FULL TIME: Bayer Leverkusen 0-5 Manchester United
Giggs, 39, attempts to ice his own birthday cake by burying a free kick from 25 yards. But it only batters the wall. And that's it! What a stunning performance by Manchester United, who book their place in the second round. Leverkusen were nothing short of pathetic, but you can only beat what's in front of you, and it was United who softened them up after all. Smiles all round. Except, of course, from David Moyes, who wears a poker coupon. United still aren't guaranteed top spot, as Shakhtar won 4-0 in the end and sit three points behind them in the table. But who cares tonight after that? They're through, and it'll be a happy 40th birthday for the brilliant Ryan Giggs.
90 min: Kohr is booked for some minor transgression or other. I'll level with you, I missed it. You'll live.
DE GEA HAS SOMETHING TO DO!!!
89 min: Yes, he really has been forced into making a save! Derdiyok, who can be absolved from blame given that he's only been on the pitch for 20 minutes, and has put himself about well, hammers the ball towards the bottom right from 20 yards. De Gea parries brilliantly.
GOAL!!! Bayer Leverkusen 0-5 Manchester United (Nani 88)
Giggs, pretty much with his back to goal in the centre circle, flicks an immense pass down the inside-left channel towards Nani. Leno comes out with the idea of claiming the bouncing ball. Nani chests down to go round the keeper on the left, then dinks the ball into the empty net from a tight-ish angle. United saved the best to last. Assuming this is the last, there's enough time for three or four more the way Leverkusen have played.
87 min: Derdiyok races after a Kiessling up-and-under. He takes it brilliantly, killing it on the run at full pelt, but making it into the area, he dithers and can't get a shot away. De Gea gathers with a yawn. "Gary Smith, of 63-minute fame, is correct," suggests Simon McMahon. "Where as Moyes' expression at the start of the match could be said to interpret United's start to the season as 'alright', it now suggests that it has been, in fact, 'no bad'."
84 min: Leverkusen's defence is a disgrace. Anderson is allowed to romp into the United half, exchange passes with Nani down the left, and take a shot from the edge of the area. He scuffs it wide right with only Leno to beat. "Imagine you’re a Leverkusen player and you think, this can’t get any more humiliating, and then Anderson and Young arrive," writes Michael Meagher, who has pretty much nailed the comprehensive nature of Leverkusen's undressing this evening.
83 min: A neat bit of football from the home team, which makes a change. Hegeler and Rolfes combine to free Can down the left, but with space on the wing and team-mates in the area, he takes a heavy touch, allowing Smalling to make off with the ball.
81 min: Kohr comes on for an out-of-shape Bender.
80 min: A couple of changes for United. Rooney and Valencia make way for Anderson and Young. "Good to see that the innate superiority of English football over that of our friends from Germany has been confirmed once more," opines Adam Hirst, who one suspects is approaching his subject matter from a satirical angle.
78 min: Another corner for United down the right. This isn't even news any more. The ball's hooked into the middle, where Jones attempts to pearl a shot into the top right from the edge of the box. Leno fingertips magnificently out for a corner. Buttner takes a batter from that second one, but let's not go into what happens with that one.
GOAL!!! Bayer Leverkusen 0-4 Manchester United (Smalling 77)
United's corner is cleared by Bayer, but only just. Kagawa takes up possession down the inside-right channel, and dinks a clever ball into the area to release Rooney, who chips the ball over the onrushing Leno and to the left for Smalling to sidefoot into an empty net. Brilliant football by United, albeit against a team who are in tatters now.
76 min: United stroke it round rather a lot. Eventually a ball's lumped down the right for Rooney, who is allowed to tear clear aftrer Spahic takes a fresh-air swipe at the ball. The defender eventually tracks back to boot the ball clear for a corner. From which ...
73 min: Castro flings a free kick into the United from the right. Bender gets his head to it, but his effort flies over the bar from ten yards.
72 min: Derdiyok wins a header in the United area, and attempts to cushion the ball back for the onrushing Kiessling, who tries to juggle the ball six yards out before shooting, but is robbed by Smalling and the chance is gone. Leverkusen have been dismal going forward.
