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03 Nov 2010

Manchester United eventually strolled to Champions League victory against a blunt Bursaspor in Turkey to virtually guarantee their place in the last 16.

The hosts could not beat Edwin van der Sar in the first period, the 40-year-old blocking well from Turgay Bahadir.

Darren Fletcher then slammed United ahead at the start of the second half before French winger Gabriel Obertan made sure with a superb lashed second.

Portuguese substitute striker Bebe added a late deflected third.

United now need a point in their next match at Scottish champions Rangers to guarantee entry into the knockout stages of a competition which they won in 2008 before losing in the 2009 final.

This match was no barometer for their chances this year, but there were plus points with Obertan and Bebe notching their first goals for the club and Paul Scholes a constant threat - although improving winger Nani was taken off in the first half with a groin injury.

Turkish champions Bursaspor are now definitely out, having failed to score in four group C matches.

Their coach Ertugrul Saglam had described United as "world giants" before the game, but the team Sir Alex Ferguson started with reflected his insistence that their strongest resources must be utilised to make up ground in the Premier League.

That meant man-of-the-moment striker Javier Hernandez was left on the bench, with Obertan making a rare start in a five-man midfield to provide the closest support to lone forward Dimitar Berbatov.

The Bulgarian - who has now failed to score in 10 matches since a Premier League hat-trick against Liverpool - put two early efforts on target as deafening cat-whistles rang out around the Bursa Ataturk Stadium in north-west Turkey.

But his weak header from Patrice Evra's cross bounced easily into the arms of Dimitar Ivankov, before a powerful half-volley from Obertan's clever lay-off again went straight into the goalkeeper's arms.

With United's travelling support enmeshed behind what looked like a huge mosquito net, their team set about trying to dominate possession with veteran Scholes the fulcrum.

Yet United were caught napping in the 22nd minute when Sercan Yildrim slipped a pass through to Turgay Bahadir, who had managed to find acres of space on the right-hand side of the penalty area.

But alert Van der Sar sprang to their rescue as he managed to get in the way of an attempted dink over the bar when the Turk should really have scored.

Nani was then replaced by Park Ji-Sung after taking a knock to his groin which will keep him out of the club's match against Wolves on Saturday.

With the game opening up and Bursaspor looking likely, if lacking a little craft, Volkan Sen forced another save from Van der Sar, while Berbatov over hit a through-ball for Obertan when he should have given the young Frenchman a free run on goal.

Fletcher then crashed a volley wide from a tight angle after a superb floated cross from Evra, whose incessant energy drove the visitors on.

Scholes had a 'goal' rightly disallowed in the 38th minute after clearly handling when he burst into the box following United's best passing move of the half.

They then finished the first period on a sleepy note as Van der Sar miscued a clearance and allowed Gustav Svensson a decent chance, but the Swede could not capitalise with his attempted lob.

But United took an almost instant lead after the break when Obertan's smart play in the middle of the field allowed Michael Carrick the chance to knock an instinctive pass to Fletcher, who was lurking free in the area.

Scotland's captain controlled it first time before lashing a low shot across keeper Ivankov and into the far corner to mark his 50th Champions League appearance with only his second goal in the competition.

Plucky Bursaspor tried hard to hit back but they did not have the ruthlessness required to beat a keeper of Van der Sar's vast experience.

Firstly, Ivan Ergic bravely made space for himself despite Nemanja Vidic breathing down his neck but the alert Dutchman managed to pluck his high shot out from under the bar.

Volcan Sen then cannily set Federico Insua free in the area but he dallied and, although he got a shot off, Van der Sar was equal to it.

And that rapid double denial seemed to suck the life out of the Turkish side.

Ferguson had to bring Bebe on for the influential Fletcher, who had suffered a knock to his ankle which is likely to see him also miss the Wolves match.

But United soon turned the screw.

Ji-Sung slotted a pass into the path of Obertan before he confidently cut inside Ali Tandogan to hammer the ball high past Ivankov from just outside the area.

Last year's Premier League runners-up then made sure of victory in the 77th minute, with the peerless Scholes the creator.

With Bebe alert to his team-mate's vision, the Englishman duly slid through a disguised pass for the Portuguese to finish, although the ball skipped off the ankle of Tandogan as he attempted a last-gasp slide tackle.

Berbatov, who was disappointing on the night, could have added a third but, lacking any urgency, curled a right-footed shot wide.


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