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Ferguson hails fantastic night
Ed Osmond | November 24, 2004 12:01 IST
Manchester United gave manager Alex Ferguson a "fantastic night" in his 1,000th game in charge by qualifying for the Champions League knockout phase with a 2-1 victory over Olympique Lyon on Tuesday.
"All day I was a bit nervy but I kept saying to myself that it was the 999 before it that mattered," Ferguson said.
Ruud van Nistelrooy's 53rd-minute header saved the blushes of United goalkeeper Roy Carroll who had gifted Lyon a first-half equaliser when he let Mahamadou Diarra's long-range strike under his body.
Appropriately it was one of Ferguson's longest-serving players Gary Neville who had given his team the lead after a goalmouth melee in the first half.
"It was a fantastic night for me... and I was very pleased with my players," Ferguson said.
"I thought there was a magnificent quality to the match. Lyon played a full part and I was delighted with my team. They showed good composure, played some good football and created a few chances."
United, who now top the group with 11 points to Lyon's 10, started aggressively and their best early chance came when Wayne Rooney hit the post with little more than five minutes gone.
After 19 minutes England defender Neville's pass to the flank found Alan Smith, who put a perfect ball across the box which Lyon's Anthony Reveillere had to intercept to prevent Van Nistelrooy scoring.
Reveillere had another go at clearing his lines but succeeded in pushing the ball out to Neville who lashed it into the net. It was only Neville's seventh goal in a long career at his only club and his second in the Champions League.
United kept going forward but Lyon had probably the better chances through Pierre-Alain Frau and Essien before Carroll's howler got them back into the match after 40 minutes.
Diarra's shot was on target and Carroll had plenty of time to deal with it. Somehow the Irishman let it squirm under his body and into the net.
Neville, laid low by a virus, was substituted at halftime and his replacement Wes Brown nearly gave United the lead seconds after the restart but his shot flashed wide.
Eight minutes into the half United were back in front, however. A run and chipped cross from close in by England defender Rio Ferdinand reached the far post where Van Nistelrooy headed home his 45th goal in the Champions League.
Minutes later the Dutchman nearly got another but his delicate chip hit the outside of the post following great work by Rooney.