Bolton Wanderers 2 v 2 Manchester United
Reebok Stadium, Bolton
11th August 2004
Manchester United dropped further behind Arsenal in the race for the Premiership crown after a disastrous and disappointing game away at Bolton.
Bolton always seem to do well against United, despite having a team made up of less-than-inspiring players. They obviously work harder against United than they do against other teams.
The game was not one for the faint-hearted, with tackles flying in as both teams fought to win the midfield battle, and it needed a strong and competent Referee to keep a check of the situation - unfortunately Steve Messias was neither. He awarded in error Bolton the two free-kicks from which they scored.
Despite United having the lions share of possession, they failed to create enough chances for Van Nistelrooy and Smith. Kleberson was, once again, ineffective when United were in possession.
Just before half-time United got a goal. New signing Gabriel Heinze flicked the ball into the net after Silvestre headed a Giggs corner-kick back accross goal. Heinze looked impressive on his debut, and looks set to have a fine career as United's left back.
After half-time Bolton weren rejuvenated. They began to ranckle United and had the better of the play. They equalised when an Okocha long-shot deflected off Kevin Nolan and past Howard.
And they took the lead in the ninetieth minute when Howard fumbled a headed back-pass under pressure. The ball spun around the area until Ferdinand - of Bolton - finally took control and slotted home.
Typical of United, they didn't give up. The Reds surged forward in wave after wave of attacking play. Eventually the pressure paid off. A Ronaldo cross was headed into the thick of things by Smith, and Bellion somehow scrambled the ball into the net before running off in wild celebration.
A draw against Bolton is not, however, something to celebrate.
Cristiano Ronaldo played for the last half-an-hour after being rested to try and cure a long-standing groin injury. But when he came on he changed the game. He hit the crossbar with a great shot from distance, and was a persistant threat to Bolton.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, N'Gotty, Jaidi, Barness, Campo, Nolan, Okocha, Speed (Hierro 87), Pedersen (Diouf 45), Davies (Ferdinand 75).
Subs Not Used: Oakes, Ben Haim.
Booked: Okocha, Hunt.
Goals: Nolan 52, Ferdinand 90.
Man Utd: Howard, Phil Neville, Brown, Silvestre, Heinze, Kleberson (Ronaldo 64), Keane, Scholes, Giggs, van Nistelrooy (Bellion 74), Smith
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Djemba-Djemba, Spector.
Goals: Heinze 44, Bellion 90.
Ref: M Messias (S Yorkshire) .