stelios), Gattuso (Carragher), Malouda (Diouf), Ibrahimovic (Zenden), Larsson (Fowler, 64).
I didnt even watch till the end cos they were all just trottin about.
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