71 min: Did I mention that Shakhtar were 2-0 up on Real Sociedad? Well, they're 3-0 up on Real Sociedad. Just in case any Leverkusen fans were wondering, I'm pretty certain the United readership won't give a flying one.
70 min: Evra is replaced by Buttner. Leverkusen meanwhile make a double change, swapping Reinartz and Son for Hegeler and Derdiyok.
68 min: Plenty of whistling in the BayArena now. There goes that atmosphere! United have given Leverkusen the runabout tonight, though Sami Hyypia will be aghast at the way his defence has carried on.
GOAL!!! Bayer Leverkusen 0-3 Manchester United (Evans 65)
A corner to United down the right after a minor kerfuffle in the box. It's flicked on at the near post by Evra. Rooney tries to sidefoot home from six yards. Leno parries, but the ball breaks to the right-hand post, where Evans is on hand to dink home. United are in the second round of the Champions League, and Leverkusen's proud home record is in tatters.
63 min: Evra cuts in from the left and feeds Rooney, who nutmegs Rolfes in taking another touch inside, then loops a shot inches wide of the left-hand post from 20 yards. That was real close. Exquisite skill from Rooney. Speaking of pharmaceuticals, here's Gary Smith: "Clearly the vegetable broth we ate tonight contained hallucinogenics. I swear that Moyes pic looks less anguished than it did at kick-off." That's the power of the Guardian's magic-eye picture technology! And perhaps also Bayer's Special 19th-Century Sauce.
60 min: A corner for Leverkusen down the right leads to a second corner. Reinartz glances that set piece off the base of the right-hand post. Spahic then hacks the rebound goalwards from a tight angle, but a combination of de Gea and the woodwork denies Leverkusen. The referee blows up in United's favour for nowt. This little episode visibly deflates the home players, several of whom have trouble keeping their shoulders in 'Up' mode.
59 min: Spahic gifts United possession in the middle of the Leverkusen half. Nani is sent free into the area down the inside left channel, and drags a shot across the face of goal and out on the right. That wasn't far from creeping into the bottom-right corner. Leverkusen are desperate to score the next goal, but it's United who look more likely.
57 min: Good work by Rolfes and Kiessling, hassling Smalling down the left. Castro whips a corner into the six-yard box, where Spahic attempts to glance one into the same corner he scored for United in the first half. It flies wide right. "Is Giggs 39?" wonders Tracy Caton.
56 min: Leverkusen can't get hold of the ball at all. Kagawa, Giggs, Rooney and Valencia have been excellent. "One of the big question marks over Moyes was his European cup experience," writes Mark Payne, author of Fergie's Last Stand. "He looks like a seasoned specialist right now."
53 min: A corner to United down the right. It comes to naught, but it's another example of the joy they're having down that wing, where Valencia is causing all manner of bother.
52 min: Castro stands on the toe of Giggs, 39. He's fortunate not to go in the book.
51 min: A free kick for Leverkusen, in the middle of the park, 30 yards out. The ball nearly finds Spahic at the left-hand post, but whistles out for a corner. Rolfes is a bit too eager when battling with Evans at the far post, and the little bit of pressure Leverkusen have managed is released. "Like the Bayer heroin ad," writes John Burnsdon. "Do you have any pictures of products Bayer made in the 1940s?" Now, now, that's probably best left, isn't it. Suffice to say that Newcastle fans with moral quibbles regarding Wonga could have it a whole lot worse.
49 min: Valencia again down the right, and once more he finds Kagawa, who looks to head home from the edge of the six-yard box. Leno comes out to punch clear, which he just about manages, though he takes a bit of Kagawa's noggin. So close to a third there. Kagawa looks like he'll be OK, writes Guardian Sport house quack Dr Murray.
And we're off again! United set the ball rolling. They lose it soon enough, and Leverkusen flood upfield, but the home side go nowhere and it's United's turn to break at speed. Valencia romps down the right and curls a ball in for Kagawa, who would have broken clear into the area had he not taken a heavy touch. Already it looks like we're in for more of the same.
