Manchester United sailed unexpectedly comfortably through into the last 16 of the Champions League. This was easily their best performance under the new management of David Moyes.
After a disappointing result on Sunday that saw United fall short to Cardiff, Moyes and his men would want to have ensured qualification from Group A tonight, rather than in the final game against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Bayer Leverkusen were poor. Their defending and passing was sloppy throughout the night and United remained unchallenged. Manager Sami Hyypia looked embarrassed at his team’s display.
Leverkusen’s disappointing performance allowed Antonio Valencia, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Nani to put the ball in the back of the net, as well as own goal from Emir Spahic.
Ryan Giggs, who turns 40 this Friday, showed how United should be controlling the midfield after a lacklustre performance from Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley against Cardiff. The Welshman was composed and dictated the play effortlessly, amicably supported by Phil Jones alongside. Wayne Rooney was outstanding once again and Shinji Kagawa put in a great performance, looking far more comfortable playing behind the striker (Rooney).
For the opening 20 minutes the game seemed more open, with no real chances created. Stefan Kiessling drove into the box and probably would have scored if not for a fantastic last-ditch tackle from Evans.
Moments later United struck with Kagawa starting the fast break. Winning the ball back he ran over the halfway line before playing back to Giggs who fed Rooney. A beautiful swept ball inside the box to the far post found Valencia. 1-0.
United began to settle and started to take control of the game. A combination free-kick that had obviously been practised beforehand didn’t pay off. Then came another free-kick from the same position, out wide and deep on the left. This time Rooney opted to whip in in a perfect delivery that found Spahic in a mass of bodies, who could only glance it on into his own net. 2-0.
Leverkusen could still have brought it back in the second half, but like the first they never showed up.
A brief spell for the home side saw a corner played in and Spahic had the opportunity to redeem himself, but his header only hit the post. United kept pressing. Nani dragged his shot wide. Rooney curled his shot from outside the box wide.
The game was finished in the 65th minute. Giggs’ corner was met by the head of Patrice Evra, who steered the ball towards Rooney. His first-time shot did not have enough power to beat Bernd Leno but Evans was on hand to tuck in the rebound from close range. 3-0.
Leverkusen were down and out. Kagawa lifted the ball over the defence, after a poor clearance, for Rooney who lifted over the keeper and Smalling put away. 77 minutes played. 4-0.
Moyes felt his troops had done enough by now and decided to rest some players. Anderson came on for Rooney, rubbing salt in the wounds playing without a striker for the last 10 minutes. The substitute almost made an impact starting a counter attack from the visitor’s own half. He played the ball out wide on the left to Nani who gave the ball back him but Anderson couldn’t finish with a scruffy shot wide.
The night was completed in the 88th minute. The ball was given away yet again and Giggs gently lofted it forward. Nani’s first touch brought the ball down beautifully to round past the keeper and dinked the ball into the back of the net. 5-0. The German side only managed one shot on target all night.
Leverkusen can still qualify and will be praying that United can destroy Shakhtar like they were destroyed tonight.