Ruthless Red Devils enjoy Turkish cruise

Manchester United moved to within a point of the Champions League knock-out stages with an impressive 3-0 victory over Bursaspor in Turkey.

Last Updated: 02/11/10 at 23:25 Post Comment

Fletcher and Obertan: Both on the scoresheet

Fletcher and Obertan: Both on the scoresheet

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Second-half goals from Darren Fletcher, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe on Tuesday night extended United's unbeaten record in all competitions to 23 and ensured they only require a draw against Rangers at Ibrox on November 24 to claim their customary place in the knockout phase with a game to spare.

And, with Nani already rated doubtful to face Wolves on Saturday after limping off with a groin injury midway through the opening period, Sir Alex Ferguson must have been delighted that two of his back-up wide-men followed up Fletcher's opener - only his second Champions League goal in his 50th appearance in the competition - to seal a comfortable win.

Already without 10 players on this trip, including the rested Rio Ferdinand, who was engaged in an entertaining Twitter spat with Robbie Savage, United could ill afford to lose anyone else.

In Antonio Valencia's long-term absence, Nani has stepped into the breach superbly this term, shouldering so much responsibility attacking from wide positions, drawing high praise from Arsene Wenger yesterday.

As the Portugal wideman made his way to the bench after the briefest of delays for treatment, not even waiting for Park Ji-sung to get ready to replace him, Ferguson could only hope the winger's problem is a minor one given a number of key Premier League encounters await, not least next Wednesday's Manchester derby at Eastlands.

Not that Nani had actually been too threatening on this occasion.

It was Obertan, making only his second start of the season, who took that role, providing the well executed pass which provided lone frontman Dimitar Berbatov with his clearest sight of goal.

Unfortunately for United, the Bulgarian's well-struck effort flew straight at his fellow countryman Dimitar Ivankov.

Paul Scholes did not even manage that as he touched the ball with his standing leg after Berbatov had played him in, meaning his eventual shot was of the fresh-air variety, drawing a rueful smile from Ferguson.

Scholes did finish neatly before half-time but German official Wolfgang Stark had spotted his handball in the build-up, while Fletcher's volley was well struck but so far wide the man who provided the cross, Patrice Evra, ended up trying to nod it back into the area.

Bursaspor were marginally more dangerous, with Volkan Sen much improved on his woeful efforts at Old Trafford a fortnight ago when the Turkish champions slipped to defeat without much of a fight.

It was Turgay Bahadir who spurned the hosts' best chance though when Sercan Yildirim provided an intelligent square ball that invited a finish after United's defence had been exposed two-on-two.

Thankfully for the visitors, veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar was alive to the danger, advanced quickly, and made an impressive block with his shoulder.

Rather than feel sorry for themselves, United used the interval to refocus.

Within two minutes it had paid dividends.

A concerted period of pressure around the Bursaspor box resulted in Michael Carrick picking out Fletcher with an excellent pass to the corner of a packed penalty area.

This time, Fletcher's aim was true and his shot rattled into the far corner.

Given his mounting injury problems, it was perhaps no surprise Ferguson opted to replace Fletcher not long afterwards after his fellow Scot had taken an awkward-looking tumble by the touchline.

Bebe was introduced to provide more width, although containing Sen appeared to be the key to a United victory and Nemanja Vidic was forced to make a well-timed intervention to prevent Yildirim reaching the playmaker's cross.

But any doubt over the outcome was ended 17 minutes from time when Park released Obertan, who intelligently stepped inside Ali Tandogan before crashing a shot into the roof of the Bursaspor net.

It was a neat way to claim his first United goal and on their next attack, the visitors had another with Bebe running on to Scholes' brilliantly disguised pass before calmly finishing from 10 yards.

Ferguson must have been as delighted with the scorers as the score.

Given the state of his medical room, two of his unsung heroes may have a big part to play in the coming weeks.

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