Antonio Valencia opened the scoring while an Emir Spahic own-goal made it two before half-time. United hit three times unanswered in the second period through Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Nani as Leverkusen struggled to muster any kind of response, suffering their biggest-ever loss on home soil in Europe's premier club competition.
United, with their sights trained on becoming the first side to leave the BayArena with a win, began tentatively - which wouldn’t last long after Leverkusen had failed to take their early chances. Heung Min Son fired wide from distance, while Shinji Kagawa floated dangerously between the lines at the other end. After twenty open minutes, Stefan Kießling found himself through on goal, but was denied at full-stretch by Evans with a tackle that proved the turning point.
From the resultant clearance, Stefan Reinartz was caught out by a bouncing ball in midfield and Kagawa flitted into the space left in behind, pushing the ball out to Wayne Rooney on the left-hand side. His delightful deep cross eluded Kagawa in the box, but Emre Can’s indecisiveness allowed Valencia to steal in and open the scoring at the back post. Son tried in vain to lead the revival, before the half-hour mark brought United’s second goal.
Rooney was again the provider, sending in a free-kick from the left touchline which shaved the head of Spahic before beating the flailing Bernd Leno. Kagawa was everywhere as Reinartz failed to come to terms with his movement, but Leverkusen’s attempts to hit back before the break were hindered on separate occasions by Kießling losing the ball, and some excellent defensive work from Rio Ferdinand.
Ferdinand and the United defence were caught cold at the beginning of the second period as a Gonzalo Castro free kick beat everyone - including an unmarked Omer Töprak at the far post, who would have scored with a touch. Leverkusen’s attempt to hit back was built around corners – and two in succession almost broke the visitors’ rearguard with Lars Bender and Spahic both heading over.
Three, four, five
Just at the key moment, where a goal either way would have decided things, United showed their prodigious European experience – and Rooney picked up his third assist. His scrambled shot from a corner drew a superb reaction save from Leno, but Evans was on hand to bundle home and end the game as a contest with 24 minutes remaining on the clock.
All that experience from United showed as Leverkusen fell short of finding a consolation, Kießling failed to get the ball out of his feet on one occasion and Bender again nodded over. However, when Kagawa dinked into Rooney, who in turn chipped to Smalling with an open goal gaping, the game was up. Nani’s late rounding of Leno for five left Leverkusen disconsolate - and with their European dreams in United’s hands.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen: Leno - Can, Spahic, Donati, Toprak - Reinartz (Hegeler, 70') - Rolfes, Bender (Kohr, 81') - Son (Derdiyok, 70'), Castro – Kießling
Manchester United FC: De Gea - Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra (Büttner, 70') - Giggs, Jones - Valencia (Young, 79'), Kagawa, Nani - Rooney (Anderson, 80')
Goals: 0-1 Valencia (22'), 0-2 Spahic O.G (30'), 0-3 Evans (66'), 0-4 Smalling (77'), Nani (88')