Rooney inspires United with two goals against Leverkusen
Striker grabs two as David Moyes enjoys dream Champions League debut
Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring against Bayer Leverkusen during their Champions League match at Old Trafford in Manchester. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
Manchester Utd 4 Bayer Leverkusen 2: There was a point in this match when, very briefly, it threatened to go horribly wrong for Wayne Rooney. He had just wasted the most ridiculously straightforward opportunity to play in Robin van Persie to make it 2-0 and Bayer Leverkusen had threatened to make him pay for an almost inexplicable piece of wastefulness by equalising through Simon Rolfes’s brilliant, curling shot.
Instead, it turned out to be a night of great personal satisfaction for a player whose relationship with the club’s support base is being healed with every performance. Van Persie quickly restored United’s lead and, in the 70th minute, Rooney hared away to score his second goal of the night and chalk up a milestone that at one stage not so long ago, as he tried his best to force his way out of the club, had barely seemed conceivable.
These were the 199th and 200th goals of his United career, making him the fourth player in the club’s history, behind Bobby Charlton (249), Denis Law (237) and Jack Rowley (211), to reach a double century. He had played with distinction, also setting up Antonio Valencia for United’s fourth, and David Moyes can take great encouragement from his first Champions League match as manager.
Rooney was still wearing a protective band to cover his stitched forehead but it probably summed up his endeavour that he could still be seen going up for the occasional high ball. At times over the last few months it has felt like he has wanted nothing more to do with this club.
Nobody, however, could ever doubt his application once he is wearing United’s colours. The rapprochement is still not complete but Moyes is getting the benefits from the club’s intransigent refusal to do business in the face of repeated Chelsea attempts to prize him from Old Trafford.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing for United was not actually his goal but the occasions when he had the beating of his opponents in a straight race. It was evident in the way, for example, he clipped the ball past Emir Spahic and, in the same movement, spun past the Bayer Leverkusen defender three minutes after opening the scoring.
By then, Rooney had already hurtled past Son Heung-min in another burst of acceleration on the right, forcing the midfielder to grab a handful of shirt and getting a yellow card for his troubles. Rooney’s touch and passing was a little erratic sometimes but his energy and enthusiasm made him a formidable opponent and, for all Shinji Kagawa’s refinement, it is not difficult to comprehend why Moyes goes for the man with the greater goals threat.
The goal originated on the left, Van Persie going one way, then another, before playing the ball back to Marouane Fellaini. Michael Carrick took possession and Patrice Evra was overlapping on the left as Kagawa headed on the clipped pass. Rooney was in the penalty area, loitering with intent, and drove his volley into the ground, bouncing up and beyond the goalkeeper, Bernd Leno, into the roof of the net.