Miller opens account as United see off Crewe

Crewe Alexandra 0 Manchester United 3

And Ireland midfielder Liam Miller will relish the win as the Corkman scored his first senior goal for the Red Devils since his summer move from Celtic.

Alan Smith’s clinical 10th-minute opener ensured the visitors always had some degree of comfort against a spirited Crewe side, who forced returning ’keeper Tim Howard into a series of decent stops, before they were undone by two goals in as many minutes just before the hour mark.

The home fans were happy to turn out for United’s first visit to Gresty Road, no matter who lined up in the famous red shirts. But the away side were stronger than expected.

While Ferguson stuck by his pledge not to field any of the 11 players who started Sunday’s encounter with Arsenal, he still managed to field nine full internationals.

It has been over a month and six matches since Howard last started, a period of inactivity Ferguson believes the American will benefit from after being afflicted by a serious case of second-seasonitis.

The visitors were indebted to him in the opening stages as Crewe enthusiastically pushed forward.

In England U-21 international Dean Ashton, Crewe have a player of true talent and it was one of the striker’s drives Howard beat away for his most impressive stop of the opening period.

Howard also rushed to block at Ashton’s feet and then saved impressively from Steve Jones.

However, it was United who predictably carried the greater threat.

David Bellion saw an early effort flick off the post before Smith put the visitors in front.

The former Leeds man produced a smart finish to slot home Louis Saha’s through ball.

It took Smith’s tally for the season to seven goals, two clear in the United scoring charts so Ferguson can look ahead to the next two Premiership games without suspended Ruud van Nistelrooy without the trepidation he might have felt in previous seasons.

Smith still retains a fierce temper though and his wild challenge from behind on Justin Cochrane made referee Matt Messias’ notebook in the first-half.

Just as they had kept Howard busy at the start of the opening half, so Crewe repeated the feat after the break.

Roy Carroll’s impressive form may consign the former Major League Soccer star to the first-team bench for a while yet but his rehabilitation is coming on fine judging by the excellent saves that denied David Vaughan and Jones, who was even outperforming Ashton.

The hosts were unable to heed the age-old lesson of taking your chances when on top and two goals in as many minutes consolidated United’s lead.

Bellion has already scored four times and last night added two assists of vastly contrasting quality.

First, he brilliantly split the Crewe defence to set up Miller for United’s second, then his complete failure to control Saha’s low cross saw the ball divert straight into the path of Stephen Foster, who turned the ball into his own net.

United then eased off, holding the Crewe attack at bay, although Spanish teenager Gerrard Pique and striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake made debuts.

CREWE: Williams, Otsemobor, Billy Jones, Foster, Tonkin, Lunt, Sorvel, Cochrane, Vaughan, Ashton, Steve Jones.

MAN UTD: Howard, Brown, O’Shea, Miller, Richardson, Bellion, Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba, Fletcher, Smith, Saha.

Referee: M Messias (S Yorkshire).

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