Panathinaikos 0 1 Manchester United

Nikoladis Stadium, Greece
Wednesday 26th November

A much changed Manchester United team appeared on Wednesday night in the Champions League, with Sir Alex choosing to rest many of his big name players so that they'd all be fit for Sunday's game against Chelsea. The line-out included youngsters Fletcher and Ronaldo, and a lone Diego Forlan playing upfront.

United needed only a single point or draw to qualify for the next stages of the Champions League though a win would make finishing on top of the group less of a challenge (And they could thus avoid bigger teams in the next round).

The game began brightly, with Ronaldo showing the Panathinaikos players that he wasn't scared of them. He made many mazy runs past the beleaguered Markus Munch, who was supposed to be marking him! But for all the penetrative twists and turns made by the Reds, United struggled to get the final ball into the box, and didn't create many real goalscoring opportunities.

United dominated the game from start to finish, with a solid looking midfield ensuring that the defenders were hardly called upon. When Howard and his back four were called into action, they gave their usual commitment and professionalism, and, typically of the United defensive unit this season, kept another shut-out.

The Greek defence was not even nearly as solid. Giggs, Ronaldo, Forlan, Kleberson and Fletcher found weaknesses in their back-line, but neither was able to capitalise on their chances.

The game was 0-0 at half time. The best chances had fallen to Diego, but twice he'd fired wide.

The second half was equally demanding for the United team with little to do at the back, but not doing enough up front to get past the seven or eight members of the Greek team who were now happily playing for a draw.

United pressed on, and kept the ball in the opposition half of the pitch for minutes on end. The Reds looked comfortable with keeping possession, and passing the ball around, like a wild cat - waiting for the right moment to pounce.

Sir Alex still didn't want to play his best cards. Instead of bringing on Ruud, he opted for the less experienced striker in David Bellion to come on when he wanted to change formation to a 4-4-2.

Bellion was the man that pushed the game in United's favour, with his blistering pace adding further problems to the Greek defence to worry about.

With 6 minutes left on the clock, Bellion made a surging run. The ball eventually fell to a grateful Uruguayan. Forlan had been guilty of missing a few chances earlier on in the game, but he was perfectly positioned to hammer the ball home from close range. It was his 5th goal in his last 6 Manchester United appearances a goalscoring record even Ruud van Nistelrooy would be proud of!

United kept possession of the ball for the last five minutes, securing their place in the next phase of the Champions League in the process.

Panathinaikos: Nikopolidis, Seitaridis, Henriksen, Goumas, Munch, Sanmartean (Epalle 45), Basinas, Zutautas, Maric, Konstantinou (Vlaovic 75), Papadopoulos (Sapanis 83).

Subs Not Used: Warzycha, Konstantinidis, Michaelsen, Kotsolis.

Booked: Munch, Goumas.

Man Utd: Howard, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Fortune, Fletcher (Bellion 74), Kleberson, Butt, Ronaldo, Giggs, Forlan.

Subs Not Used: Carroll, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, van Nistelrooy, Pugh, Tierney.

Booked: Ferdinand.

Attendance: 16,000

Referee: Jan Wegereef (Holland).