Football: Fortune finally unearths brass from the muck

Manchester United 4 Bradford City 0

MANCHESTER UNITED bade farewell to Old Trafford for the millennium yesterday, and frankly they will be happy to leave it behind as they go in search of new worlds to conquer. They overcame Bradford City, but a far greater obstacle was their own pitch.

The playing surface has been relaid four times since the summer of 1998 at a cost of pounds 1m. The result yesterday was the worst pitch in the Premiership. The richest club in the world and a quagmire: the old adage about where there's muck there's brass was never more pertinent.

Bogged down in this sticky mess, and slowed further by the obduracy and will of their opponents, it took the treble-winners 74 minutes to breach Bradford's defence, but once they had it was a rout, Quentin Fortune, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and Roy Keane helping themselves to goals.

"Christmas can throw up some crazy results," Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said, "and I'm just glad we're not one of those statistics. You have to admire Bradford because they worked their socks off, but I think we deserved the result."

In the match programme Ferguson invoked Christmas past, recalling that United had flopped against Middlesbrough just before the festive period last year. "I am always looking over my shoulder," he wrote, "because I know we are pretty good at cock-ups and when we do slip up we frequently do it gloriously, like the hammering we took not so long ago at Chelsea."

Nevertheless the Red Knight was in the mood for surprises, and at the start United's team was more a question of "Why?" rather than the normal Who's Who of Premiership football. No Giggs, no Beckham, no Yorke, no Cole: a million of the nation's walls were bedecked with pictures of players who did not make it to this first team. Instead Fortune made his first start and the strike department was left to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham.

The first blow was left to nature, however, because hail, snow and rain reduced the rutted surface to a mudheap. It looked like a great leveller and just to make make it even more so Bradford adopted a 4-5-1 formation that meant United had to plough through a thicket of white shirts to get anywhere.

As a consequence the first half was an almost unremitting tale of United possession broken only by isolated raids. The closest the champions came before the interval was from Fortune, who proved to be a more than able deputy for Beckham when he curled a delightful and delicate 20-yard free- kick round the wall after 36 minutes which smacked against the bar before being cleared.

The long siege continued after the interval but United's chances were becoming less clear cut and after 66 minutes Ferguson was forced to employ his heavy artillery, bringing on Yorke and Cole. It almost brought reward six minutes later when Yoke coolly back-heeled the ball into the rampaging Keane's path. His shot was placed, but wide, curling outside the far post.

Jaap Stam followed that by crashing a low shot that Matt Clarke did well to tip round the corner but you sensed Bradford were buckling and in the 75th minute they broke spectacularly. The sheer number of attacks disrupted the visitors, Solskjaer crossed from the right and Fortune slid in ahead of half a dozen others to get the final touch.

With that the dam was swept aside and Yorke and Cole helped themselves to the goodie bag, scoring similar goals after being put through after their runs from left to right. Yorke curled his shot inside the far post, Cole dallied and cut his back but the result was the same.

Bradford's resistance had been shattered and the coup de grace was delivered by Keane, charging through after 88 minutes to lash a low shot past Clarke and into the corner.

"Even a blind man could see the scoreline was unjust but look in the papers and it will be 4-0," Paul Jewell, the Bradford manager, said. "I couldn't ask any more from my players. We were up against the best team in Europe and we gave them a fright."

Goals: Fortune (74), Yorke (78), Cole (87), Keane (88).

Manchester United (4-4-2): Bosnich; G Neville, Stam (Wallwork, 80), Silvestre, P Neville; Scholes (Yorke, 66), Keane, Butt, Fortune; Sheringham (Cole, 66), Solskjaer. Substitutes not used: Taibi (gk), Cruyff.

Bradford City (4-5-1): Clarke; Halle, Wetherall, O'Brien, Myers (Blake, 80); Lawrence (Beagrie, 54), McCall, Windass, Redfearn (Saunders, 80), Sharpe; Mills. Substitutes not used: Davison (gk), Westwood.

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).

Bookings: Bradford: Redfearn, Halle.

Man of the match: P Neville.

Attendance: 55,180.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part