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HALF TIME: Bayer Leverkusen 0-2 Manchester United
It's probably fair to say that United's players got the hairdryer treatment after that display in Cardiff on Sunday. They've been telt. They've been magnificent.
43 min: Smalling, then Valencia, take turns to fire low balls into the Leverkusen box from the right. Toprak hooks the first cross away, Leno gathers the second. This is a display of almost total dominance. "My lord, can that look on Moyes' face really be construed as quiet contentment in England?" wonders Matt Turner. "No wonder you think we Yanks are grinning all over the place." And it's unhinged joy in Glasgow, Matt. Internationally, it's a sliding scale.
42 min: Can cuts in from the left and makes it to the edge of the area, where a fairly weak shot is deflected wide left for a corner. The set piece is whipped to the near post, where Spahic looks to make amends with a close-range header. But Rooney, who is everywhere, nips in ahead of him to clear. Nani breaks upfield down the right wing, and looks to release Kagawa into the area with a Hollywood diagonal pass, but it's none too accurate and Leno is able to come off his line to claim in a casual fashion.
40 min: Castro has a slash at the ball from 30 yards. It flies 30 yards over the bar. The home side have offered next to nothing tonight. They look visibly shaken at the way they've been clattered by an excellent Manchester United.
37 min: Kiessling has the ball at his feet in the United area, to the right of goal on the byline, having robbed Evra. But he hesitates and is hunted down before he can do anything worthwhile with the ball. A corner, which Castro sends sailing straight out of play. The home fans are no longer happy. Shakhtar are a goal up against Real Sociedad, by the way, but unless United, totally in charge of this game, somehow let this position slip, that news only has relevance for Bayer Leverkusen.
35 min: Ferdinand snatches the ball off Kiessling's toe. United flood upfield again. Rooney hesitates once he reaches the edge of the Leverkusen area, allowing the home side to regroup. His eventual attempt to sliderule a pass down the inside right for Nani is a waste of time. But United look dangerous every single time they cross the halfway line.
33 min: Rooney is sent clear into the Leverkusen half by a lovely raking pass from the right by Valencia. He's stupidly run offside, however. The home side are all over the shop.
32 min: The BayArena is a significantly quieter place now. It would have been funereal had Kagawa fed Rooney in on the right for a certain goal, but the midfielder, having made up 40 yards with a bustling run, opts to shoot from the edge of the area instead. His pearoller slips down Leno's throat.
GOAL!!! Bayer Leverkusen 0-2 Manchester United (Spahic og 30)
Another free kick, and United have a foot in the knockout stages! Rooney whips a ball from the left wing into the Leverkusen area. It's heading towards the far post, and helped on by Spahic, who eyebrows it into the top-right corner past a stunned and rooted Leno!
28 min: This time it's Leverkusen who have a chance to whip a free kick into the area. This one comes in from the left. Bender gets his head on it, level with the right-hand post, 12 yards out, but the ball flies harmlessly wide. Anyway, never mind that: anyone fancy pictures of this game? Sure you do!
26 min: Another free kick for United, this time to the right of the D, maybe five yards further out. Giggs, 39, ignores two decades' worth of experience to idiotically bang the ball straight into the wall. The home crowd, anxious before the kick was taken, erupts in relief. All of a sudden, United are totally on top here. How important that Jonny Evans tackle on Kiessling looks already!
24 min: A free kick to United, who have their tails up. Rooney takes it, down the left, and a spot of training-ground triangulation leads to the ball dropping to ... eh ... Evans on the edge of the area. He's got space and time, but performs the Centre Half Panic, and snatches at the shot. This is impressive stuff from a side missing three of their biggest names.
GOAL!!! Bayer Leverkusen 0-1 Manchester United (Valencia 22)
Kiessling breezes past Ferdinand and Smalling and breaks into the area. Only a last-ditch challenge from Evans stops him from pulling the trigger and scoring from ten yards. The resulting corner's cleared with ease by United, who go on the counter. Kagawa powers into the Leverkusen half. The ball's shuttled wide left to Rooney, via Giggs. Rooney curls a gorgeous cross to the far post, where Valencia, rushing in, sticks out a leg and dings the ball into the net off the right-hand post. What a breakaway strike! And so much for United getting that Verweis!
