Home » Champ League, Latest » CL Match Report: Bayer Leverkusen 0 Man United 5

On an astonishing night, bringing Manchester United’s biggest away victory in the European Cup/Champions League since visiting Shamrock Rovers in 1957, David Moyes’s side charged irrepressibly into the last 16 of the Champions League.

Who put the ball in the Germans’ net? Antonio Valencia, Emir Spahic inadvertently, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Nani. Leverkusen’s proud home record this season, hitherto consisting only of triumphs and one draw against Bayern Munich, was gone in 90 minutes. The only disappointment was that Wayne Rooney did not get the goal his formidable contribution deserved.

As a team-minded character, Rooney will simply take pleasure from the win, the quality of the attacking, the qualification and the reality that a point from their final Group A match, at home to second-placed Shakhtar Donetsk, ensures United progress as leaders, so avoiding the likes of Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain and Real Madrid.

Rooney’s all-round excellence was again on display. Shortly before the end of the first half, Rooney headed a Leverkusen corner clear, raced 80 yards to support the breakaway, turned around when the momentum faded and sprinted back to cover Patrice Evra in the left-back position — all within 60 seconds. He was every­where.

With Rooney at his dynamic best, United delivered a fine performance, an unstoppable mix of athleticism, intelligence and nerveless finishing, making it a very special occasion for Moyes. By the end, the United fans were singing fervently in praise of their new manager.

Only history will show whether this was truly the night when Moyes fully arrived as United manager but it felt hugely significant. Early on, the ­cameras focused on Sir Alex ­Ferguson in the stands and then immediately zeroed in on Moyes in the dug-out. The succession is as scrutinised in Europe as in England. The spotlight highlighted only strengths here; Moyes’s game-plan worked beautifully.

Moyes started with only two in central midfield, the energetic Phil Jones and experienced Ryan Giggs, taking on Sami Hyypia’s three of Lars Bender, Stefan Reinartz and Simon Rolfes. The United pair never looked fazed. Giggs delivered a master-class in measured distribution, often short, occasionally long, springing counter-attacks. Two days short of his 40th birthday, and an advertisement for elastic powers of yoga, Giggs kept the ball, kept the shape and kept United on course for the knock-out stage.

Jones contributed the youthful legs to Giggs’ little grey cells. The opening few minutes reflected their excellence. When Rio Ferdinand lost the ball, Giggs won it back off Son Heung-min. Jones then picked off a Rolfes pass. Giggs kept dropping deep, taking the ball off his centre-halves, lifting one long ball to Patrice Evra on the left. Giggs then combined with Jones and lofted the ball right out to Smalling. Leverkusen, sitting second in the Bundesliga, were chasing shadows.

Moyes was also rewarded for giving Shinji Kagawa a start in his favoured position, in the hole. Kagawa’s technical merits have never been in doubt; any questions revolved more about his strength of mind and body. He was outmuscled for one aerial ball when United were under pressure early on yet soon flourished, growing in confidence, running with increasing purpose.

Uefa revealed afterwards that nobody covered more ground in the BayArena than Kagawa with his 12.48km; such distances can be deceptive if the runs lack thought. Kagawa’s runs carried constant danger to Leverkusen. He linked well with Rooney. Unfortunately for Kagawa, frustration may come his way again, seeing him pushed wide or return to the bench, when Robin van Persie recovers from injury. At least Kagawa showed Moyes what he can do.

With Kagawa darting, and Giggs dictating, Moyes had set United up to counter-attack quickly towards Rooney. The visitors were not short of width with Nani and Valencia. They negotiated a few nervous moments, a Spahic header over and a Stefan Kiessling dribble stopped expertly by Evans, before taking the lead after 23 minutes.

Kagawa seemed to have lost one skirmish with Reinartz in the centre-circle but then turned, stole the ball and ran upfield, rolling back the years to his time gracing Bundesliga fields. As Leverkusen tried to close him down, Kagawa cleverly transferred the ball left into the path of Giggs, who helped it on to Rooney. United’s No 10 advanced into the box, looking for red shirts, noting Kagawa’s run into the centre before picking out Valencia, who slid in to score at the far-post. In the dug-out, Moyes punched the air.

Rooney conjured up some more magic after 30 minutes. From wide on the left, following Reinartz’s foul on Kagawa, Rooney drilled a free-kick towards a mass of bodies around the penalty spot. Smalling rose high, Spahic leapt vainfully to cut out the ball but succeeded only in diverting it into his own net. “Eigentor” intoned the stadium announcer ruefully.

The Germans were poor, surprisingly defensively disjointed for a side coached by Sami Hyypia. They briefly worried David de Gea when Reinartz hit the post but United just shrugged and scored again. Giggs ran over to take a 66th-minute corner, his every step towards the flag treated as a royal procession by the visiting throng. Evra headed down Giggs’ corner, Rooney drew a save from Bernd Leno. It could have been Jay Leno in goal such was the lack of protection. Evans was quickest to the loose ball, parading all the poise of a seasoned scorer in placing the ball past Leno.

United were as rampant as Leverkusen were ragged. With 13 minutes left, Jones laid the ball off to Kagawa, who played the ball through to Rooney. He supplied the ball across and Smalling applied the coup de grace. There was more.

With two minutes remaining, Nani raced on to Giggs’s pass, went wide of Leno and then flicked the ball in from the tightest of angles, capping a wonderful night for United.

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