Ruud double sinks Addicks
By Adam Marshall. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Manchester United proved too strong for Charlton Athletic with Alan Smith and Ruud van Nistelrooy (2) on the scoresheet in a 3-1 victory.
The Red Devils began life without Roy Keane with three points and it was Smith, who is being asked to fill the great Irishman's boots, who opened the scoring. Darren Ambrose equalised after 65 minutes with a cracking drive but van Nistelrooy's double proved decisive to extinguish the home side's hopes.
United started like a team on a mission, zipping passes around impressively on the lush Valley surface. Wayne Rooney latched onto a John O'Shea pass but shot straight at Stephan Andersen to serve notice of the visitors' intentions.
It would have been 1-0 but for Hermann Hreidarsson's swift intervention soon afterwards. Rooney's pass released van Nistelrooy and the Dutchman rounded Andersen but saw his shot from a tight angle cleared superbly off the line by the Iceland international.
Rooney was at the hub of all United's best moves but was unable to keep down his finish after another neat move when right back Wes Brown slipped inside to create the opening.
Charlton's first shot in anger came from Darren Bent but it was a tame effort that Edwin van der Sar saved comfortably. The England squad member should have scored, though, when a Talal El Karkouri free kick rebounded to him, but the usually reliable striker screwed a great opportunity wide.
Eight minutes before the interval, Smith made him pay with his sixth goal in 11 games against Charlton. Wonderful work from Cristiano Ronaldo enabled Rooney to cross but, when Darren Fletcher slipped, the chance seemed lost. However, the Scot regained his footing to fizz it back towards Smith on the edge of the box.
It was a difficult ball to contend with, but the ex-Leeds United star clubbed an instant right-foot shot past Andersen to cheer the travelling Red Devils supporters.
Van Nistelrooy saw a drive from outside the box flipped over by Andersen after more splendid work by Smith and Rooney as United finished the first half with their tails up.
The Addicks improved after the break and Dennis Rommedahl forced a fine save out of van der Sar following hesitancy by Mikael Silvestre. Alexei Smertin shot over the top before Ambrose levelled matters with a sweet finish to a one-two with Bent. Although afforded too much space, the England Under-21 international finished superbly to add to the goal he scored against United last term for Newcastle.
Rooney remained a real threat, though, shooting wide after one solo slalom through the home defence, before repeating the trick with a run of real purpose. Ignoring several chances to pass to Ronaldo, instead he burst into the box to dink a cross towards van Nistelrooy. The Dutchman outmuscled Chris Powell, chested it and then turned in one movement to volley spectacularly past Andersen.
Charlton had been back on terms for only five minutes and the United captain celebrated wildly with the away fans, but the match was not won yet. Ambrose's shot from a Bent lay-off curled away from goal and the midfielder headed Jerome Thomas's cross towards goal but van der Sar was in the right place to save.
Silvestre and Rio Ferdinand had to make important blocks and van der Sar was called into action again, when Hreidarsson powered in a header, as United held on nervously but van Nistelrooy made the points safe with five minutes left.
Winning possession from Luke Young, United's top scorer belted his 12th goal of the season through Andersen's defences to clinch the points - his first goal for the club from outside the area.
It was vital for United that they won after defeating Chelsea in their last outing and they did enough to deserve the points despite Charlton's valiant efforts.
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|Charlton Athletic||Team Name||Manchester United|
|5||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||6|
|6||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||6|
|12||Total Fouls Conceded||11|
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Bromwich Albion||38||49|
|10||West Ham United||38||46|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||38||25|