MAN UTD: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Richardson, Ronaldo, Fletcher (Pique 86), O’Shea, Giggs, Saha (van Nistelrooy 73), Rooney (Park 79).
Subs Not Used: Howard, Bardsley.
BOLTON: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Ben Haim (Vaz Te 45), N’Gotty, Gardner, Giannakopoulos (Fadiga 76), Okocha, Faye, Nolan, Speed, Davies.
Subs Not Used: Walker, Jaidi, Nakata.
Sir Alex Ferguson picked up the perfect 64th birthday present as United brushed aside Bolton with the minimum of ease. And, as they extended their recent run to eight wins and two draws in 10 league outings, the Red Devils are providing some evidence to back up Ferguson’s theory that Chelsea had better not slip an inch.
Gary Speed levelling Bruno N’Gotty’s early own-goal, but Louis Saha and second-half Cristiano Ronaldo double crowned a well-deserved win.
And Wayne Rooney once again used Old Trafford as the perfect stage to play to the gallery with an amazing performance.
The contest was only eight minutes old when N’Gotty diverted Kieran Richardson’s low cross into his own goal to ensure the Red Devils gained a tangible reward for their impressive early efforts.
Saha and Rooney both had chances that Jussi Jaaskelainen proved equal to, while Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo tortured Bolton from either flank. But, as the half-hour mark drifted by, United still had just a single goal to show for their efforts and were then smacked squarely on the jaw by a sucker punch.
A long throw from Jay-Jay Okocha, continued with an Abdoulaye Faye flick-on, and ended when Speed arrived at the far post to head home.
After Saha had seen Jaaskelainen bravely block one effort within seconds of Speed’s leveller and Ronaldo had belted a volley against a post, United drove straight down route one to reclaim their lead.
Ronaldo had already struck a post for the second time when Rooney provided him with an opportunity he could not miss. Indispensable now for both club and country, Rooney emerged with the ball from three separate tackles, exchanged passes with Saha, then found Ronaldo with a truly astounding sideways flick with his right foot which invited the eight-yard finish.
The young winger, so frustrating at times, finished Bolton off with a low drive in stoppage time that followed a couple of trademark stepovers.