Beckham waltzes around Vienna

CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE: United rediscover appetite for European game but Scottish football found wanting againManchester United 2 Rapid Vienna 0
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The Independent Online
There was pride and passion, invention and belief. All the qualities which were went missing in Turin a fortnight ago flooded back into Manchester United's football last night and overwhelmed Rapid Vienna.

It took just half-an-hour for goals from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and David Beckham to blow way the lingering memory of that defeat to Juventus. For a while United had the Viennese waltzing to their tune, but they eased up and by the end Rapid had produced a few quick movements of their own.

In the first hour United's orchestra went through their whole range. With Eric Cantona restored to the role of conductor, and Roy Keane back in the heart of the percussion section, they were fluid in attack and, mostly, organised in defence. Had Solskjaer not missed a clutch of chances United would have won by a sackful - they had 18 goal attempts. In the event they were relieved to win by two.

United are now second in Champions' League Group C and have been restored as favourites to go through with Juventus. They will be aware, however, that it is away from their Old Trafford citadel that they must show champion pedigree if they are to match the best. The next tie, away to the Turkish title-winners Fenerbahce, will be a sterner test. Istanbul is not United's favourite destination, but at least they will travel in good heart.

Rapid Vienna came into the match unbeaten, their 13-match exploits this season including a 4-2 win in the Ukraine against Dynamo Kiev. They also arrived with a little bit of history on their side - they are the only Continental club to have won a competitive match at Old Trafford.

Manchester United may have been defending an unbeaten home record in European competition - it all began 40 years ago today-- but, 12 seasons ago, Rapid Vienna beat Celtic here in a rearranged European Cup-Winners' Cup tie.

Peter Schmeichel and Gary Pallister had been passed fit for United and Solskjaer was preferred to Andy Cole in attack. Including the Welsh and Irish United thus fielded eight foreigners. At least there were two Poles in the Austrian side for Glenn Hoddle to cast his eye over, Andrzej Lesiak and Krysztof Ratajczyk. Such was the quality on display Rapid's Thomas Zingler was the only player on the pitch who was not a full international.

Despite the lack of English players the match began at a pace more akin to the domestic Premiership than Continental football. This was obviously more to United's liking, and it underlined their determination to dictate events rather than react to them as they had in Turin.

The eager Solskjaer was the catalyst. He put a snap-shot wide on the turn inside the opening minute and brought the first save from Michael Konsel two minutes later. He then released Eric Cantona only for Trifon Ivanov to tackle the Frenchman before he could get a shot in.

From successive Ryan Giggs' corners Ronny Johnsen, unmarked, should have scored, then Cantona would have done had Christian Prosenik not cleared his header off the line.

When Wagner then received, and wasted, two chances at the other end it looked as if Rapid had drawn United's sting. But then Beckham found Roy Keane on the right. He crossed low behind the defence and, after Poborsky had a faint touch Solskjaer stabbed the ball in.

Nine minutes later it was 2-0. Peter Stoger, under pressure from Beckham, misjudged a back-pass. Beckham swept onto it and, though his first shot was saved, the rebound fell kindly.

Beckham was then booked for a contretemps with Dietmar Kuhbauer but he settled in the second half and again displayed the full range of his passing. Solskjaer, however, was fast doing a Scandinavian impression of Cole. Put through by Cantona and Poborsky he blazed past the corner of the upright. Beautifully set up by Beckham and Gary Neville he somehow contrived to head wide.

Cantona forced a save with a powerful free-kick before, after 77 minutes, Schmeichel was finally stretched, diving to save Zoran Barisic's long- range effort.

As United lost their way the Austrians produced a few attacks of their own and might have had a penalty. By then Old Trafford did not care, they were in party mood with the Mexican wave surging around the ground. Alex Ferguson, though not as elated as the crowd, pronounced himself "satisfied".

"I am not too disappointed with the second half," he said. "They would have had a good talking to at half-time and we dropped the tempo a little. We should have kept possession more but we were not going to lose it. I'm satisfied. It was a good result and a good performance."

Ferguson picked out Roy Keane' performance as a key to the victory. "He is a marvellous player." Ferguson said. "We need him in the team for really big games. Players like Butt and Beckham will learn from him and eventually they will become top players."

Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; G Neville, Pallister, Johnsen (May, 20), Irwin; Poborsky (Butt, 79), Beckham, Keane, Giggs; Cantona, Solskjaer (Cole, 72). Substitutes not used: Van der Gouw (gk), Cruyff.

Rapid Vienna (3-5-2): Konsel; Schottel, Ivanov, Lesiak; Prosenik, Heraf, Kuhbauer, Zingler, Ratajczyk; Stoger (Stumpf, 66), Wagner (Barisic, 66). Substitutes: Hedl (gk), Jovanovic, Pivarnik.

Referee: R Harrel (France).