Late penalty clips Canaris' wings
By Alex Livie
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
For much of the 90 minutes, United trailed and they looked to be slipping to defeat after Viorel Moldovan`s early goal, but van Nistelrooy`s injury-time penalty snatched a late, precious point.
Am early strike from Moldovan which highlighted Manchester United`s defensive frailties once again, looked set to condemn The Red Devils to a Champions League defeat, but the late intervention of Yepes and the cool head of van Nistelrooy made sure the game finished all square.
Romanian ace Moldovan has been the scourge of England at international level, but it was United who suffered on this occasion as he capitalised on some particularly slack marking to stab the ball home.
Sir Alex Ferguson`s men produced some slick play at times, but found Les Canaris keeper Mickael Landreau in exceptional form all evening but he could do nothing about the Dutchman`s fine low spot-kick.
Nantes` domestic form has improved drastically of late and this appeared to reflect on their performance on Wednesday evening, as they were not overawed by the visiting stars from Old Trafford.
In Olivier Quint and Stephane Ziani they have two players who love to hold their designated wide positions and this caused problems for United full backs Mickael Silvestre and Phil Neville.
Ziani had an early opening, but the excellent Laurent Blanc, who demonstrated quality positional play all evening, was on hand to snuff out the danger.
On nine minutes United were opened up again, as Phil Neville went to sleep and allowed Quint acres of space. His cross found its way to Marama Vahirua who flicked to Moldovan and he scuffed his shot past Fabien Barthez to open the scoring.
The Red Devils were almost punished again two minutes later as Juan Sebastian Veron demonstrated the worst part of his game as he gave the ball to Vahirua and he brushed Gary Neville aside but was thwarted by an excellent Barthez save.
Sir Alex Ferguson`s side are full of pace and they countered with Veron feeding Ryan Giggs who picked out David Beckham but the England captain was denied a goal as Nestor Fabbri stole in to make an excellent covering header.
Van Nistelrooy is a threat to any defence and he highlighted this with a fine shot that cannoned back off of the post.
As the first half wore on, United started to exert more pressure with Beckham shooting narrowly wide and van Nistelrooy denied by an excellent Landreau save.
Roy Keane made a superb run but could not do justice to an exquisite Veron pass as he volleyed over the bar when unmarked.
A half-time team-talk from Ferguson appeared to do the trick as United came out well after the break, with a timely tackle from Yepes denying van Nistelrooy a shooting opportunity.
The Dutchman had another chance to level, but he showed a rare lack of control as a Keane pass escaped him.
Veron was subdued for most of the evening, with a swerving shot that went wide his last contribution before being replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Norwegian assassin nearly added another chapter to his supersub book, but Landreau made a remarkable low stop.
Landreau then made an equally good save to thwart Giggs, while at the other end his counterpart Barthez tipped over a fine strike from Quint that would have sealed the win.
The writing appeared to be on the wall when Landreau made a simply amazing save, pushing the ball to safety at full stretch, from a Paul Scholes effort.
Time was fast expiring when Yepes handled in the area and van Nistelrooy gratefully accepted the chance to steal a point.
United stay joint top of the Group, as Bayern Munich were held to a 0-0 draw in Portugal by Boavista.
The Germans showed a lack of attacking instincts as the home side made the running, but neither team could make the breakthrough.
Both teams had the ball in the net but Mehmet Scholl`s and Marcio`s efforts for Bayern and Boavista respectively were ruled out for offside.
Samuel Kuffour headed against the post during a rare Bayern foray forward, but German ace Oliver Kahn was the busier of the two keepers as he made a number of saves to keep Boavista at bay.
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