Full-time - 90'
3 - 1
19:45 +00:00, December 6, 2006
Old Trafford, England
Gameover and United are through to the last 16 and Benfica are out thanks to a pair of second half headers
But that's full-time!
Some tricksy juggling from Ronaldo who goes on one last run...
Heinze tries his luck with a strange long distance effort - high and wide is the result
The life is drained out of the game - there is no doubt as to the result and the players know it; they're just going through the motions
Rooney tries his luck from 35 yards, but the ball was under his feet and his shot was pulled wide
United playing keep-ball, spreading play and further frustrating Benfica who must not just want to get on the plane and go home
A long clearance from Van der Sar finds Saha, who checks inside to find Carrick
Vidic with a fair, but forceful challenge on Nelson brings a promising, it half-hearted, Benfica attack to an end
Ten minutes to go and the game had almost ground to a halt before United saw a gap: Fletcher began the move and Rooney finished it with a low drive from distance.
Karagounis is doing his best to inject some urgency into the Benfica side; bless him.
A yellow card for Fletcher
Solskjaer joins the game as Scholes is subbed.
Old Trafford finds its collective voice as some, though not all, Benfica players look shell-shocked
15 minutes to go, United 3-1 up and Ferguson has the result he wanted
Saha shakes off the attentions of Nelson before climbing to meet the corner with a sharp header which was too strong for Quim. Game over, surely?
ANOTHER GOAL FOR UNITED!! 3-1!
A half shout for a penalty, but United settle for a corner
And a United change: Bye-bye Ryan Giggs, Hi there Darren Fletcher
Benfica sub: Thank you and goodnight to Assis, hello and welcome to Giorgias Karagounis
A nice move from Untied ends with an unselfish pass from Rooney aimed at Ronaldo being cut out by a defender
Carrick wrests control of midfield and tries to slide a pass through to Saha - it would have looked great had it worked! Perhaps a simple pass wide to Giggs or Ronaldo would have been wiser?
Simao takes, but Carrick is there to head clear. Benfica are pressing as United have taken their foot of the gas ever so slightly
Freekick for Benfica on the right corner of United penalty area.
A change for United, Evra limps off with a frown on his face as Gabby Heinze takes his place at left-back.
Benfica are working hard, Simao and Gomes showing plenty of fight and spirit - good to see, but you'd expect nothing less: they haven't given up yet
Evra is off the pitch taking some treatment for what looks to be a damaged ankle.
So as it stands United will top the group, Celtic will finish second and Benfica will be dropping into the UEFA Cup
A change for Benfica, off goes Miccoli and on comes Jorge Alves - Miccoli is not happy but he's been poor this half
Offside given against Rooney - harsh call
Ferdiand with a crucial bit of defending inside his own six yard box - he cut out a dangerous cross to concede a corner rather than a goal
A great header from Ryan Giggs! The Welshman lost his marker with a burst of pace as he ran into the box to connect with a peach of a cross from Ronaldo. The connection was perfect from Giggs who guided the ball back across the goal to beat Quim
GOAL TO UNITED!
Nelson gets the ball and tears up the pitch looking to find a killer ball
Copenhagen are now 3-0 up against Celtic in this group.
Saha wastes the best chance of the half, flashing a drive high over he bar after a poor ball into the box from Rooney wasn't dealt with by the Benfica defenders.
Benfica look to be trying to ride out the storm - content to lump clearance long, allowing United to come back at them. It's a risky ploy but United could blow themselves out, or leave space for a counter attack
A hopeful (or should tha be hopeless?) ball is hoised long by a Benfica defender and United once again gather the ball deep and try to pick their way through
Luis da Silva does well to cut out a pass from Ronaldo indside the penalty area with Saha and Rooney waiting for the ball
Saha and Neville with some neat inter-play on the right wing
Evra with a great run and pass inside the Benfica area creates some problems, but Benfica scrap and clear
Decent effort by Rooney with a glancing header from a Ronaldo cross
Petit hit the ball strongly, but he leant back as he connected and the ball flew into the stands
Freekick to Benfica five yards outside the edge of the United box
Giggs whips in the corner, but Benfica clear
Corner to United after early pressure from the home side
Back underway at Old Trafford
Sir Alex will want to know why it took a goal against his men to get them operating at their peak. Keep it here for the second half to see how the game pans out.
What a way to end the half. United are back on level terms after dominating the game. They went behind to a wonder-goal from Nelson but Vidic has changed Ferguson's team talk.
And that's half-time!
The deadball from the right wing was clipped into the box by Giggs and met by the head of Vidic!
GOAL TO UNITED!! 1-1!
Freekick to United moments before half time.
Only Vidic and Van der Sar in the United half as the Red Devils pile on the pressure
Yet another overhit ball from the right from that man Gary Neville. A shot from Saha was charged down and forced wide, the skipper picked it up but could not pick out one of the three men in the box. Poor.
Rooney's verbal reaction to a foul on Scholes earns him a yellow card. The last thing United need is to be reduced to 10 men
In other words United need a goal!
Celtic are 2-0 down against Copenhagen, meaning at this stage United would be out of the Champions League with Benfica going through as group winners ahead of Celtic...
A slightly subdued Old Trafford seems to be wondering how they can breakdown the visitors
Another poor cross from the right - Neville guilty of scuffing his pass
United seem to have beeng iven the word to operate a 4-4-2 with Saha the point man and Ronaldo, Giggs and Rooney take turns to be the second striker
Only Van der Sar in the United half for the home side - a risky ploy surely?
