Rooney joins 200 club as Man Utd see off Bayer Leverkusen
WAYNE Rooney joined Manchester United's exclusive 200 club, scoring twice as the Red Devils opened their Champions League campaign with an encouraging win over Bayer Leverkusen.
Rooney put United ahead midway through the first half with a first-time effort from Patrice Evra's cross, although Bayer Leverkusen argued with some justification that an offside Antonio Valencia had impeded keeper Bernd Leno.
Still, it did not look like being a particularly memorable night for the England forward when an inexplicable failure to either tap into an empty net or provide an opportunity for Robin van Persie to do so after he had skipped round Leno was followed within a minute by Simon Rolfes' equaliser.
However, Van Persie soon restored United's advantage before Rooney entered the history books as he seized on the loose ball after Emir Spahic had got his head to David de Gea's long punt downfield and finished with ease.
It was a landmark effort that meant Rooney emulated Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and Jack Rowley in reach 200 United goals.
More importantly in the short-term, it launched David Moyes' Champions League career in the perfect style as Rooney provided a late fourth for Antonio Valencia.
Although Moyes has said on numerous occasions since replacing Sir Alex Ferguson he had managed in the Champions League, deep down he must have known this was different to a final qualifier against Villarreal for Everton.
And the Scot could have been pretty pleased with his side's first half efforts.
New boy Marouane Fellaini brought the unfussy approach his manager said he would, content to let more flamboyant team-mates work their magic further up field.
One of that number was Shinji Kagawa, whose continued omissions, whilst explained away perfectly plausibly by Moyes, were starting to attract attention.
The Japan star was heavily involved in most of United's attacks, including their opening goal.
Kagawa was overshadowed by Rooney though.
There was never any real doubt the forward would have put all the summer conjecture about his future to one side once it became obvious he would be remaining at Old Trafford.
Still, it is pleasing to see how hard he is working, something England coach Roy Hodgson might be very thankful for next month when he tries to secure a World Cup berth.
Rooney had an early shot blocked by Spahic, with Van Persie also firing wide in a solid if unspectacular start.
Chris Smalling, making his first appearance of the campaign, looped an effort over off his back before United opened their account.
Aesthetically, it was wonderful.
A Ronaldo-esque dance from Van Persie by the touchline bamboozled the Leverkusen defence, then Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Kagawa were all involved in sending Patrice Evra darting towards the by-line.
His cross was met by Rooney, whose shot bounced over Leno.
What Slovenian referee Damir Skomina - and the rest of his officials - had missed was Valencia virtually falling into Leno as Rooney's shot came towards them.
If Valencia was not interfering with play, it is hard to see how anyone ever could be.
Van Persie's decision to engage in a face-to-face row with Skomina was not the wisest choice and brought him a booking.
Still, with Kagawa coming agonisingly close to a second just before the interval, United did not have a lot to concern them.
That confidence was badly shaken not long after the restart.
As he glided round Leno, Rooney looked certain to tap home.
Instead, he rolled his effort beyond the far post, too far in front of Van Persie to enable the touch that would also have doubled United's lead.
Both Moyes and, in the directors' box, Ferguson, struggled to comprehend how United were not two up.
To make matters worse, the visitors immediately went down to the other end and equalised as Leverkusen skipper Rofles met Heung-min Son's lay-off perfectly and saw his curling effort take the slightest deflection off Carrick before finding the corner.
It took a moment of genius from Van Persie to restore United's advantage, hooking Valencia's cross in with a semi overhead kick that left Leno so startled he could not react quickly enough.
Once they were back in front, United were in no mood to surrender the initiative again.
Rooney's landmark goal came 20 minutes from time before he set up Valencia for his first European goal in nearly two years.
Omer Toprak pulled one back after a goalmouth scramble caused by De Gea's failure to punch clear before Van Persie failed to convert from barely a yard.
Still, for Rooney - who left to a standing ovation - and Moyes, it was a very pleasing evening indeed.