Valencia 8, Rooney 87
Otelul Galati 0
Old Trafford, Manchester
Manchester United laboured to another two goal Champions League victory against Romanian champions Otelul Galati, with Antonio Valencia and the impressive Wayne Rooney grabbing the goals in a game that United fans will want to forget in a hurry.
If Valencia’s early goal felt like the beginning of an easy midweek stroll, Otelul had other ideas, and Dorinel Munteanu’s men more than held their own for long periods of the second-half. Ionut Neagu constantly threatened during the closing 45 minutes and made United look ragged at times. Sorin Frunza was introduced early in the second-half and United struggled to cope with his sharp passing and dribbling, although the calming presence of Rooney in the centre helped to alleviate any serious worries for the hosts.
In truth, Galati failed to seriously trouble David de Gea after the Spaniard was forced into a smart one-handed stop from a deflected Neagu shot in the first-half, yet the Romanians maintained a wary presence throughout, and grew into the match as United failed to step up the tempo. It says a lot that while United finished the first half with 69 per cent of the possession, their second half statistics were down to 52 per cent, with Galati probing for what would have been a famous equaliser. Captain Sergiu Costin recovered well from an early yellow card and battled throughout, with standout moments for the centre-back being a goal-line clearance from Anderson, and a last-ditch sliding challenge on the advancing Javier Hernandez in the box; the bravery at committing the challenge knowing full well that he would have been dismissed for anything less than a perfect tackle seemed to galvanise his team, and if ever there was a sign of a captain leading by example, then this was it.
Unfortunately for United, if Sir Alex Ferguson was looking for performances from the players on the periphery of his squad, then the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Anderson in particular did little to suggest that they will be giving him selection problems. However, the performance of Wayne Rooney in a central midfield role will present the Scot with an interesting dilemma over the comings weeks, and could well shape United’s season. With Tom Cleverly missing through injury again, Rooney filled in alongside Anderson; while the Brazilian was woeful in his distribution, the Englishman revelled in the role, and his inventive short game – allied with impressive long-range vision – offers Ferguson something that nobody else in his current squad can do. His late deflected goal was harsh on Otelul, and particularly for Cristian Sarghi, whom the ball deflected off of past a distraught Branko Grahovac, yet no more than Rooney deserved.
While there will be a definite change in personnel for United’s next league game – especially as Michael Owen limped off after just 10 minutes following a rare starting place – Phil Jones once again proved why Ferguson was so eager to part with £16m for the Blackburn Rovers starlet. Playing at right-back, the 19-year-old provided a constant source of danger on the flank, with penetrative running and incisive crossing. His cross, although deflected, created the first goal, and with Chris Smalling injured and Rafael da Silva still returning to full fitness, Jones may be able to stake a claim for making the position his own for the time being.
Manchester United (4-4-2): De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Evans (Fryers 89), Fabio; Valencia, Anderson (Park Ji-Sung 80), Rooney, Nani; Owen (Hernandez 11), Berbatov
Otelul Galati (4-5-1): Grahovac; Rapa, Sarghi, Costin, Pena; Filip, Antal (Iorga 61), Ilie (Frunza 52), Salageanu, Neagu; Giurgiu (Paraschiv 81)
Did you know… After tonight’s performance, Phil Jones has now made the most appearances out of any Manchester United player in the current season.
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