Manchester United FC secured their passage to the UEFA Champions League last 16 with two games to spare thanks to a 4-0 victory against FC Dynamo Kyiv. After Gerard Piqué and Carlos Tévez had found the net before the break – the first for each in this competition – Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo added late goals as the dominant hosts made it four wins from four and confirmed Dynamo's elimination in the process.
Strength in depth
Sir Alex Ferguson had reflected before the match on the strength of his squad, and the fact United were able to win so comfortably while giving an evening off to Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves bore testament to this. At the same time, it also underlined the lack of confidence in the ranks of a Dynamo side playing their first game under caretaker coach Oleh Luzhny but who never looked like getting their first points of an ill-starred campaign.
United started with an unfamiliar back four including Danny Simpson and Piqué – two players with ten minutes' European action between them previously this term – and for the opening quarter, their play lacked its customary spark. Indeed Dynamo's Carlos Corrêa might reflect he could have done better than fire wide when allowed a clear sight of Edwin van der Sar's goal. At the other end Rooney showed some invention with a teasing ball across goal, leading to a Nani shot deflected behind, but otherwise United were making little of their abundant possession against opponents seemingly set on containment.
That changed with Piqué's 31st-minute opener even if it came with a slice of luck – Michael Carrick's header from a Ronaldo free-kick deflecting off the back of Tévez's head and to the Spaniard, who headed the ball back into the opposite corner. Tévez got United's second in the 37th minute, when, after winning the ball inside his own half, he raced forward, exchanged passes with Rooney and let fly. Olexandr Shovkovskiy got his hands to the ball but could not keep it out.
Although Ruslan Rotan blazed wide from close range just before the break, Sir Alex felt secure enough to remove Van der Sar – complaining of a niggle in his toe – as a precaution, introducing Tomasz Kuszczak for the second half. His faith was justified as the substitute soon made a fine stop to deny Dynamo replacement Diogo Rincón. There followed chances aplenty at both ends, not least for Tévez who could have had a hat-trick. For the Ukrainian title-holders, Rincón just failed to connect with Marjan Marković's fierce cross-shot while Kuszczak frustrated Tiberiu Ghioane.
Rooney added a third with a 76th-minute volley from Nani's cross before, in the closing moments, Ronaldo broke in from the left and found the far corner. The best Dynamo can hope for now is third place – a far cry from Luzhny's own days in the team when they were semi-finalists in 1999. That, of course, was the year Sir Alex first tasted UEFA Champions League glory and after his side's best start to a European campaign in five years he can already begin planning with confidence for a renewed assault on his favourite trophy in the spring.