As a welcome present for their new owners, Sir Alex Ferguson's side made short work of a woeful Debrecen team with a result that should ensure a trouble-free second-leg in Hungary on 24 August in this Champions' League qualifier. It was a performance orchestrated by Wayne Rooney who scored the first and made the other two, which will have explained to his new bosses why they have recently parted company with the second £10m payment for the England striker.
When the Glazer brothers, Joel, Bryan and Avi, envisaged their first match at Old Trafford they will have prepared themselves for many different reactions from the truculent, resistant football family into which they have bought. They may have expected anger, contempt - perhaps even something worse - but when the three men finally emerged in the directors' box, the surrounding fans simply stared in surprise and then reached for their camera phones.
The result was public relations heaven for United's embattled new owners, a relaxed chat with their new public - signing autographs and posing for pictures - while their security staff watched from a discreet distance. The following that United commands is as varied, as it is vast, in its views and while no one would suggest that those with season tickets in front of the directors' box are numbered among the most militant, their response will have been a relief for the Glazers.
As necks craned towards them in the South Stand, those fans who still resist the new masters of Old Trafford marched on the ground in a relatively low-key demonstration against the Glazers. Unfortunately for the Glazer brothers, they will come to learn over time that European evenings such as these in Manchester are rare indeed: mild weather, becalmed locals and extremely supine opposition.
Debrecen are the Hungarian champions but they assumed the role of pre-season cannon fodder for much of the first half in which United's crisp passing gave them little respite. On the left, Cristiano Ronaldo could not be contained by the visitors and Rooney dictated the style of United's attacks from a withdrawn role. Even Rio Ferdinand, now spared the boos his contract saga earned him, chanced a run down the right wing.
Rooney took only eight minutes to get the Glazers off their seats and applauding the first goal of their proprietorship. The striker received a sharp pass into him from Ronaldo and tried to feed Ruud van Nistelrooy inside the box. The ball never reached the Dutch striker but it ricocheted off two Debrecen defenders before returning to Rooney, who poked his shot into the corner.
If this represented Ferguson's new attacking strategy then it is one that affords Rooney a great deal more freedom than last season's unpopular five-strong midfield arrangement. Although he occasionally drifted back to the right flank, he dominated the match as a deep-lying striker.
Van Nistelrooy had been given precious few chances to extend his lead as United's all-time leading goalscorer in Europe in the first half, but with a Debrecen defence that was unusually slow-witted he was soon given an opportunity. Darren Fletcher, impressive in midfield, slipped a pass into Rooney who found Van Nistelrooy goalside of his marker and requiring only one touch before angling in a low drive. Edwin van der Sar was required to make his first save as late as the 66th minute and by then United were three goals ahead.
Van Nistelrooy picked out Rooney down the right and his low cross was flicked home by Ronaldo. United now look certain to take their place in the Champions' League when the draw is made on 26 August and, for all they had to celebrate last night, that will surely be the best news of the week for the Glazers.
Manchester United (4-4-1-1): Van der Sar; Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea; Fletcher, Keane (Park, 67), Scholes, Ronaldo (Smith, 67); Rooney; Van Nistelrooy (Rossi, 80). Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), Heinze, Miller, Richardson.
Debrecen (4-4-2): Csernyanseky; Nikolov, Mate, Eger, Szathari; Dombi, Sandor (Boar, 85), Vukmir, Halmosi; Bogdanovic (Kiss, 60), Kerekes (Sidibe, 52). Substitutes not used: Tomic (gk), Madar, Komlosi, Bernath.
Referee: L M Cantalejo (Spain).
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- Cristiano Ronaldo
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- Rio Ferdinand
- Ruud Van Nistelrooy
- Sir Alex Ferguson
- Wayne Rooney