Ryan Giggs outstanding as Manchester United cut Bayer Leverkusen to shreds
Wayne Rooney plays starring role as his side record biggest European away win since 1957
Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia after scoring the opener in last night’s Group A game against Bayer Leverkusen. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP
Bayer Leverkusen 0, Manchester United 5
(Goals: Valencia 22, Spahic 30 og, Evans 66, Smalling 77, Nani 88)
David Moyes was not expected to be “a fish in water” at Manchester United, according to José Mourinho, but he is adapting swimmingly to life in the Champions League. United cruised into the knock-out phase with a game to spare in Group A as they dismantled Bayer Leverkusen, the second-placed team in Germany, with the finest result and performance of the the new manager’s era.
Directed superbly by the seemingly ageless Ryan Giggs, and illuminated by the touches of Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa, United routed Sami Hyypia’s side with arguably their finest European away performance since the 2011 semi-final win at Schalke. It was their biggest win away in the European Cup since defeating Shamrock Rovers 6-0 in 1957.
First place in the group will be assured with a point at home to Shakhtar Donetsk, but that can wait. Moyes will first want to savour this comprehensive dismantling of a Leverkusen team who boasted a proud unbeaten home record before kick-off, but were ultimately cut to shreds.
Giggs started two days shy of his 40th birthday, an age when most would struggle to climb the stairs at the refurbished BayArena, with Phil Jones alongside. Initially it was the composure and authority of the remarkable 39-year-old that stood out for United, wearing black armbands in memory of Bill Foulkes.
Giggs created United’s first opportunity of the night with a reverse pass inside the penalty area to Nani, who lofted a decent opening high over Bernd Leno’s goal. The midfielder was also heavily involved when the visitors took the lead just as Leverkusen were threatening to dominate midway through the first half.
In the space of two minutes Emir Spahic headed over from Gonzalo Castro’s corner, Castro shot wastefully high after Jonny Evans allowed a Leverkusen defensive clearance to reach the United area and Stefan Kiessling was denied by the defender’s fine interception having beaten Rio Ferdinand easily on the edge of the box.
Seconds later, the flow of the game and the mood of the crowd turned full circle. From the corner that followed Evans’ excellent block on Kiessling, United cleared and Kagawa dispossessed Stefan Reinartz in central midfield. Enter Giggs. The Welshman was quickly on the scene to take on possession and release Rooney down the left.
Rooney floated an inviting cross into the centre for Kagawa, who failed to connect, as did the defender Emre Can behind him, enabling Antonio Valencia to steal in unmarked to convert the chance at the back post.
Kagawa and Rooney were again instrumental in the second goal. Reinartz fouled the Japan international on United’s left and Rooney swept the resulting free-kick into the heart of the Leverkusen six-yard box.
Two defenders rose with Chris Smalling and the ball sailed off the head of Spahic – his eyes closed – into the unguarded half of Leno’s goal.
Giggs’s influence continued throughout. His corner produced the third for Evans, when Patrice Evra flicked on the delivery, Leno saved from Rooney at close range and the Northern Ireland defender Evans bundled the ball home.
Number four was a delight, Kagawa flicking the ball through to Rooney inside the area, the striker chipping Leverkusen’s over-worked keeper and Smalling arriving from an onside position to convert into an empty net.
And the fifth showed Giggs at his most creative. A first-time flick sent Nani clear and having rounded Leno, the winger clipped a nonchalant finish over the goal-line. United were simply faultless.
BAYER LEVERKUSEN: Leno, Donati, Spahic, Toprak, Can, Bender (Kohr 81), Reinartz (Hegeler 70), Rolfes, Castro, Kiessling, Son (Derdiyok 70). Subs not used: Lomb, Stafylidis, Wollscheid, Kruse. Booked: Kohr.
MAN UTD: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra (Buttner 69), Giggs, Jones, Valencia (Young 80), Nani, Kagawa, Rooney (Anderson 80). Subs not used: Lindegaard, Hernandez, Welbeck, Cleverley. Attendance: 26,000.
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (Norway).