Rooney inspires United with two goals against Leverkusen
Striker grabs two as David Moyes enjoys dream Champions League debut
United’s opponents were aggrieved because the truth is the goal should never have been allowed. An offside flag should have been raised against Evra and though the linesman could be given the benefit of the doubt for that one – the Frenchman had gone only marginally too quickly – United were fortunate in the extreme that the Slovenian officials did not penalise them for what followed.
For starters, Leno had a credible argument that he had been obstructed by the presence of Valencia on the goalline. Even if not, the winger was clearly offside and interfering with play.
Sami Hyypia’s team had coped well until that point and Old Trafford was starting to feel a little flat. Energised by the goal, United finished the half well on top and might have extended the lead through Rooney’s free-kick, and then a deflected Kagawa effort, both narrowly wide.
Yet there was something remarkable about what happened early in the second half. After 52 minutes, the centre half Ömer Toprak slipped and suddenly Rooney was clear with Van Persie alongside him. Rooney’s first mistake was to try to go round the goalkeeper rather than square the ball to his team-mate for a simple finish. But then, having pretty much eluded Leno, the most shocking part came next. Van Persie was waiting for a tap-in and Rooney’s pass – or maybe it was a shot – was horribly misdirected, straight out of play. It was an astonishing, and incongruous, piece of wastefulness.
The equaliser arrived two minutes later in the form of a peach of a shot from Rolfes, beautifully measured, starting outside the post before curling in and leaving David de Gea rooted to the spot.
Briefly, the night looked like turning sour for Rooney. Then, just before the hour, Valencia surged down the right and, though the cross was going slightly behind Van Persie, he improvised brilliantly, hooking a right-foot shot goalwards. Leno made a hash of his save and United were back in front.
Rooney’s second was a splendid right-foot finish inside Leno’s near-post but the outstanding goal of the night was probably Valencia’s, rifling in a powerful low drive after a sweeping move from end of the pitch to the other. Toprak made it 4-2 from a badly defended corner, after Stefan Reinartz’s initial header had struck the crossbar, but this was still Rooney’s night.