FT Leeds 0 Man Utd 3
In the competition Manchester United use to blood their kids, Michael Owen and Ryan Giggs combined to see off Leeds and ease the Red Devils into the Carling Cup fourth round.
That the veteran duo were involved at all says everything about how United have attacked this season.
Owen had not kicked a ball in competitive combat before the contest began but scored twice to take his tally to an impressive 11 goals in 12 starts.
Then Giggs followed up his effort in Benfica last week by curling home his 161st career goal, nutmegging Tom Lees in the process.
The game won by half-time, Sir Alex Ferguson did give youth a chance afterwards, Danny Welbeck amongst those introduced after the England man recovered from his hamstring injury.
But Leeds were never a threat, even though the visitors ended the game with 10 men after debutant Ezekiel Fryers limped off, leaving last season’s joint Golden Boot winner Dimitar Berbatov to partner Michael Carrick in central defence.
Nineteen-year-old Fryers had been the lucky youngster called upon by Ferguson.
The eye-catching statistic was that the team United sent into battle was, on average, 3.4 years older than the one that started Sunday’s Premier League triumph over Chelsea.
In Owen and Giggs, there was a combined 68 years’ worth of experience. And how they used it after the visitors had survived a difficult start.
Leeds fans never need to get up for this particular fixture.
A gap of eight years between visits to Elland Road, punctuated by that famous 2010 FA Cup triumph at Old Trafford when Simon Grayson’s team were still in League One, had heightened anticipation amongst the white rose contingent.
Had either Lees’ header, or Ross McCormack’s follow-up gone in, the roof would have come off this famous old stadium.
As it was, Ferguson found an unlikely saviour in Berbatov, who booted off the line on both occasions, allowing United to assume total control by half-time.
Owen’s first involved a little jink inside Lees after he had collected Park Ji-sung’s square pass, then a rather scruffy finish that ended up in the bottom corner.
Andy Lonergan had no chance there, and he was equally helpless with Owen’s second.
Again, the cross came from the right, this time delivered by Mame Biram Diouf. The finish was clinical, one touch to control, the second to belt it into the top corner.
Giggs provided the perfect ending to the first-half for the Premier League champions, pushing the ball through Lees’ legs after collecting Park’s return pass from a short corner, then curling home a deflected effort with the outside of his trusty left foot.
It proved to be the end of the veteran Welshman’s contribution as promising midfielder Paul Pogba was given his first taste of senior action at the break.
The French teenager could hardly have had a better position with which to begin life at senior level, although he will not remember the curling shot he skied into the night air with much affection.
Indeed, the second period was largely a forgettable affair.
Leeds found it impossible to give their fans the glimmer of hope they craved and United strolled around in comfort.
Owen came close to completing his hat-trick when he turned onto a Berbatov through ball and curled narrowly wide of the far post.
The introduction of Welbeck for Diouf was a welcome development for Fabio Capello ahead of England’s crucial Euro 2012 trip to Montenegro next month.
The Italian can only hope that expedition proves as easy as this was for the visitors.