Sheringham ensures United's survival

Kiev prove worthy opponents as wasteful Demetradze almost shatters Old Trafford's European ambitions
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The Independent Football

Peter Taylor has promised to look to youth when he picks his first England squad this afternoon but one old head made a very good argument for his retention at Old Trafford last night.

Peter Taylor has promised to look to youth when he picks his first England squad this afternoon but one old head made a very good argument for his retention at Old Trafford last night.

Teddy Sheringham made and scored the vital goal which enabled a nervous United side to squeeze into the second group stage of the Champions' League. His 17th-minute strike is worth a minimum of £20m in television income, gate receipts and spin-offs to Manchester United plc with the potential, should United go all the way, to treble it.

To do that, however, they will have to play far better. Slow to start, they failed to build on Sheringham's goal and were hanging on at the end with the crowd, a new ground record for a European game at Old Trafford, desperately whistling for the finish.

United's failure to seize the game should have been punished by Georgi Demetradze but the Kiev substitute committed a shocking miss four minutes from time. After Valentin Belkevich broke through United's left flank the Georgian was presented with a six-yard tap-in which would have sent United tumbling into the Uefa Cup. Incredibly he missed the goal completely.

Worryingly for Sir Alex Ferguson this time, unlike for the "blips" at PSV Eindhoven and Anderlecht, the United manager had picked his strongest team. Only the injured Jaap Stam and the suspended Paul Scholes were absent.

Kiev, though needing a win to gain the consolation prize of a Uefa Cup place, had taken a longer view. They included the 18-year-old midfielder Vitaly Lysytskyi, the youngest player on the pitch and the only uncapped one. He did not look out of place. His team-mates, in an adventurous 3-4-3 formation, did not appear overawed either, although they were much less comfortable when United had the ball than when in possession.

It took the home team a while to take advantage of this, Sheringham's header from a Denis Irwin cross, which looped over after nine minutes, being their only effort in the first quarter of an hour. David Beckham then at least tested the keeper, with a 25-yard free-kick, but Alexander Shovkovsky dealt with it easily.

As Kiev again swept on to the offensive, reaching the United by-line, anxiety filled Old Trafford but Sheringham suddenly transformed the mood.

A Kiev attack broke down and Sheringham won the ball deep in his own half. He picked out Cole with a raking diagonal ball then set off in pursuit. Cole drove forward, hesitated, almost lost the ball trying to find Ryan Giggs, then flicked it hopefully across the box. It came to Sheringham who, belying his 34 years, had sprinted 70 yards in support. He laid the ball off to Roy Keane then, as Shovkovsky saved the captain's shot, forced in the rebound for his 12th goal of the season.

United then eased off to the extent that they became sloppy. The loss of Giggs, to a hamstring injury, did not help but the sight of Beckham giving the ball to Belkevich was axiomatic. That prompted an attack which ended with Kakha Kaladze shooting over.

But the expected wave of attacks failed to materialise. A brace of Beckham free-kicks, one of which brought an excellent save from Shovkovsky, was all United mustered. Instead they sat back, happy to occupy space in midfield and rely on the offside trap at the back.

It was a dangerous game and Ferguson decided to pep up the attack by bringing on Dwight Yorke. Sheringham went off, to a standing ovation. Soon, though, Ferguson was bringing on an extra defender as United retreated.

With a dozen minutes left Keane could have settled the match but his finish was poor. So, fortunately for United, was Demetradze's. Having come second in the group United will not be seeded in Friday's draw but will take strength from the memory of 1999. Then they sneaked through the qualifying rounds but went on to lift the trophy.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Barthez; P Neville, G Neville, Brown, Irwin; Beckham, Keane, Butt, Giggs (Fortune, 34; Silvestre, 88); Sheringham (Yorke, 75), Cole. Substitutes not used: Van der Gouw (gk), Greening, Solskjaer, Wallwork.

Dynamo Kiev (3-4-3): Shovkovsky; Vaschyuk, Holovko (Fedorov, 80), Gerasimenko (Serebrennikov, 62); Bodnar, Lysytskyi, Kaladze, Nesmachny; Khatskevich, Shatskikh (Demetradze, 67), Belkevich. Substitutes not used: Kernozenko (gk), Yashkin, Kardash, Kuzmichev.

Referee: C Colombo (France).