Football: Cole slips into cruise control
Manchester United 5 Cole 10, 65, Solskjaer 39, 69, Johnsen 74 Walsall 1 Boli 72 Attendance: 54,669
Sunday 25 January 1998
Remember what Jan Sorensen, Walsall's Danish manager had said of Alex Ferguson, his opposite number? "Alex should be having the sleepless nights. Just think if he loses, if we get a result - holy cow!"
When the shed door slammed and the dream was over, he was still smiling and praising his side for "not digging holes for ourselves on the edge of our area. What would be the point? We would have lost anyway." Ferguson generously added: "The game opened up for us because of the way they played. It was a credit to them that they were not happy just putting everyone behind the ball."
In other ways Ferguson showed Walsall less respect, electing to start with Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville on the bench and not risking the slightly injured Gary Pallister and unwell Nicky Butt. And that was even without Teddy Sheringham. The curious United arrangement allowed Walsall to gain early confidence, but in spite of Roger Boli's eye-catching inventiveness, they were soon facing the reality of the task. Clearly, they had not been issued with the statutory memo to mark Cole as tight as a thumbscrew. A low centre from Ben Thornley let Cole revel in space, turning on the ball and striking a sweet 10th-minute goal.
Yet Walsall were not prepared to be dismissed. John Hodge sent a searing shot towards the far post only to see a slight deflection deny him, and his neat ball-playing side were kept from losing hope when an elusive run from the half-way line by Cole ended in a shot splendidly touched round the post by James Walker in the visitors' goal. However, Walsall's position grew more difficult after 39 minutes when defenders again failed to intercept Cole and the ball came loose for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to place a second goal. United were flattered.
Walsall's lack of numbers and power in attack had been a disadvantage from the start and Boli's skill deserved better support. He cleverly sidestepped Ronny Johnsen on his own just after half time, but his shot struck the underside of the bar with Peter Schmeichel beaten. United sat up. Walker saved wonderfully well with his diving stretches to hold thundering shots from Paul Scholes, but when he came out and bravely blocked Erik Nevland, United's substitute, the ball ran loose and Cole took up the offer to score again.
That more or less ended Walsall's resistance. A clever back-heel from Scholes left Solskjaer with a stroll in to take the fourth. When Boli gained his deserved reward, brightly looping a header over Schmeichel from Jean Francois Peron's cross, Johnsen simply filched a fifth for United.
The magicians using online collaboration to push boundaries
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Latest in Sport
Arsenal can surprise Bayern Munich in the Champions League, says former midfielder Gilberto Silva
Liverpool - January transfer targets
Transfer news: Liverpool - January transfer targets
Transfer news: Manchester United - January transfer targets
Transfer news: Arsenal - Transfer targets for January
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
UK evangelist says Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’
Flexible, Competitive, Weekly.: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobRandstad ...
£9600 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are...
£500 - £680 per day: Harrington Starr: Murex Business Analyst - 1000 CHF per d...
£35000 - £42000 per annum + excellent company benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group:...