Ferguson praises birthday-boy Solskjær

Manchester United FC manager Alex Ferguson praised Ole Gunnar Solskjær for his two-goal display.

Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson was full of praise for striker Ole Gunnar Solskjær, whose headed goals either side of half-time helped his side cruise to a 5-1 defeat of FC Nantes Atlantique in their UEFA Champions League Group A encounter at Old Trafford.

'Fantastic season'
"Ole has had a fantastic season," said the Scot. "The boy has a great understanding and is improving all the time. It is a massive game for us with [FC] Bayern [München] in two weeks' time. But I don't think Nantes deserved to be 3-1 down at half-time."

Frantic first half
Nantes had started the better and, after hitting a post early on, took the lead through Frédéric da Rocha. But David Beckham's free-kick enabled United to get back on level terms and headed goals from Solskjær - who was celebrating his 29th birthday - and Mikaël Silvestre put United into a 3-1 interval lead.

Freshness back for Beckham
Ruud van Nistelrooij hammered a spot-kick past Landreau to make it 4-1 midway through the second half and Solskjær's second completed the scoring, leaving Sir Alex delighted. "We looked a real threat up front and I thought the midfield did very well," he said. "Beckham's got that freshness back, he's looking dangerous again, and [Juan Sebastián] Veron really is marvellous -he's always available and wants the ball all the time."

'Neat touch'
Sir Alex also showered Van Nistelrooij with praise, adding: "Ruud was great again. He's got such a neat touch in the box, it's very hard to contain him." Solskjær echoed his manager's sentiments. "Ruud is a fantastic player," said the Norwegian international. "We're playing well together, but it's about the whole team - we're creating chances from everywhere."

Words of warning
Ángel Marcos, the coach of Nantes, conceded that United had been the better team, but had some words of warning for the English champions ahead of the knockout stages. "There was an obvious difference between the sides," he said. "They were too strong in the second half - it was a cakewalk really. If United do well in this competition it would give us some consolation, but we are a very young side and still created seven or eight chances. So maybe United need a better balance between defence and attack - they need to be sharper defensively."

One more win
United still need another win to be sure of reaching the quarter-final stage, and although they were irresistible going forward they were at times shaky in defence. The United manager would do well to heed Marcos's advice before his side's showdown with Bayern in a fortnight.