Group A leaders Manchester United FC swept aside the challenge of FC Nantes Atlantique on Tuesday.
Two goals from Ole Gunnar Solskjær helped Manchester United FC sweep aside the challenge of FC Nantes Atlantique at Old Trafford and stay top of UEFA Champions League Group A.
Solskjær marked his 29th birthday with a headed goal in each half as rampant United turned on the style to put five past the side that held them to a 1-1 draw in France last week.
Nantes notch first
But it was Nantes who had started brightest and, after Mauro Cetto had seen his glancing header strike the United crossbar early on, the French side duly took a deserved lead. Having defended a 17th-minute corner, Nantes broke quickly and Frédéric da Rocha out-muscled Mickaël Silvestre to tuck home Pierre-Yves André's cross and silence the home crowd.
It took less than 60 seconds for United to reply. Cetto's foul on Ryan Giggs gave the hosts a free-kick 20 metres from goal and David Beckham fired a trademark curling, right-foot effort high into the corner of Mickaël Landreau's net. Then, just seconds after arrowing an angled shot over the Nantes crossbar on the half-hour mark, Solskjær was given a second chance. Ruud van Nistelrooij's chipped cross to the far post was headed goalwards by Giggs and the Norwegian international striker nodded the ball back across Landreau to make it 2-1.
Silvestre makes it three
Seven minutes later United extended their lead. After Sylvain Armand's foul on Beckham, the England captain got up and swung in the free-kick himself. Silvestre rose above a crowd of players at the far post and sent a close-range header rocketing high into the Nantes net to the delight of the home support.
United took their foot off the gas after the interval, but midway through the second half they went 4-1 up through Van Nistelrooij's powerful penalty. The Dutch striker was pulled to the ground in the Nantes area by Nestor Fabbri and then hammered the spot-kick past Landreau to join Juventus FC striker David Trezeguet at the top of the Champions League goalscoring chart with eight goals.
Twelve minutes from time Diego Forlán lifted the ball into Mathieu Berson's arm, winning a free-kick near the left-hand corner flag which Beckham curled towards goal. Solskjær rose to flick a header past Landreau into the far corner to make it 5-1.
Chance for six
By now Nantes were ragged, and United should have made it six when Beckham's pass released Forlán. The substitute dragged the ball wide of Landreau, but watched his effort whistle just wide of the empty Nantes net. A place in the quarter-finals now looks likely for United, but Nantes are now unable to reach the last eight, and will instead hastily turn their attentions to a domestic relegation battle.