Charlton Athletic 0 Manchester United 3: Solskjaer dances back as United bask on summit

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The Independent Online

Even their hyper-critical old boy Roy Keane would have to acknowledge the Manchester United team sitting at the top of the Premiership with two wins have started the season at an impressive pace. And when Keane takes charge of Sunderland in the next 48 hours, he might just appreciate the kind of talent he left behind last November.

For the United fans in The Valley's Jimmy Seed stand this was a night to savour. A defeat for Chelsea leaves United as the only team in the Premiership with two victories and to crown it there was a goal for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian striker had not scored a Premiership goal since April 2003 and, in a supremely satisfying performance for United, it was he who stole the show.

After reconstructive knee surgery and almost three years in rehabilitation, the man who scored the most important goal in United's history to win the European Cup final in 1999 will never be forgotten by his club's supporters. His tap-in from Louis Saha's cross on 90 minutes suggested he is not yet ready to settle for a place in the history books of a very famous football club.

"After three years out it was great for the fans, for the players and the supporters," Ferguson said. "Ole is a player who has persevered in trying times and he has never lost faith that he would get his repayment one day."

Repayment is also what Ferguson hopes to get from a squad that have been lavishly rebuilt over the last three years but failed to win a Premiership title since 2003. On Iain Dowie's home debut as Charlton manager the first two goals came from Darren Fletcher and Saha and United struck the woodwork three times.

Not since 1955 have Charlton beaten United at The Valley. Despite Dowie's arrival, the home support was mostly fixated on another individual. The moronic booing that accompanied Cristiano Ronaldo's every touch last night was depressing in the extreme. There are obviously still some people under the misapprehension that it was the United winger, and not the shortcomings of the England team, that was responsible for their World Cup finals disaster.

The United captain in the absence of the injured Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, looked accomplished in a role behind Saha. Two minutes before half-time he picked the ball up on the left wing and hit a curling shot with his less-favoured right foot that Scott Carson again did well to push wide.

Patrice Evra slipped on 29 minutes and may have handled before Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink struck a shot that United made a dreadful mess of clearing. Mikaël Silvestre launched a ludicrously unnecessary tackle on Darren Ambrose as he ran away from goal into the corner of the area. One minute before half-time, Ronaldo clattered a shot against the Charlton bar and then headed wide in injury time.

United's breakthrough came four minutes after the interval and it was gifted to them by Jonathan Fortune's tumble in his own area. The Charlton defender was then turned by Fletcher, who struck his shot past Carson.

After Park Ji Sung hit the post from Ronaldo's cross, there was another mix-up in the United area when the ball clipped Wes Brown's hand. As control slipped from Charlton, Saha put the game beyond doubt. He chested down Fletcher's pass on the edge of the area, turned and swept a brilliant low shot past Carson.

Michael Carrick came on for his United Premiership debut, followed by Solskjaer and it turned out to be the night the Norwegian had waited so long for.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Carson; Young, Fortune, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson; Ambrose, Holland, Faye (Rommedahl, 82), Hughes; Hasselbaink (M Bent, 65), D Bent. Substitutes not used: Myhre (gk), Kishishev, Lisbie.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Evra; Ronaldo, Fletcher, O'Shea, Park (Carrick, 77); Giggs (Solskjaer, 82), Saha. Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Rossi, Richardson.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

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