Manchester United FC comprehensively outplayed Olympiakos Piraeus FC at Old Trafford in their UEFA Champions League Group F encounter to maintain their 100 per cent record in this season's competition.
The visitors never looked like ending the goal drought that has seen them fail to score, let alone win a game, on English soil in six attempts, while United seemed capable of finding a higher gear whenever it was required.
Things looked bleak for Olympiakos before kick-off, with United in confident mood and their fears were confirmed in a first half that United dominated from beginning to end – with Juan Sebastián Verón capping a fantastic performance with the goal of the night.
The game got off to a frantic start and both sides had chances to take the lead. First David Beckham's flicked header from a Ryan Giggs corner was cleared off the line. Then, at the other end, Peter Oforiquaye was given a sight of goal, but he sent his shot wide of Fabien Barthez's left-hand post.
On 19 minutes, with United at their poorest in the first half, Giggs scored. The goal came after good work by Paul Scholes on the left, but the finish owed as much to luck as talent. The ball bobbled kindly to Giggs only eight metres out, and he shot ino the net.
If the first goal had an element of fortune about it, the second was pure class. Verón played an ambitious one-two with David Beckham in the centre circle on 26 minutes, and the Argentinian midfield player lobbed the ball over the advancing Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos with style.
Frustration boiled over
With a two-goal cushion, United looked imperious. They retained the ball with ease, much to the frustration of Olympiakos's battling midfield.
Zé Elias sent off
This frustration boiled over with half-time approaching as first Giorgios Anatolakis and then Christian Karembeu were booked for late challenges, only for Zé Elias to go even further and be sent off for a rash challenge on Verón with the interval whistle seconds away.
Giggs scores again
The second half did not quite have the edge of the first, as United took their foot off the gas. With the game drifting away, it was Giggs who brought it back to life. As with his first goal, he was a little lucky, as his cross-shot was deflected into the net by Giorgios Anatolakis.
The game was well and truly over, and it was now up to United to see how many more they could claim. They settled for one more, on 77 minutes, Ole Gunnar Solskjær finishing with ease after being set up by a clever Scholes pass.
Predrag Djorjevic worked tirelessly for the visitors and could have grabbed a consolation at the death, but this was very much United's night. Sir Alex Ferguson's team now look to be almost assured of their place in the second round, and with a performance of this quality, they will doubtless be looking to progress further.
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