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Bayer Leverkusen 0-5 Manchester United: Reds run riot in Germany to go through

Manchester United absolutely crushed a lifeless Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, putting five past the Germans to claim their spot in the knockout stages.

Lars Baron

Manchester United are in the knockout stages after we dealt out a sound thrashing to Bayer Leverkusen (who, happily, are managed by Liverpool favourite Sami Hyypia.)

Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Nani got the goals as United took full advantage of some pretty awful defending from the hosts, as they gave the most solid and controlled display of the David Moyes era so far.

The reintroduction of Phil Jones to central midfield had a large hand in the solidity, and United were looking the better team right from the start, although the opening to the game yielded no great chances at either end.

Indeed, the first clear chance went to Bayer. Shortly after Son Heung-Min had troubled Rio Ferdinand, Stefan Kiessling did the same, with the veteran defender bafflingly allowing the striker to simply walk past him, but fortunately Jonny Evans was on hand with a wonderful intervention to keep the scores level.

Seconds later, United were ahead from a fantastic counter-attack - Shinji Kagawa carried the ball out before finding Ryan Giggs, who in turn found Wayne Rooney. The striker's ball into the area just evaded the leaping Kagawa, but Antonio Valencia had timed his far post run well and forced it home to put United into the lead.

Rooney has had a mixed season so far, but his delivery from set-pieces, whether direct or indirect, has generally been excellent. That was the case again as a free-kick on the left hand side was floated in with a devilish ball from Rooney, and as Emir Spahic and Chris Smalling competed in the air, the ball deflected off the former and into the net.

Bayer were no better after the second half, and a woeful backpass let Nani in shortly after the break, only for the winger to drag his shot wide. The miss almost let the hosts back into the game as some pinball following a corner ended up with the ball striking David de Gea's near post, but Bayer couldn't get it into the net.

Wayne Rooney was in form and went close afterwards with a fine move, nutmegging his marker and then firing just wide from range. The striker came close again shortly afterwards as some woeful marking from a corner allowed Patrice Evra to flick the ball on for the striker, but Bernd Leno made the save. Unfortunately for the hosts, he couldn't hold onto it, and Jonny Evans was also in a criminal amount of space and time to force the ball home.

More poor defending from Leverkusen then once again presented the ball to United in a dangerous area, and Rooney clipped a fine ball to the back post to find Chris Smalling, who had a simple tap-in to make it 4-0. A scoreline so comfortable that it was safe to introduce Anderson - and the Brazilian almost made an immediate impact, sending the ball out to Nani before collecting the return cross but pulling a woeful finish wide.

Nani had not quite been at his best, but certainly playing himself into contention for the weekend game against Tottenham given the form of his counterparts. His final contribution was a real touch of class, as Ryan Giggs clipped a pass forwards and the winger easily rounded Leno before executing an impudent finish with the outside of his foot into the empty net.

It was a convincing scoreline from United, although it owed a lot to some pretty wretched defending from the hosts - David Moyes' men were hardly all over them from start to finish, or playing glorious, fluid football, but they made all the right decisions and did the simple things well enough to win the game handsomely. It's Manchester United's biggest ever away win in the Champions League, and this puts us in a fine state of mind for the weekend.