Bucharest National Stadium
Rooney pen64, pen90+2
Perendija sent off 88-Vidic sent off 66
Manchester United overcame a difficult test in Romania after Champions League newcomers Otelul Galati at times threatened to leave Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in serious trouble in Group C. Two penalty kicks from Wayne Rooney gave United a much-needed win, yet a harsh red card for Nemanja Vidic may leave United with more defensive headaches as they attempt to qualify from a group that is becoming deceptively difficult to negotiate.
Although Ferguson set out his side in an attacking 4-4-2 shape, the Romanian champions were equal to United’s slightly ponderous start, with the likes of Liviu Antal and Ioan Filip showing strength in both defending and attacking last season’s European finalists. With Fabio and Patrice Evra overlapping Antonio Valencia and Nani on the wings, it seemed only a matter of time before United broke through, yet Galati held firm for the first half, and even had the better of the chances. However, their inexperience at this stage told, and while more experienced opponents would surely have punished United’s static defending, chances were snatched at, with Bratislav Punosevac guilty on more than one occasion of a lack of composure. Dorinel Munteanu will have been livid that his team failed to capitalise on United’s shortcomings, and while he can be proud of his players, the hard work will count for nothing if they continue to waste presentable opportunities.
Anderson and Javier Hernandez were full of running for United, yet time and again Galati players closed United down, with Milan Perendija and captain Sergiu Costin in particular dishing out firm tackles to any United player within range. However, this would come back to haunt Galati eventually – Perendija was rightly sent off after a cynical block on Hernandez following numerous fouls, while Costin was lucky to be on the pitch after blocking Rooney’s attempted cross to the Mexican with his arm. The England striker cooly dispatched his first effort from the spot after 63 minutes before Vidic’s red card three minutes later for a high tackle on Gabriel Giurgiu set up a more frantic finale. While Gulati went for an equaliser, United held firm, with Chris Smalling in particular impressive at the back. Evra put his current dispute with Liverpool’s Luis Suarez to one side and was dangerous when breaking forward, something which he has been lacking of late.
Rooney showed calm distribution when needed, and was a model of professionalism in a tough atmosphere, which will have appeased Ferguson, if not England fans. He cleverly won a penalty in injury time from the unfortunate Antal, and once again expertly finished from the spot past a despairing Branko Grahovac.
While the scoreline may have been expected, the nature of the match was anything but routine for Ferguson’s men, particularly ahead of a massive Sunday lunchtime encounter with rivals Manchester City. Otelul Galati showed that they are certainly no pushovers, yet to have any chance of qualification, they will surely need to be more ruthless in front of goal, and less naive at the back. For United, three points were arguably all they came to Romania for, yet they had to work far harder, and for far longer, than Sir Alex Ferguson would have hoped for.
Otelul Galati (4-5-1):Grahovac; Rapa, Costin, Salageanu, Perendija; Filip, Neagu (Pena 72), Giurgiu, Antal, Frunza (Ilie 83); Prunosevac (Iorga 87)
Manchester United (4-4-2):Lindegaard; Evra, Smalling, Vidic, Fabio (Jones 76); Anderson, Carrick, Nani, Valencia (Evans 71); Rooney, Hernandez
Did you know… With his two penalty kicks tonight, Wayne Rooney became the all-time top English goalscorer in the Champions League. With 26 European strikes, he has surpassed former team-mate Paul Scholes’ tally of 24, and looks shy of genuine competitors for that title unless Frank Lampard (20) has an impressive season for Chelsea.
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