“We are always going to create chances because we have enough match-winning players. It’s just at the other end that we have had a problem, but against Boavista we looked solid.”Wednesday’s win came at a price for United’s defence. Wes Brown was already out for two months with a knee injury, Gary Neville picked up a groin strain while Laurent Blanc ended the match with a broken nose. With Ronny Johnsen still recovering from a hamstring tear, Ferguson may have to bring in reinforcements, although the most obvious candidate, PSV Eindhoven’s Kevin Hofland, is cup-tied for the Champions’ League.Against a team not noted for the potency of its forward line they held firm.
“It was so important for the team to keep a clean sheet, because we have conceded so many goals,” said Micka?Silvestre, one of the few fully fit defenders available to Ferguson. “When you look at the positions in the group, they are what people expect; Manchester United and Munich are top and we have to make sure it continues that way.”If all goes well, United could be through to the quarter-final stages, where they have fallen in three of the past four seasons, in the space of two matches against Nantes – a side who perfectly illustrate the gap that can arise between European and domestic performance.Having beaten Lazio home and away in the first group stage, they find themselves bottom of the French First Division. However, even in the Champions’ League they appear to have run out of steam entirely with their last six games having produced only one goal. Viorel Moldovan, Coventry City’s former striker now plying his trade in the Stade Beaujoire, commented that his coach, Reynald Denoueix, had no idea how to halt the slide.”He does not know what to do. None of us can understand how it is possible to have had such a good run in Europe early on while in the league we are on the very edge of disaster,” he said.Disaster for Nantes would be relegation from the league they won in May; for Manchester United it would be not retaining their title. It is hard to believe that in February they will meet on equal terms.. Harry Kewell, at last rediscovering his irresistible form of 18 months ago, brought a dash of colour to an otherwise grey display by Leeds last night as they claimed a place in next Wednesday’s draw for the fourth round of the Uefa Cup.Leeds, forced to field a makeshift team, looked set for a resounding win when Kewell gave them an early lead with a thrilling solo effort that will be a contender for Elland Road’s best goal this season.
When the Australian hit the woodwork soon afterwards, the capacity crowd sat back and expected a routine home victory over the Swiss League’s fourth-placed side.
Despite Richard Nu?s riposte in first-half stoppage time, Robbie Keane restored the advantage seconds later. But Leeds, who let a 4-1 lead over Troyes in the previous round turn into a exercise in brinkmanship, were ultimately thankful that Nu?s second goal, again in time added on, came too late to provide anything more than consolation for Grasshopper.David O’Leary, the Leeds manager, was distinctly unimpressed by his side, who have now won only twice in 10 matches and face an arduous test of their championship credentials at Blackburn on Sunday. “I’m delighted we’re through and can put this competition to bed until February, but disappointed with the way we played,” he said. “The standard of the game was poor.”Even Kewell was not immune to criticism from O’Leary. “Harry scored a good goal, but I thought he could have done a lot more, particularly in the second half.”O’Leary added: “There might have been a bit of complacency.