Bolton Wanderers 1 Manchester United 2

Last updated : 08 January 2004 By Mark Heys
Manchester United came out on top in this North West derby with a 2-1 win over rivals Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium thanks to two first half goals from Paul Scholes and Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

Bolton at times frustrated their near neighbours with some neat possessional play but United looked dangerous on the counter attack and used their wingers Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs to good effect during the 90 minutes.

The home side could have taken the lead on 10 minutes when a dangerous cross from the Bolton captain Jay-Jay Okocha evaded both Kevin Nolan and Youri Djorkaeff in the area, and United keeper Tim Howard had to be alert to watch the ball to safety.

Wanderers then had to reshuffle their defence as Jamaican international Ricardo Gardner was strechered off after falling awkwardly in a tussle with the Reds midfielder Darren Fletcher in what could unfortunately turn out to be cruciate knee ligament damage but further tests will reveal the extent of the injury to the 25-year old wing-back. Emerson Thome replaced the former Harbour View player and slotted in at centre half with Simon Charlton moving back to left-back.

Per Frandsen and Okocha then tested Howard with a couple of fine long distance shots, the second of which the American international failed to hold but was on hand to collect at the second attempt.

On 25 minutes it was United who broke the deadlock through England midfielder Paul Scholes in what could be argued as against the run of play. The ball found its way from the right hand side of the pitch to Welsh international Ryan Giggs on the left and his cross was tapped home by the influential Scholes after Ruud Van Nistelrooy's effort had been saved initially by the Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Wanderers then tried to work their way back into the game when Youri Djorkaeff and Per Frandsen combined but the latter saw his long range effort sail over Howard's crossbar.

Then shortly before half time came the games talking point from a Bolton perspective, Kevin Nolan had broken free for Bolton down the right hand side of the field and his cross found striker Kevin Davies. The former Southampton player then seemed to be pushed by United midfielder Roy Keane in what looked like a cast iron penalty but referee Dermot Gallagher waved away the appeals much to the disgust of the Bolton crowd.

United furthered their advantage shortly after the incident when on 39 minutes Giggs again did the damage down the left hand side and his chipped effort over the head of Jaaskelainen was followed in by a header from Ruud Van Nistelrooy but there was strong appeals from Bolton who felt the former PSV Eindhoven player was offside when he followed in Giggs cross.

Ivan Campo then had a chance to reduce the defecit for Bolton but the Spaniard was desparetly unlucky to see his long distance shot saved by Howard, who had a good game between the sticks for the Champions.

Sir Alex Ferguson's team went in at half time leading 2-0 in perhaps a scoreline that was a bit flattering for them but nevertheless they came out strong in the early stages of the second half.

The Reds captain Roy Keane found himself in acres of space on the edge of the 18-yard area following a pass from Van Nistelrooy but his drive was tipped around the post by Jaaskelainen.

Kevin Davies thought he had pulled a goal back for the Wanderers when he connected to head goalwards a cross by Nicky Hunt, however the Bolton striker saw his effort hit the side netting.

On the hour Hunt was booked for a foul on Scholes after he appeared to pull back the England player as the last defender. However Referee Dermot Gallagher only cautioned the young full back as he took into account that Scholes could have been in an offside position when the ball was played.

A few minutes later Wanderers made a substitution to try and drag themselves back into the game, Kevin Nolan made way for new loan signing Javi Moreno who was making his Bolton debut and the striker nearly made an immediate impact when he almost set up Kevin Davies with a neat through ball.

On 70 minutes Youri Djorkaeff was desparetly unlucky as he failed to connect with a cross on the turn by Davies who had flashed the ball across the goal and the French World Cup winner was inches away from sliding home a goal.

Ten minites later United had Tim Howard to thank for producing a world class save to deny Okocha. The Bolton midfielder had a shot from around 25-yards which looked to be heading in the top right hand corner only for the United keeper to turn the ball away for a corner.

Okocha then turned provider to set up a grandstand finish, his right wing cross was headed past Howard by the veteran Djorkaeff in the 89th minute and the final few minutes of injury time where pressing for United. Bolton through everything but the kitchen sink to try and force a draw with their arch rivals, Ibrahim Ba blazed over when it seemed easier to score and even Jussi Jaaskelainen twice came up for two Bolton attacks the second of which heralded the final whistle from the official Gallagher.