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Manchester United hit Premiership summit with win over Makukula's Bolton

Bolton Wanderers 0-1 Manchester United

RonaldoMakukulaManchester United scored a last-gasp winner at the Reebok Stadium to go top of the Premiership, on a day which saw Ariza Makukula make his debut for Bolton Wanderers.

The Portuguese forward, who signed a loan deal until the end of the season from Benfica late on Friday night, played for just over an hour for the hosts, who were left empty-handed after Dimitar Berbatov’s 90th-minute header.

United started Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the three attacking players in a 4-3-3 system, with Berbatov and Carlos Tevez making up the trio. The recently-crowned Fifa World Player of the Year was involved in many of United’s best chances, but Ronaldo has now gone nines league games without a goal for the Red Devils. Nani was on the bench, but was not called by Alex Ferguson.

It was a scrappy game, overall, with the best chance of the first half falling to Ronaldo. Darren Fletcher clipped in a cross from the right which Ronaldo met with a firm header, but the ball flew straight at Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, who made the save. The Finn later denied Ronaldo from a free-kick with an even more impressive save.

Determined Makukula

Makukula looked short of match fitness on his Premiership bow, but the striker did not look intimidated by the physical nature of the English game, competing aggressively against Nemanja Vidic. The Portuguese worked tirelessly, but struggled to get the better of his marker, and earned a yellow card for a somewhat unnecessary barge into the back of the Serbian defender.

United had improved towards the end of the first half, and although the second period was devoid of much inspiration from either side, the champions looked the more likely team to make a breakthrough. Ronaldo, playing on the left, began to enjoy a lot of space down the flank, but the ball seemed to evade United at the crucial moments.

However, the champions’ will to win once again earned rich rewards, as Bulgarian striker Berbatov continued his good recent form with another winning goal. Tevez’s determined run took him into the area, and the Argentine managed to pick out his team-mate, leaving Berbatov to head in from five metres out.

Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Andrew O'Brien, Samuel, Davies, Basham, Muamba, Gardner (Puygrenier 83), Taylor, Makukula (Obadeyi 64)
Yellow Cards: Makukula

Man Utd:
Van der Sar, Neville, Vidic, Evans, O'Shea, Fletcher (Giggs 69), Carrick, Anderson (Scholes 69), Ronaldo, Tevez, Berbatov
Yellow Cards: O’Shea

[0-1] Berbatov, 90’

January 17 2008, by Sean Gillen

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