Radzinski show puts United on the rack

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The Independent Football

The sums are simple. After a night when the skies over Brussels were filled with celebratory flares and beery Belgian voices, Manchester United must beat Dynamo Kiev or endure the Uefa Cup, a competition they must have imagined they had long left behind.

The sums are simple. After a night when the skies over Brussels were filled with celebratory flares and beery Belgian voices, Manchester United must beat Dynamo Kiev or endure the Uefa Cup, a competition they must have imagined they had long left behind.

It was perhaps insensitive for Anderlecht to play "You'll Never Walk Alone" after the final whistle since United might be meeting Liverpool in Europe.

Although they will have to take on Kiev, who were eliminated by PSV Eindhoven, without the suspended Paul Scholes and probably the injured Roy Keane, the odds are still in United's favour given their dominance at Old Trafford. Eindhoven and Anderlecht cannot conspire to play out a draw that would send them both through since the count-back system the Champions' League uses would see United through should all finish on 10 points.

In many ways this was a defeat more damaging than the one United suffered in Eindhoven; Sir Alex Ferguson sent out his first-choice team and, especially in the opening 25 minutes, it was badly, sometimes embarrassingly, outplayed.

Anderlecht's coach, Aimé Anthuenis, said that Tomasz Radzinski, whose two early goals proved decisive, was given more space against Manchester United than he would have enjoyed against Charleroi in the Belgian First Division.

While pointing out that United had the bulk of possession in the second half, which they failed to use to any real advantage, Ferguson did not spare his defence which by half-time he had described as "a shambles".

"It was an absolute nightmare for us," the Manchester United manager confessed. "We were two goals down at half-time and it could have been worse. I'm not sure Ronny Johnsen was ready for it; he took too long to get going. They had chances we cannot be happy about."

Asked to explain the difference between United's home form which has seen them score 10 goals in their last three Champions' League games and away performances that have yielded no victories from five matches, Ferguson shrugged and said: "It's human beings we are dealing with. It's football."

Too often, it was a mess. Anthuenis had said that Anderlecht's best hopes lay in packing the defence and hoping for a goal on the break, although his players were more bullish.

By the interval Radzinski had scored twice and Fabien Barthez had made three outstanding saves, which hardly suggested Anderlecht were about to don tin hats and shelter from the storm of shot and shell that United's front two of Cole and Yorke would hurl at them.

As it turned out, the only time the pairing threatened was when Cole, who has not scored since putting three past Anderlecht at Old Trafford, was hauled down by Glen de Boeck in the 34th minute. Denis Irwin converted the penalty, which was one of only two saves Filip de Wilde had to make. The first goal had more than a suspicion of offside, but the way Radzinski left Johnsen in his wake and drove past Barthez in the 14th minute brooked no argument.

There was no doubt about his second 19 minutes later, by which time the United defence had become a wretched thing. Koller was allowed to maraud down the right and drive in a low cross that Radzinski clipped first time past Barthez.

Had United possessed a lesser goalkeeper, the match might have been a humiliation. Twice Barthez pushed away fierce drives from Radzinski, struck from inside the area, and three minutes after the opener the giant Koller, who at 6ft 7in must seem so intimidating to defenders, found himself five yards out with just Barthez to beat. Had the Czech's first touch been better, a goal should have been a certainty.

Mikäel Silvestre, who had endured a miserable game, was taken off and the defence reorganised with Gary Neville shifting to right-back and Irwin to his usual station on the left.

It made for a more natural order, but away from home in the Champions' League, United's problems have been up front. In their last five games away from Old Trafford, they have not scored from open play. Like the vintage red wine their manager favours, these days United do not travel well.

Anderlecht: (4-1-3-2): De Wilde; Dheedene, Staelens, De Boeck, Crasson; Baseggio; Goor (Oyen, 81), Stoica, Vanderhaeghe; Radzinski (Dindane, 89), Koller. Substitutes not used: Traoré, Youla, Doll, Ilic, Mbemba, Milojevic (gk).

Manchester United: (4-4-2): Barthez; Irwin (Solskjaer, 78), G Neville, Johnsen, Silvestre (Brown, 62); Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Giggs; Cole, Yorke. Substitutes not used: P Neville, Wallwork, Greening, Fortune, Van der Gouw (gk).

Referee: M Braschi (Italy).

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