Last updated : 16 September 2004 By Editor
This from The Guardian

Ruud van Nistelrooy not only took one of Denis Law's scoring records here last
night, he seemed intent on doing it in the style of the man they called The King.
Sir Alex Ferguson's players had been losing by two goals and seemed devoid of ideas until Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs swapped flanks in the second half
and Van Nistelrooy began to shimmer with menace.

Howard may even find his place is forfeited when Liverpool visit Old Trafford on
Monday. Ferguson must surely have been toying with the idea even before the
moment, 10 minutes before the interval, when the American goalkeeper
somehow failed to gather an ordinary free-kick from Juninho, Lyon's outstanding playmaker. The ball eluded his grasp and Cris, the Brazilian centre-half, poked it beyond him for a soft goal.

United had actually been deep in the opposition half, searching for an equaliser, when the move broke down and Lyon burst forwards. Sylvain Wiltord, playing
with verve and vigour, led the counter-attack to the edge of Howard's penalty
area before slipping the ball into the path of Pierre-Alain Frau, who scored with a neat finish.

Ferguson was irate at the ease with which Lyon could fluster a defence that had
John O'Shea deputising for Gary Neville at right-back. Quite what Phil Neville has done is a mystery but he has made only one start this season.
Alan Smith might also have felt aggrieved to be left out but Van Nistelrooy could hardly have done more to justify his status as first-choice striker.

He reduced the deficit in the 56th minute with a lovely twisting header to divert
Ronaldo's cross inside the far post, and suddenly the thrust of the game
reversed. For the first time United began to dominate and five minutes later they launched another move into the Lyon penalty area. This time Ronaldo failed to hit his shot cleanly but the ball was deflected into Van Nistelrooy's path and the striker, with superb anticipation, applied the final touch.

Even then Lyon might have snatched a late victory with a spirited charge as
Juninho, the night's outstanding performer, missed an open goal and struck the
outside of a post.

The Times

Climbing mountains of their own making has been a feature of Manchester
United's success in European competition, but another improbable ascent last
night, led by the irrepressible Ruud van Nistelrooy, could not ease Sir Alex
Ferguson's concern at an unconvincing start to their Champions League

Van Nistelrooy's goals illustrated that United have one of the most prolific strikers in the Champions League, while the second-half comeback brought confirmation, if any were needed, that they are also blessed with an indomitable spirit.

Unfortunately, the tie also exposed a defence that has been their Achilles' heel in the Champions League in recent years, and which may take more than the
imminent return of Rio Ferdinand to reinforce.

Ferguson had insisted at the pre-match press conference that there was no need to reconsider his long-held view that the only way to win the Champions League is by playing attacking football. If his somewhat surprising decision to omit Alan Smith from the starting line-up hinted at a more conservative approach, United are still a team that neglects defensive principles.

The return of Ferdinand after an eight-month ban will bring greater assurance
and security, but it might take more than that to restore the confidence of Tim
Howard, the goalkeeper, who was again badly at fault for Lyons's breakthrough
ten minutes before half-time. Howard could claim to have been unsighted as
Juninho Pernambucano's free kick crept around the wall and through a crowded
penalty area, but he should not have fumbled the ball into the path of Cris, the
Brazilian defender, who gleefully took the opportunity to score from six yards.

That goal did not flatter Lyons, a strong, physical side, who also showed great
finesse going forward. Sylvain Wiltord, whom they signed on a free transfer three weeks ago after his release by Arsenal, was a constant menace, but so were Sidney Govou and Florent Malouda, lively and elusive figures on the flanks, and Pierre-Alain Frau, whose mobility was matched by his intelligence.

Having fallen behind, United needed to reach the sanctuary of the dressing-room without suffering a further setback, but their problems deepened in the final minute of the first half when, after the breakdown of a United attack, Lyons broke with devastating effect from one penalty area to the other. Wiltord ran at the defence, twisting and turning before delivering a perfectly timed pass that Frau bent past Howard with the outside of his right foot to give Lyons an apparently unassailable lead.

A drastic improvement was needed and it came thanks to Van Nistelrooy. The
forward had barely had a touch of the ball in the opening period, so dominant
were the opposition, but he soon showed that his predatory sharpness has not
been blunted by two months spent in the treatment room, leaping to head the ball past Grégory Coupet from a cross by Ronaldo, who had excelled to keep the ball in play on the left.

Five minutes later, the same combination worked again, Van Nistelrooy reacting quickly to poke the ball past Coupet after a shot by Ronaldo was deflected into
his path.

Either side could have won in the final moments, Juninho Pernambucano going
closest in stoppage time with a 25-yard shot that struck the outside of the post,
leaving Ferguson to express his relief at gaining a valuable point, even if it did
merely paper over the cracks.

The Independent's view

The cavalry are on the horizon but at half-time in Lyon last night it seemed that
Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney would arrive at the Old Trafford stockade to
discover the club's dreams ransacked and the old empire in ruins.

Instead they will find the flame of resistance still burns fiercely in the House of
Ferguson after another rousing comeback. Following an abject opening half,
Manchester United trailed Lyon 2-0 with Tim Howard horribly at fault for the first goal. But as so often United revived and Ruud van Nistelrooy dragged them back into this Champions' League opener with his first goals of the season.

This result is of critical importance for United and not just because they need to
rebuild their self-belief. With Arsenal already nine points clear in the Premiership, the Champions' League has become a priority by default.

Having made changes in all departments except, fatefully, the goalkeeper, United began brightly, Eric Djemba-Djemba and Ryan Giggs going close in the opening 16 minutes.

But Lyon soon troubled them on the flanks and at set-pieces. Howard saved well enough from Florent Malouda after a one-two with Sylvain Wiltord opened his
defence up, but he needed Paul Scholes to clear Pierre-Alain Frau's header off
the line at a corner.

Eight minutes later, Ronaldo and John O'Shea lost possession upfield. Juninho
fed Wiltord who ran 60 yards unchallenged, Roy Keane trailing in his wake,
before slipping a pass to Frau to score.

Lyon should have closed the game up but became lazy. After 56 minutes,
Michael Essien failed to track Scholes's run, Anthony Réveillère was slow to
close down Ronaldo as he looked to return Scholes's deep cross, and Van
Nistelrooy, lacking match sharpness but still a poacher, rose to head in.

To their credit Lyon did not buckle and the match became a thriller. Scholes
cleared off the line from Wiltord; Grégory Coupet saved with agility, then bravery from Ronaldo; Nilmar, after a sweet exchange between Juninho and Malouda, was wide.

In injury-time the outstanding Juninho almost snatched victory but his 30-yard
shot hit the post and bounced away into the night, taking with it, Ferguson will
hope, United's early-season malaise.