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Man Utd 5-2 Maccabi Haifa

In many ways this season has carried on from the last one; dodgy results in the league alongside high scoring European nights. This performance was solid and clinical, with many players out to proove a point.

Haifa must be given some praise, however. Their support was as good as any that we had seen, with over 5000 travelling over from Israel. The noise and colour eminating from the away end was a credit to the travelling fans. On the pitch, their players were fast and dangerous coming fowards, and they came to play good football, not just to defend.

Haifa took the lead with a great team goal, although Rio’s positioning must be questioned. It was a wake up call to United, who took only minutes to equalise thanks to a glancing header from Giggsy. Ryan has been the subject of a fair bit of criticism from supporters and fazines in recent weeks, but his performance last night will have silenced many critics. His running, energy, enthusiasm and tackling bewildered the Israelis, and cut them apart many times.

From the moment United got back level there was only ever going to be one winner. It was only a matter of time before United took the lead, and Ole superbly finished off a move in which Ruud’s perceptive vision deserves much credit. The Israeli fans were silenced, and the Stretford End came to life once more. At half time United fully deserved their lead, with special praise reserved for Giggsy and John O’Shea.

After singing throughout half time in the concourses, we made our way back to the seats for the second half. No sooner had we settled down than Veron had added his name ot the scoresheet. It took only 25 seconds of the second half for the Argentine to smash home United’s third, and it will help to raise his confidence after a year of criticism.

By now the result had been settled. United looked in no danger of throwing away a two goal lead, and the match became about giving certain players confidence. First on the list was Ruud, who needed a goal to raise his game. He became the focus of every attck and it was not long before Veron’s excellent long pass came to him, and he slotted home. Immediately Giggs was taken off and Forlan came on, desperate for he first goal in red.

Despite looking lively he was unable to take his chances; one sailed over the bar whilst the keeper held the other. It was Haifa who were next to score, Rio’s error again allowing sub Cohen to give the travelling fans reason to celebrate.

At 4-2 with one minute left to play Becks was fouled, and the ref pointed to the penalty spot. With the dame sewn up the Stretford End called for Diego to take it, with the song “We all know that Diego’s going to score” echoing from the stands. He took a short run up and slotted it right into the corner sending Old Trafford wild.

With seven goals scored this game can only be described as entertaining. And with Veron, Ruud and Diego scoring, confidence must have been boosted. Credit to Haifa for their determination and support, but they never looked up to denying United victory. As we left the ground a rendition of “Are you watching Merseyside?” sent a little reminder that Liverpool had failed to win the night before. Now United must take this form back into the league and get a result against Spurs.

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