Rooney hits spot to save Red blushes
Otelul Galati 0
Manchester Utd 2
Published 19/10/2011 | 05:00
It is an anniversary Wayne Rooney probably wants to forget, but at least he made it a happy one 12 months after threatening to leave Manchester United by sparing them their worst start to a Champions League campaign with a penalty double in Bucharest.
Rooney, who sparked a tumultuous five days at Old Trafford by going public with his desire to leave United a year ago this week, secured his team's first Group C victory by converting two second-half penalties against the Romanian minnows, Otelul Galati.
The harsh dismissal of captain Nemanja Vidic three minutes later for a bookable foul on Gabriel Giurgiu -- balanced out by referee Felix Brych's equally bizarre decision to dismiss Milan Perendija for an 89th-minute foul on Javier Hernandez -- denied United a comfortable end to a below-par performance.
But Rooney, who is set to miss the first three games of Euro 2012 following his red card against Montenegro recently, finally kick-started United's Champions League campaign by dragging Alex Ferguson's team to victory.
With Bucharest's impressive Stadionul National less than half-full due to Galati having switched the tie from their tiny home ground almost 150 miles east of the Romanian capital, there was an eerie atmosphere as the two teams prepared for a game crucial to both in terms of their Champions League aspirations.
Galati's 3,000 travelling supporters appeared more concerned with enjoying the novelty of competing at this rarefied level, however, as they cheered the Champions League anthem before the game as though it were the Romanian national anthem.
With club president Marius Stan declaring prior to the game that Galati's main objective was "not to be embarrassed", the suspicion was that the home team were simply happy to be sharing the same stage as three-time European champions United.
But if that was the case, United failed to take advantage of their star-struck opponents as they toiled away during an unimpressive first-half performance.
United might have been justifiably unhappy with the pitch, which was described by referee Howard Webb as 'terrible' during the Romania-France friendly last month, but the stray divots did not affect Galati's enthusiastic players.
Serbian forward Bratislav Punosevac twice went close to opening the scoring for the Romanian champions inside the first 15 minutes as United, with captain Vidic starting his first game since the opening weekend of the season, looking vulnerable at the back.
Having lost their opening Group C fixtures against Basle and Benfica, Galati were supposed to play the role of whipping boys against United, but the reality was anything but.
Ferguson's players sprayed the ball around well, but there was no energy or drive from midfield and the tempo of United's game was some way below its usual intensity.
As a result, Galati gained greater encouragement and they grew in confidence, with Ioan Filip shooting narrowly over the crossbar before Liviu Antal headed over from six yards.
In response, United only troubled Galati goalkeeper Branko Grahovac twice, with a tame Rooney free-kick and a long-range strike from Nani.
With Ferguson having made nine changes to his starting line-up following Saturday's 1-1 draw at Anfield, United could hardly blame fatigue for their jaded performance.
Perhaps it was the subconscious realisation that Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday will be a much more significant fixture than an away trip to Otelul Galati, but complacency rarely goes unpunished.
Ferguson's growing frustration with his team's performance was borne out when Michael Carrick was subjected to a forceful ear-bashing by the manager early in the second half.
The midfielder's attempts to raise his game then saw him booked for a clumsy challenge on Antal.
When United finally made the breakthrough in the game, however, it was a result of a set-piece rather than a flash of brilliance.
Rooney's cross, having been handled by Galati captain Sergiu Costin, resulted in a 63rd-minute penalty which was scored by the United striker, who made it 10 goals in his last 15 Champions League appearances.
United were made to endure a nervous end to the game, though, following Vidic's dismissal three minutes later for a late challenge on Gabriel Giurgiu.
Rooney ended any Galati hopes of a late equaliser, though, by scoring from the spot again on 90 minutes after being tripped by Antal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)