20 min: Castro is clear of the United back line, and blooters a hopeless shot miles into the stand. Chances are he knew he was offside, and that was a lash in frustration. "As a German, I am probably in a unique position (with about 80m others) to know the words for the song with proper personalization," writes Comrade Toby. "Zum Geburtstag viel Glück, zum Geburtstag viel Glück, zum Geburtstag, lieber Giggsy, zum Geburtstag viel Glück. On authority clashes in school, I once hijacked a classroom with a substitute teacher along with ten other kids when the deputy headmaster walked by and picked us off one by one as we left the classroom. We all got a Verweis, and that’s what United will get tonight."
18 min: Space for Son, 30 yards from goal with no United shirt near him. Luckily for the away side's knackered defence, he drags his shot, though it takes a deflection and dribbles out for a corner on the right. The corner's whipped to the near post by Castro, and Spahic's flicked header, aimed for the top left, only just loops over the bar. Again, I'm not sure the keeper had that covered had it been on target.
15 min: Nani gets a fair bit of abuse for not showing in big games, but he so nearly opens the scoring with a lovely attempt here. Giggs, 39, plays a clever little reverse ball down the inside-left channel which releases Nani into the area. He's got defenders in front of him, so opens his body and looks to curl one into the top right. It's only just over the bar, and I'm not sure Leno had that covered.
12 min: United are allowing Leverkusen an awful lot of space down the left. Rolfes gets near to the byline before whipping an aimless cross nowhere. United half clear. Can picks the ball up on the same wing, only deeper, and sends an inswinging cross into the area which nearly Koncheskys into the top-right corner. It would have been a total fluke, a homage to the erstwhile West Ham left-back's career highpoint in the 2006 FA Cup final - but de Gea isn't having that, and springs up to claim. That's an impressive gather, especially as he was in danger of falling back over the line.
10 min: Leverkusen are enjoying the lion's share of the ball at the moment. Son has the ball on the halfway line, with Rolfes hovering on the left, waiting to be released into acres down the flank. But Son pauses awhile, and the chance is gone.
8 min: Not much shape to this game as of yet. Rooney has made a couple of sorties down the right, aided by Kagawa, while Can, Son and Bender - how much easier it is to cover Leverkusen than the multi-syllable stars of Borussia Dortmund - have made half-arsed attempts to run at the United defence through the middle. Nothing coming off yet. But an open enough feel to the game nonetheless.
5 min: There is a proper belting atmosphere at the BayArena. The home fans are giving it plenty, the away support are showcasing their Eric Cantona Christmas number, and even the drums in the crowd aren't irritating. Here's Daniel Stauss: "Based on my extensive (read: shoddy) study of German during high school, I remember the Happy Birthday song going something like 'Zum geburtstag viel gluck! Zum geburtstag viel gluck! Alles gute und gesundheit! Zum geburtstag viel gluck!' Then again, the German teacher did chuck a textbook at me one time, probably with good reason." So there you have it. Perhaps. But where do we personalise it? Where does the bit about Giggsy fit in?
3 min: Son has a dig from 20 yards or so, but the effort is exceptionally weak and rolls out of play a good distance to the left of de Gea's goal. "In the interests of having a very tense final game, I hope United lose 2-0 and Shakhtar win 3-0," writes Declan Kelly. "That would put them level on overall goal difference and goals scored, meaning a 1-1 would leave the result in the hands of the all-important co-efficient points system!" Heh. That does indeed sound like it might be a whole world of fun. And it's just what modern sportswriting needs, too, a load more raw data to pore over.
And we're off! Leverkusen get the ball rolling, but lose it soon enough. And there's Rooney through on goal, 29 seconds on the clock, after a Kagawa pass down the inside right. Leno's lobbed on 30 seconds. Come the 31-second mark, the ball's bouncing apologetically past the right-hand post. Rooney's blushes are spared, as he was marginally offside. Though only slightly, as he could have timed that run better.
