United defused a potentially explosive Carling Cup tie at Leeds with a first-half display of composure, control and devastating football.
Michael Owen is simply a natural goalscorer. Within 15 minutes of his first involvement of the campaign, the striker had silenced the home fans and his second strike was a thing of beauty. Captain Ryan Giggs capped of 45 minutes of dominant play with a stunning solo effort that he could have been scoring here in the mid-nineties.
Even with a side designed to give players a game under their belt, hence the inclusion of Michael Carrick alongside Ezekiel Fryers at centre-back and four forwards in the line-up, the Reds were a cut above their rivals from across the Pennines.
The game’s first opening fell to the hosts, and spawned a melee of desperate interventions in the United ranks. Tom Lees’ powerful header was blocked by Dimitar Berbatov, Ben Amos repelled the defender’s follow-up and Berbatov was again on hand to thwart Ross McCormack’s attempts to turn in the loose ball.
Around a game largely devoid of early inspiration, however, the most compelling contest was taking place off the field, as both factions of supporters waged choral war on one another. On the quarter-hour mark, only the visiting section was audible as United moved ahead in devastatingly simple circumstances.
Berbatov slid an inch-perfect pass into the path of Ji-sung Park, who had timed his run perfectly. The South Korean fed Owen, who needed only two touches: one with his right foot to tee up the shot; the second with his left foot to roll a finish in-between Aidan White’s legs and into