|1||Van der Sar|
clearest chance of the lot fell to the underdogs just five minutes in. The playmaker Manso passed a free-kick short to Bieler, who found the defender Jairo Campo unmarked in the United box, but Edwin van der Sar was relieved to see his shot flash wide of the post.
This was unreflective of the flow of the match however, and Quito’s first-half chances ground to a halt as United’s stranglehold on the match grew stronger. Cevallos’ goal was peppered as chances fell to Carlos Tevez, Ji-sung Park, Michael Carrick and Ronaldo – to name but a few. But it was the on-song Rooney who came closest, and continued to give the keeper nightmares. Combining to great effect with the industrious Anderson, Wayne rounded the half off with another long-range shot that whizzed wide. Against all odds, the first half remained goalless.
Although United were in complete control during the first half, the first meaningful action of the second 45 made the Reds' mission to be named the top side in the world all the more difficult. Vidic became tangled up with Bieler, and as he attempted to free himself, clashed with the striker. The referee immediately flashed his red card and United were down to ten men - shortly afterwards, Sir Alex sacrificed Tevez to patch up his defence with young substitute Jonny Evans.
The all-action tempo of the first half slowed almost to walking pace as the Reds, still the team in charge, adapted to a new system. Manso remained a danger to the European champions, looking to exploit the spaces in midfield, and the little Argentinian magician had van der Sar at full stretch to palm away a swerving shot. This gave the Ecuadorians a shot of confidence and were soon handed another opportunity by Patrice Evra. The full-back misplaced a pass straight to Manso, and as he advanced, the excellent Anderson made a lung-bursting run to intercept on the edge of the box.