Stuttgart 2 - Manchester United 1

Wednesday 1st October
Gottlieb-Daimler, Stuttgart

Fresh from their "best performance of the season", according to Sir Alex, United were humbled by a hard-working but average German side.

The passing that was there on Saturday was never on cue throughout the match, with the game having poor fluency and little action. Maybe Manchester were too cautious in their approach, as they created few real chances in the first half, despite having control of the tempo.

Indeed, it was the Germans who went closest, with Szabics heading over from close range, and Howard being tested with a full-length dive just before the end of a dour first half.

The second started brighter, with the Germans attacking the ball with belief. From a corner, Howard jumped to claim the ball, only for it to slip though his fingers and head towards goal. Scholes headed off the line, but it was a lucky escape for the Reds. It wasn't long before Stuttgart's controlled-aggression and hard running was rewarded.

A well-timed throughball picked out Szabics, and the 22 year old Hungarian slotted the ball past Howard from outside the area. The German fans went wild, whilst Fergie sat back down in his seat and gave a resolute look. We had come back from a goal down before, we could do it again.

But, just a minute later, the defence were at sixes and sevens again. Gary Neville lost the ball in their half, but the lightning fast break by the Germans left him in no-mans land. With an advantage of numbers for Stuttgart, the ball was played crisply across to Kuranyi. He and Howard both went for the ball, with the young German managing to pick it up over Howard's head. The ball took no time at all to hit the underside of the bar and crash over the line, for the second goal in as many minutes. Keano did his best to keep the Reds fighting. A tactical change by Fergie brought about the start of Manchester United's comeback. Giggs went up front, as Fortune took his place on the left wing, Ronaldo moving onto the right.

It was a Giggs pass across the box that deserved a goal. The ball rolled along the six yard line, and was knocked on to the post by van Nistelrooy. The ball came back off the post and into Gary Neville's feet. Ronaldo had made his way to the ball, and was on his way away from the goal to cross back in, when the 'keeper pushed him over from behind.

The ensuing penalty was fired home by Van Nistelrooy who chose power over placement.

As it turned out, United were unable to find a second, and were unable to repay Howard for his stunning penalty save that kept United in with a shout. To cap it all off, Rio limped off with five minutes to go. Ferguson was less than impressed with the defence.

VfB Stuttgart: Hildebrand, Hinkel, Lahm (Gerber 71), Meira, Bordon, Hleb (Meissner 87), Vranjes (Tiffert 73), Soldo, Heldt, Szabics, Kuranyi.

Subs Not Used: Heinen, Amanatidis, Centurion, Cacau.

Booked: Tiffert.

Manchester United: Howard; Gary Neville, O'Shea (Fortune 65), Silvestre, Ferdinand (Forlan 82); Phil Neville, Keane, Scholes, Ronaldo (Fletcher 90); van Nistelrooy, Giggs.

Subs Not Used: Carroll, Butt, Bellion, Djemba-Djemba.

Booked: Gary Neville.

Attendance: 53,000

Referee: Cosimo Bolognino (Italy).