Manchester United FC 5-0 Zalaegerzegi TE (United win 5-1 on aggregate)
Manchester United FC strode into the first group stage of the UEFA Champions League with a devastating second-leg performance at Old Trafford tonight.
Despite an embarrassing 1-0 defeat in Hungary a fortnight ago, Sir Alex Ferguson's men had always maintained they would progress from this third qualifying round tie. And, once Ruud van Nistelrooij had opened the scoring in the sixth minute, the outcome was never in doubt. Last season's Champions League top scorer, with ten goals, added another along with strikes from David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
To give Ferguson further reason to be happy, Rio Ferdinand came through unscathed after an ankle injury in his first competitive game for the Reds. However, there was one negative from a rousing night, when Paul Scholes left the field on a stretcher in the second half.
United were quickly into their stride, constantly keeping possession and stifling Zalaegerzeg in midfield. Juan Sebastián Veron was recalled for Nicky Butt, and he worked tirelessly alongside David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs.
Van Nistelrooij's first of the evening came when he strode on to a Scholes pass and surged towards goal. Sasa Ilic came out to close him down but the Dutch striker tucked the ball under his body and the subsequent celebrations from United indicated just how much a place in European football's premier club competition means to them.
Beckham hit the second with a splendid free-kick that soared into the top corner before England team-mate Scholes rattled in a third following some persistent play. However, the midfield player's joy was soon to turn to agony after jarring his ankle trying to make a tackle soon after the break.
Afterwards, Ferguson said Scholes would be missing for at least a fortnight but he was pleased with the performance of Ferdinand, the world's most expensive defender who had been injured in a pre-season friendly. It was an easy night for Ferdinand, and he barely broke a sweat by the time he was substituted in the 68th minute.
Zalaegerzeg, whose best chance had come from Krisztián Kenesi's free-kick just before half-time, had no answer to United's controlled display. But the game sparked into life again with barely 20 minutes to play as Van Nistelrooij was felled by Ilic's high boot, after a challenge in the penalty area. The goalkeeper was dismissed and Van Nistelrooij picked himself up to score past substitute Geza Turi.
There was still time for Solskjær to score late on but the United crowd were to be denied a first goal in United colours from Uruguayan forward Diego Forlan. He had the ball in the net just before the end only for an offside flag to be raised.
"With the ability of the team, we knew we had to work hard to get the result," said Giggs afterwards. "A team like Manchester Unted deserves to play with the best."