18/12/2008 09:41, Report by Nick Coppack
Gamba Osaka 3 United 5
Large sections of the English press had suggested the FIFA Club World Cup was an unnecessary distraction, but Sir Alex loaded his side with experience, including Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand in the starting XI. Still, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who drew the most cheers from the capacity crowd.
Ronny had United’s first shot on goal, but only after Gamba Osaka midfielder Tomokazu Myojin had tested Edwin van der Sar. Ronaldo then fizzed an effort just wide of the post before van der Sar was called into action again on 13 minutes, saving well from Ryuji Bando.
With a place in Sunday’s final against Ecuador’s Liga de Quito up for grabs, you could have excused the teams had they opted for a cautious approach. But both sides, and United in particular, were happy to commit men forward and play open, attacking football.
The Reds were rewarded on 28 minutes when Nemanja Vidic rose highest to head home Ryan Giggs’ corner from close range. The Serbian out-jumped Gamba captain Satoshi Yamaguchi to power home his fourth goal of the season (surprisingly, the first with his head), just as United had begun to dominate proceedings.
It could have – and should have – been 2-0 five minutes later when Ronaldo whipped a dangerous ball across the six-yard box. Anderson, unmarked and still without a goal for the Reds since arriving at Old Trafford, failed to make clean contact with the cross when it looked easier to score.