MANCHESTER UNITED 1
Rooney (pen) 87
In scoring from the spot, Wayne Rooney grew in confidence on a night when all eyes were firmly on the England striker.
Rooney’s first half performance was one which United fans have been accustomed to seeing from him in recent months. His first touch was poor and he was often caught in possession, dwelling on the ball when in positions that would have caused danger for the opposition throughout last season. The former Everton man was able to show a glimpse of last season’s form with a glancing header onto the bar, but when leaving the pitch for half time, there was no hiding the disappointment in his performance by both fans and player.
The second half was much of the same. Rooney showed glimpses of his touch as he started to grow into the game, linking up well on a couple of occasions with Dimitar Berbatov. This aspect of his game may have been coming back to him slowly but it was when in goalscoring positions that he again let himself down. A couple of wild efforts from the edge of the area and a poor connection with a good chance for a left foot volley was the sum of his threat on goal before the penalty, but that changed everything. It was the perfect opportunity to get back to scoring goals and getting his United career back on track and Rooney took it like a man knowing its huge importance to him. The England man stepped up with the kind of confidence lacking from his game all night, a huge weight was lifted as the ball hit the back of the net.
Rooney’s performance in the short time following the goal was much stronger. He wanted the ball. He started to come short and link up with the midfield, spraying the ball about. Despite being for only a short period of this will be an encouraging sign for United fans. If he can start Saturday’s game against Blackburn Rovers in this kind of manner, then United may be able to fully get their season going with some consistency. It was Rooney in this form which was missing from United performance prior to the goal as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men struggled to break down a negative Rangers side with bodies behind the ball.
Even with the likes of Paul Scholes in the team United found it difficult to force their way through the masses of players defending their penalty area. It is a worrying trend for Ferguson, knowing that in both encounters with Walter Smith’s side, United have been unable to break down a team sitting deep and defending for their lives. On the evidence of this performance United need more spark in the midfield and more penetration from the wide players. If Rooney can get back to his form from last season, his manager must be hoping that this will have the effect of inspiring the rest of his team to hit something like the form which saw them lift three Premier League titles in a row.
Credit must also be paid to be the United defence in not having conceded as yet in this season’s group stage. This is a great statistic, however, it may prove interesting to see when United are tested with stronger opposition in the next round. Everyone around United will be hoping that the onus will not have to be in defence, however, as their key forward player finds his form and fitness.
1 Van der Sar
22 O’Shea – 12 Smalling– 23 Evans – 20 Fabio
17 Nani – 18 Scholes – 16 Carrick – 11 Giggs
9 Berbatov – 10 Rooney
67– 8 Anderson on for 18 Scholes
76 – 14 Hernandez on for 9 Berbatov
77 – 26 Obertan on for 17 Nani