Giggs and Carrick goals save United

Manchester United 2 Wolfsburg 1
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The Independent Football

On the night Michael Owen's World Cup dream may have come to a shattering end, the great survivor Ryan Giggs became the ninth player in Manchester United history to score 150 goals for the club.

Last year's PFA Player of the Year is being championed for a knighthood by sections of the Old Trafford faithful.

After all the plaudits that have accompanied one of the most astonishing careers of all-time, it is difficult to know what else there is to give the 35-year-old.

Yet knowing Giggs, victory will be his only prize. And he helped achieve that tonight by setting up Michael Carrick for the winner 12 minutes from time after Edin Dzeko had put German champions Wolfsburg in front just after half-time.

If it was a night of glory for Giggs, misery was the only appropriate word for Owen.

Twenty-four hours can be a long time in politics, so the old saying goes. As he reflected on his misfortune, Owen must have thought the same is also true of football.

After speaking so forcefully about his World Cup dream and the hopes of playing for his country again, having done so with such success before, a racing man like Owen could hardly have hoped for a better pre-match double than a place in Sir Alex Ferguson's starting line-up and the sight of Fabio Capello in the stands.

Capello is known to be dubious about Owen's fitness record. Time and again he has deflected questions over England's fourth-highest goalscorer by demanding to know how often he has played.

The platform was there for Owen to prove Capello's doubts were unfounded. He lasted 20 minutes.

That the former Liverpool star did little even in that short time to spark a strangely lethargic United side and his replacement Dimitar Berbatov made an instant impact only damaged the 29-year-old's cause still further.

Nothing is certain. But if Owen makes the plane to South Africa from here, he will have to be either very brilliant, or very lucky.

Berbatov's back-heel that sent Antonio Valencia clean through immediately showed United were not going to meekly sit back and toss away a couple of points to the German champions, who have emerged from nowhere thanks to the backing of car giants Volkswagen.

Having failed in very similar circumstances at Stoke on Saturday, Valencia could not be trusted to score with any confidence and again his finish lacked confidence as it bounced wide.

Berbatov also somehow squeezed a pass to Carrick then left him in an even better position.

Unlike Valencia, Carrick has been a capable goalscorer in the past.

The former Tottenham man is not having the best of seasons though and Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio was out in a flash and made a fine close-range save.

With their free-scoring strike pair Dzeko and Grafite threatening and Zvjezdan Misimovic a danger in possession, Wolfsburg could in no way be described as being overawed.

And, while United were the better side, seeing the visitors opening the scoring was not entirely unexpected.

Makoto Hasebe received a return pass from Grafite and quickly looked up to see Dzeko on the far post being marked by Patrice Evra.

It was a clear mis-match and the Bosnian had little trouble rising above the Frenchman to steer a header into the bottom corner.

Had United been unable to respond immediately, they would have been in big trouble.

Thankfully for the champions, Giggs found the answer after Anderson had been brought down.

As the 35-year-old's first United goal came thanks to a huge deflection off Colin Hendry in 1991, there was something symmetrical about the sight of his 150th ending up in the net in very similar fashion as the ball cannoned into the Wolfsburg wall and left Benaglio helpless.

Giggs' contribution did not end there though. After Rooney and Berbatov had started the move, the Welshman stretched to push a pass into Carrick's path 12 minutes from time.

Under pressure to score after his earlier failure, Carrick celebrated like a relieved man as a first-time curling shot nestled in the net with Benaglio beaten in comprehensive fashion, this time in more orthodox fashion.

Wolfsburg pressed at the end but Giggs was able to celebrate as a winner - and Owen headed to the treatment table.

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