The teams are out! Handel is currently having some of his best work treated with high levels of disrespect by the Uefa marketing department. The players are forced to stand around and suffer this aural desecration. But at least they're all wearing nice kits. Leverkusen in their black strip, United in their red-and-white get-up.
Team news (mit bundesbirthdaygiggsyfest)
Bayer Leverkusen, who have only been stopped from winning at home once this season, and that by the European champions Bayern Munich last month: Leno, Donati, Spahic, Toprak, Can, Bender, Reinartz, Rolfes, Castro, Kiessling, Son.
Subs: Lomb, Stafylidis, Wollscheid, Derdiyok, Hegeler, Kruse, Kohr.
It's Ryan Giggs's 40th birthday on Friday, and to celebrate, he's been named in Manchester United's starting XI: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Giggs (39), Jones, Valencia, Nani, Kagawa, Rooney.
Subs: Lindegaard, Anderson, Hernandez, Young, Welbeck, Cleverley, Buttner.
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (Norway)
Love or loathe Manchester United, you can't deny that these fellows are box office. They've been so ever since Matt Busby swanned in and infused the club with a windswept Hollywood glamour, a rich musk that's never worn off. United were box office when they were getting themselves relegated. They were box office when Dave Sexton was grinding down hope. They were box office when Ron Atkinson revived it, but only in the futile style. And they were box office when Alex Ferguson arrived and built a team of such pomp and ceremony that they regally laid waste the rest of English football, and a fair swathe of Europe to boot. And now? They're box office now, too, because ... well, why, exactly?
Here's why! We're only four months in, but already Manchester United's 2013/14 season is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating campaigns in living memory. David Moyes has been charged with a unique task, that of taking over from a manager who won everything and spent 27 years doing it. He's heading into uncharted waters, and it's impossible to take your eyes off his journey. We wish you the best of luck in finding two people with exactly the same opinion regarding his eventual destination. On the one hand, United aren't, by their own lofty standards, doing particularly well in the league. They've been conceding soft late equalisers, for a start, which is strange behaviour indeed. The trademark swashbuckling style's gone, too. A temporary glitch in form, or is something more radical occurring?
On the flip side, United are currently ten unbeaten in all competitions. They're within striking distance of the top of the Premier League despite their slow start. They're in the quarter final of the League Cup. And they're unbeaten in Europe. A win here in Leverkusen tonight, and they secure their place in this year's knockout phase of the Champions League, most likely in top spot unless they lose at home against shaky Shakhtar Donetsk in their final game, thus avoiding the Barcas, Bayerns and Reals in the second round. A draw will even do them in terms of progress, as it will Leverkusen, should Shakhtar and Real Sociedad draw in tonight's other Group A game. For a team whose standards are supposedly slipping, they're not in too shoddy a position. A favourable result tonight, against a team they've already beaten 4-2 in this group, and United's season could suddenly be pootling merrily along its usual course.
Flipping it back again, they're without (in order of importance) Michael Carrick, Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic and .................................. Marouane Fellaini. The team really need to up their game after an appalling second-half performance at Cardiff on Sunday. And Bayer Leverkusen will pose United one hell of a test, the result at Old Trafford notwithstanding; they've won their last eight home group matches in the Champions League. They've won their last two Bundesliga matches, too (although the one before that was a preposterous defeat at bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig). A defeat here for United tonight, and they'll still be in the box seat for qualification - worst-case scenario, Shakhtar will need at least a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in the final game if they win against Sociedad - but nobody wants to go into the final match without their onward passage already guaranteed. Also, a bad result won't put United in a good place ahead of a tricky visit to a wound-up Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend. An unfavourable result tonight, and all United's early-season uncertainties may come bubbling back up to the surface.
So good luck in calling this one! And good luck in calling this season for United, who on the evidence so far could end up in mid-table with the cupboards bare, or spend the second half of May dancing around with all manner of silverware in their champagne-soaked mitts.
Kick off: 8.45pm in Germany, 7.45pm in the British winter system.