Teddy Sheringham scored the goal that sent Manchester United FC, the 1999 champions, through to the Second Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League but it was the praises of a player on the opposite side - George Demetradze – that the Old Trafford crowd were chorusing at the end.
The FC Dynamo Kyiv substitute tucked a simple chance wide with five minutes to go and United, who grew increasingly edgy at their failure to add to Sheringham’s 18th-minute goal, knew they were on the receiving end of a huge let-off.
It means that United qualify in second place in Group G behind RSC Anderlecht while Kyiv finish bottom of the section. The prize is of such significance that no one in Manchester will decry the performance but they know it was not one of the club‘s better nights.
Maybe if Kyiv had showed a touch more adventure earlier in the game they might have managed to sneak the draw that would have brought elimination to the team who began the night as second favourites for the competition.
But undeniably, by playing a cagey game, Kyiv preyed on United’s nerves as the vital second goal proved so elusive.
The decisive strike was a triumph for Sheringham who launched the move himself from deep in his own half with a splendid long ball to Andy Cole. Cole appeared at first to have lost the momentum behind the attack but was fortunate that a clever Giggs backheel gave him possession once more.
Cole had nowhere to go but the ball spilled out to Sheringham who showed a second piece of invention in the move to play in Roy Keane for a side-foot volley. Olexander Shovkovskyi got in the way of the sidefoot volley but there was Sheringham to put the ball away
That should have been the cue for United to relax and to go further ahead but there were too many loose strands to their game and they threatened only sporadically after that and chiefly through the free-kicks and long-shots of David Beckham.
Five minutes after half-time a Denis Irwin pass gave the England winger the chance to unleash a fierce shot which Shovkovskyi did well to palm away. Two minutes later another Beckham shot bent away from the far post.
Keane, set up by Quentin Fortune, could not get enough power behind his effort and so the tension increased, Kyiv creeping further forward the longer the match went.
However they suffered badly from a lack of penetration and the outstanding form of Wes Brown at the heart of the United defence was no encouragement to them.
Then withn five minutes remaining a sharp break down the right produced a cut-back which Demetradze was onto in front of his marker. Old Trafford held its breath as their Champions League hopes rested on a knife-edge. Fortunately for the capacity crowd the chance, a gilt-edged opportunity at this level, slipped past the wrong side of the post.