Manchester United 2 Stuttgart 0

Old Trafford, Manchester
Tuesday 9th December

Manchester United completely dominated yet another game of football, and yet didn't get anywhere near their awesome best. Despite rarely getting out of second gear, United kept possession for long spells, and reserve keeper Roy Carroll had only a handful of touches throughout the game.

Carroll was playing so that Timmy Howard could be rested for the big game a local derby against city-rivals Manchester City. Sir Alex also chose to leave Roy Keane off the team, but even without their midfield workhorse, United looked incredibly solid defensively. Kleberson and Ronaldo were both kept well away from the action, with Sir Alex believing that their flair and intricate ball control would be wasted against a German team that have conceded only 3 goals in the German league this season.

The game kicked-off, and quickly got up to pace. United created lots of chances for Ruud van Nistelrooy, but the Dutch superstar was unlikely to score from them. Nonetheless, he fired several warning shots to Timo Hildebrand (The German keeper, who is very highly regarded).

After 45 minutes of attacking play, the Reds looked likely to be going into the dressing room without having converted any of their great passing and possession into goals. In the final attack of the half, Giggs skipped past a few defenders, before lofting the ball into the box, where van Nistelrooy cushioned the ball past the German keeper with his head. The header came so late in the first half that there wasn't even time to kick off before half-time.

The second half followed pretty much the same script. The United midfield harried the Germans, and took hold of the game once more. Clever passing and movement meant that the Reds sliced through the German defence with seeming ease.

About 15 minutes into the second half, United sealed victory. Their second goal was also created and finished by Messrs Giggs and van Nistelrooy, but this time they swapped roles. The Dutchman held off two tackles on the half-way line, before sending a perfect through-ball for Giggs to race on to. Giggs had acres of space and charged towards goal with the ball at his feet before slotting it coolly past Hildebrand.

Sir Alex knew his team had done enough, and began to take yet further measures to keep his best players fit for Saturday's crunch game. He took off Giggs and van Nistelrooy after 70 minutes had gone, and Paul Scholes a player who had been integral in much of Uniteds play was taken off ten minutes later.

Without that trio, United certainly looked a worse team. Albeit because the Reds were happy to watch the clock tick down, there was a sudden lethargy to the play, and fans began to get the feeling that United weren't going to score again.

Forlan, who had come on for van Nistelrooy, had one or two chances to finish, but sent one miserably wide from 6 yards, and didn't even make contact with the ball for his second.

Typically, in this match report I have barely mentioned the defence. That's probably because they've been playing extremely well all season! They have been proven excellent at snuffing out the few chances the opposition team make. They recorded yet another clean sheet, and conceded the fewest goals in the Champions League out of all the teams in the competition!

United qualified for the next round of the Champions League by topping their group.

Man Utd: Carroll, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Fletcher, Phil Neville, Scholes (Djemba-Djemba 79), Fortune, Van Nistelrooy (Forlan 71), Giggs (Bellion 70).

Subs not used: Howard, Butt, Kleberson, Keane.

Booked: Scholes, Fortune.

VfB Stuttgart: Hildebrand, Hinkel, Meira, Wenzel, Lahm, Soldo, Vranjes (Tiffert 45), Heldt, Hleb (Centurion 76), Kuranyi, Szabics (Cacau 45).

Subs not used: Heinen, Meissner, Amanatidis, Gerber.

Attendance: 67,141.

Referee: Eric Poulat (France).