Manchester Utd a class apart

MANCHESTER – Manchester United moved close to a placing in the second phase of the Champions League when it trounced Olympiakos Piraeus 4-0. United now has nine points from three games. Olympiakos, Maccabi and Bayer Leverkusen have three points apiece. Olympiakos, which has never won an away match in the Champions League, and has drawn only three times in 18 outings, fell 2-0 behind in the first half when it conceded goals from Ryan Giggs and Juan Sebastian Veron. Olympiakos started brightly, but United slowly took control. In the 19th minute, Giggs latched on to a Paul Scholes cross. His first effort was blocked by defender Giorgos Amanatidis but he reacted quickly to drill the rebound home from 10 meters. Manchester United captain David Beckham flitted in and out of the game but on occasion his passing was inspirational. His neat return pass to Veron allowed the Argentine player time and space to produce a delightful chip over advancing goalkeeper Dimitris Eleftheropoulos for United’s second in the 26th minute. Oforiquaye wasted a good opportunity when he had a run at goal and Ze Elias went close as the Greeks pushed for a goal just before the interval. But their task became impossible in first-half stoppage time as Ze Elias was sent off for a wild sliding tackle on Veron. United dominated the second period and scored a third when Giggs, sent away down the left by a raking Veron pass, had a cross deflected past the goalkeeper by the unfortunate Anatolakis in the 66th minute. Solskjaer scored his 21st European goal with a clinical finish after an intelligent pass from Scholes handed him space in the area in the 76th minute. United coach Sir Alex Ferguson said Veron’s strike was «one of the best you will see in Europe tonight.» «That was world class… A fantastic piece of football,» he told reporters. Ferguson was also full of praise for Paul Scholes, who impressed in a withdrawn striking role. Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis admitted his side had little chance of rescuing a result once Ze Elias was dismissed. «Starting this game we knew what we were up against and we were hoping for something better but after we lost a player, it was impossible,» he said. «Now we have to look forward to the next game with United in Greece and we do need a win.»