Semis in sight for sparkling United

A wonder goal from David Beckham and the genius of Alex Ferguson lit up the Riazor last night.

RC Deportivo La Coruña 0-2 Manchester United FC
It took a wonder goal from David Beckham, a stroke of tactical genius from Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United FC's best performance in the UEFA Champions League since the season they won it to defeat RC Deportivo La Coruña, but none of this will be of any consolation to the Spanish club or its fans.

A heavy price
Deportivo's dream of winning Europe's top club competition, more of a realistic hope than just pure fantasy after some fine recent results, was all but shattered on a rainy night in Galicia which bore all the hallmarks of a spring evening in Manchester. United's pride was hurt by two defeats at the hands of their Spanish opponents in the first group stage, and on Tuesday at the Riazor stadium they made Deportivo pay a heavy price in the quarter-final first leg.

On the back foot
Before the match, most conjecture in the United camp had focused on whether Ferguson would use Ole Gunnar Solskjær as a second striker, alongside Ruud van Nistelrooij. But instead he asked Ryan Giggs to play in an advanced central-midfield role, moving Paul Scholes out to the left flank. This, plus the deployment of Nicky Butt as a man-marker of playmaker Juan Valerón, put Deportivo on the back foot from the start.

Giggs makes it difficult for Depor
"To play two direct strikers in these games is very difficult," the United coach explained afterwards. "With Ryan dropping into centre midfield, and from there going forward, you know he's got the ability to beat men, he's got marvellous pace, he's got courage, and he made it very, very difficult for Deportivo tonight."

Irureta hails United

Depleted midfield

Keane and Beckham doubts
Added to that the United captain, Roy Keane, pulled a hamstring towards the end of the first half and may be out for the rest of the season; Paul Scholes was booked and will be suspended; and Beckham was the victim of a poor challenge from the otherwise admirable Diego Tristán in the dying seconds, picking up an ankle injury.

Understandable frustration

Untimely slip

Ferguson content