The corner was headed clear by Rocha, but United are first to the ball once again
The freekick is lumped in and goes out for a corner
Rooney limps away from another challenge - freekick to United 35 yards out on the left of the area in what used to be Beckham territory...
United on the quick break and Rocha fouls a galloping Rooney - Yellow card for Rocha
Petit and Katsouranis combine to feed the ball out wide to Miccoli on the the right wing - pressure building
A drive from Ronaldo hits Saha and United must build again
Game on at Old Trafford.Benfica's first away goal of the group stage has added much needed urgency to the game. United started brightly enough but wasted possession and crossing opportunities - now they look piqued and keen to get the leveller
Saha is denied on the line: Quim and Nelson somehow clear the ball off the line, but a slight suspicion handball by Nelso has Saha frowning
Quim parries well struck, 40-yard freekick from Ronaldo and United have a corner.
United need an immediate response - that goal was a blow coming as it did against the run of play.
An unstoppable drive from Nelson breaks he dealock - he collected the ball just beyond the edge of the United box from Simao before firing home a sweetly struck rising shot from range. Great, great goal!
GOAL FOR BENFICA!!
Gomes grabs the ball in the middle and feeds it to Simao on the right flank. Trouble brewing for United.
A lovely flowing move by United ends with Gary Neville half-volleying a cross into the box - it flies over Rooney's head and another good move ends after a poor or over-hit cross.
Saha clears the ball only as far as Ronaldo who controls the ball on his chest before trying to dribble out of the box
Vidic cuts out a great low cross from Miccoli - corner to Benfica
United are looking kind of dangerous, in that they are on top, passing and moving well but not finding the killer ball. As a result Benfica growing in confidence - will United come to rue these wasted chances?
More quicksilver passing from United but no end result, the ball ended up with Scholes on the right flank and his ball into the box was too strong for Ronaldo.
Another longball is chucked into the box; this time Ronaldo saw Saha on a run, but Quim was off his line swiftly to gather the ball.
A great corner from Giggs is misjudged by the United players in the box. Wasted.
Carrick pings a hopeful ball towards Giggs and Nelson concedes the corner
Assis and Simao are muscled out of it by Ferdinand and chums and United again begin to zip passes across the midfield as they probe for an opening
Rooney still hasn't scored in the Champions League since his hat-trick debut two years and 14 matches ago. Will tonight be the night? He fouls Leo who goes down lack a sack of potatos
The five man midfield is a favourite of Fergie's in Europe, despite the lack of goals it often brings
United are inviting Benfica onto them; with a speedy five-man midfield United are hoping to spring a trap
Despite the onslaught from United Benfica's midfield and defence seem untrouble, Leo and Rocha, Petit and Katsouranis taking it in their stride
Benfica clear their lines only for Evra to pick out Giggs on the right wing with a glorious 40-yard, pin-point cross-field ball
Benifica keeper Quim spills a shot from Rio Ferdinand. United win another corner
Corner for United as the pressure builds
You know it's nearly Christmas when Old Trafford start singing the Twelve Days of Christmas, with a few slight changes: '12 Cantonas 11 Cantonas 10 Cantonas 9 Cantonas 8 Cantonas 7 Cantonas 6 Cantonas 5 Cantonas 4 Cantonas 3 Cantonas 2 Cantonas and a Eric Cantona!'
Ronadlo tries his luck with an audacious low, fizzing drive from well outside the penalty area; but it flew just wide of the upright.
Giggs aims a pass at Saha but it is cut out by Ricardo Rocha
United are playing an adventurous game the moment, Evra and Neville in advanced positions pushing Benfica back
A moment of role reversal as Rooney, on the right flank, finds Neville inside the Benfica box - the fullback illustrates why he's not a striker with a pretty poor touch and the visitors clear the danger
Simao looks to be playing in an advanced role alongside Miccoli with Nuno Gomes in a slightly more withdrawn role 'in the hole'.
Vidic with full-blooded challenge on Simao
Cristiano Ronaldo show his lightening pace with swift, early run down the left flank, but the final ball was too far forward for Wayne Rooney to collect
It will be interesting to see how United approach the game - will they go with a five man midfield, as they have so often in Europe?
German referee Herbert Fandel blows his whistle and the game is underway!
The two teams take to the pitch to a loud, though expectant roar. United look focussed on the challenge ahead of them, it is simple enough after all, just don?t lose.
And for Benfica: Quim, Nelson, Luisao, Ricardo Rocha, Leo, Katsouranis, Petit, Simao, Nuno Assis, Miccoli, Nuno Gomes. And on the bench: Moretto, Anderson, Mantorras, Miguelito, Paulo Jorge, Beto, Karagounis.
Everyone clear? Excellent. The teams are in. Lining up for United: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Saha, Rooney. And the Subs: Kuszczak, Heinze, Brown, Solskjaer, O'Shea, Fletcher, Silvestre.
Celtic, thanks to their win over United, have already qualified and a win over FC Copenhagen tonight will ensure they top the group. United could take top spot from The Bhoys if they win and Celtic do not.
It will not be easy for United though as Benfica know they must win to make into the next round.
Back in October Manchester United looked to be comfortably heading into the last 16 of the Champions League. But two defeats later and United need a draw in tonight's final group match against Benfica at Old Trafford to ensure progress.
Edwin van der Sar
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Paulo Jorge Alves
Pedro Manuel Torres Mantorras
Gilberto Galdino Beto
Paulo Jorge Alves