Sport Soccer

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Rooney brace seals place in elite '200' club

Manchester Utd 4 Bayer Leverkusen 2

Henry Winter

At the final whistle, the beaten Bayer Leverkusen manager Sami Hyypia sought out Wayne Rooney to shake his hand, congratulating him on his performance.

The Manchester United striker's brace has taken his club tally to 200 and reminded everyone of his importance to the team.

Rooney lies fourth in United's all-time scoring list. Bobby Charlton, who was looking on, is the leading scorer with 249 with Denis Law on 237 and Jack Rowley 211.

He was superb, so good that allowance could be made for one extraordinary miss with the goal gaping at the Stretford End. Playing in the hole, Rooney showed all his timing and positional sense to score his two goals and then his creative side with a delightful ball to Antonio Valencia. Robin van Persie also scored on a good night for United, enhanced by a strong display from Marouane Fellaini, who slotted in well alongside Michael Carrick.

With six minutes remaining, Rooney was taken off to a standing ovation, having scored twice, reaching that landmark figure and making a goal for the outstanding Valencia. Some things change at United but Rooney's excellence and importance continues. No wonder United fought hard to keep him.

It was all change from United's last Champions League game here, that defeat to Real Madrid that brought the red card that saw Nani banned last night. Alex Ferguson was in the smart seats, Mike Phelan was in the radio seats and Moyes, who was working for the BBC that night, was down in the hot-seat.

Wayne Rooney joined the Red Devil's 200-goal club
Wayne Rooney joined the Red Devil's 200-goal club

His new signing, Fellaini, had settled quickly, starting in his favoured role in front of the back-four, linking with Carrick, even taking the early compliment of a late challenge from Stefan Reinartz. The Belgian was also showing his creative side, sliding a low pass through for Van Persie, who shot just wide. Leverkusen complained about some of Fellaini's play, including claims of an elbow.

In his first experience of the group stage of the Champions League, Moyes used Valencia out wide on the right with Shinji Kagawa tucked in on the left, allowing Patrice Evra to push down the left. United's early pressure saw them building towards the goal, Fellaini picking out Rooney. Then United took the lead.

Van Persie drifted to the left frequently during the first half and here to particularly good effect. He toyed with the Leverkusen full-back, Giulio Donati, almost doing a Cristiano Ronaldo impression with his step-overs and touches on the ball. Van Persie played it back to Kagawa, who waited for Evra's overlap to take him beyond Van Persie.

Evra's cut-back flew to Rooney, who volleyed the ball down into the ground past Bernd Leno. The 'keeper tried to reach the ball but was clearly obstructed by Valencia. Leverkusen remonstrated with the referee and the additional assistant referee, arguing that Valencia had impeded Leno. The long-running debate of the usefulness of Michel Platini's beloved officials behind the goal continues.

Van Persie was also getting hot under the collar, reacting to a foul from Donati by enquiring of Damir Skomina why he had not been awarded a free-kick. Whatever the legitimacy of his claims, he earned a needless caution by making his point loudly in the referee's face.

The Rooney show continued after the break although there would be one blip as he seized on Omer Toprak's slip, advanced on goal at the Stretford End and effortlessly rounded Leno.

Instead of squaring the ball to the unmarked Van Persie, Rooney decided to defy the angle but shot wide. Moyes, who had his fist clenched ready to punch the air, sank back in his chair. Ferguson leant back in his chair, throwing his arms up in brief frustration. Rooney's miss looked expensive when Simon Rolfes' shot took a slight deflection off Carrick and beat David De Gea.

"You only sing when you're winning,'' the fans chorused. United soon were.

On the hour, Van Persie met Valencia's cross with a right-footed volley that flew straight at Leno, who panicked and the ball carried into the net.

United took a direct route to their third, Rooney latching onto a long ball, deceiving Leno with a glance to the right and then stroking the ball the other way past the bemused 'keeper. Rooney had not finished, accelerating a counter-attack with a wonderful pass bisecting Leverkusen's defence for Valencia to gain deserved reward for his excellent night's work with a right-footed shot past Leno.

United's defence were caught out late on. From a corner, Reinartz headed against the bar, De Gea hesitated and Toprak made it 4-2. The hosts should have made it 5-2 but Van Persie somehow miscued Valencia's driven ball with an open goal gaping two yards out. It was a miss even worse than Rooney's. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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