Man Utd 3 - Blues 0

Last updated : 25 October 2003 By Richard Barker
Man Utd
van Nistelrooy 36 pen, Scholes 57, Giggs 82

Blues were more than holding their own against Champions Manchester United until the 35th minute when Maik Taylor was sent off after giving away a penalty, which effectively killed off Blues chances.

Steve Bruce was forced into one change with Robbie Savage failing to shake off his Achilles problem, so Aliou Cisse came in for his first league start since January. Otherwise Damien Johnson continued at right back. United fielded a strong side, with all the usual suspects in the team, and impressive youngster Darren Fletcher wide on the right.

Blues started the game in their usual tenacious style, with Cisse and Stephen Clemence more than matching Roy Keane and Phil Neville in the middle of the park. Neither team created any real chances, with Fletcher and Paul Scholes hitting shots straight at Taylor, and Ruud Van Nistelrooy shooting wide, whilst Christophe Dugarry volleyed wide at the other end.

The turning point, however, came ten minutes before half time. Van Nistelrooy played a neat ball through to Scholes who moved with pace towards the goal, and knocked the ball past the advancing Taylor. The inevitable coming together of Scholes and Taylor took place, and Mike Dean had little choice but to award the penalty. Perhaps Taylor's dismissal was harsh, but the fact is that the referee simply adhered to the laws that he is now so accountable to. Van Nistelrooy stepped up and sent substitute 'keeper Ian Bennett (who replaced Stan Lazaridis) the wrong way.

Blues came out with all guns blazing in the second half, and should have equalised when good work from Mikael Forssell resulted in Jamie Clapham having a free shot at goal with only Tim Howard to beat, but unfortunately the left back shot straight at the big American. Howard was again in action to save low from a long-range Clemence effort.

It was game over on 57 minutes though, when Scholes made it 2-0. Van Nistelrooy - who was marshalled well by Matthew Upson throughout - played the ball to the England midfielder, who took two touches before firing an unstoppable low drive past Bennett from some 25 yards out.

This knocked the stuffing out of Blues, and United began to dominate, with substitute Diego Forlan and Ryan Giggs both coming close. On 82 minutes, the two of them combined as the Uruguayan's cross was turned in by Giggs to make it 3-0, before United eased off and strolled to victory.

Playing United at Old Trafford is hard enough with 11 men, but with 10 it is nigh on impossible. Blues had coped comfortable up until Taylor's dismissal, and can still take some positives and a certain degree of credit from the game. They never gave in whereas some teams may have capitulated under the intense United pressure, for it must be noted that the home side did play very well. All in all, a defeat that was expected, and hopefully not too much of a setback.