Aston Villa 1 Man Utd 1: Rooney can't work miracles after Nani horror show

11 February 2010 07:36
Even for Wayne Rooney, there would appear to be a limit to what can be achieved. He might be the finest player in the Barclays Premier League. He might just be the finest player in the world at a time when Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not delivering with their usual consistency.

But pick him as a lone striker and then remove a key member of his Manchester United support staff after less than 30 minutes and even Rooney struggles to make that crucial difference.

There were still moments when he excelled at Villa Park, moments when he simply took the breath away with a startling combination of speed and skill. The man just explodes into action, and it was the constant threat he posed that forced Aston Villa to sit back and concede the one-man advantage they enjoyed for more than an hour.

Crunch time: Nani clatters into Aston Villa's Petrov in a clumsy challenge

But with the dismissal of Nani came the point when Rooney had toaccept that, for all his prodigious gifts, he cannot work miracles. Notwhen the opposition remain as well-organised as Villa under theguidance of the meticulous Martin O'Neill. They lacked ambition, evenafter O'Neill sent on a second striker in John Carew, but they remainedsolid at the back thanks to the steadying influence of the excellentRichard Dunne.

Given how well his side started, O'Neill will no doubt consider thisan opportunity wasted and not just because they could have closed thegap on their rivals for a place in the top four. Here was also a chanceto gain a mental edge ahead of the Carling Cup final later this month.

After a richly-deserved opening goal from Carlos Cuellar, Villa wereunlucky to see United equalise through an own goal by James Collins remarkably the 10th own goal the champions have benefited from thisseason.

But in the end it was United who had the most to regret, United whomight have gone above Chelsea had Nani not launched himself at StiliyanPetrov and left Peter Walton little option but to show him the redcard. Even if he did connect with the ball, he also caught the man witha foolish two-footed tackle.

You're off: Nani leaves referee Peter Walton no choice but to dismiss him at Villa Park

It was a ludicrous act from Nani, especially when he has beenperforming so well these past few weeks. Sir Alex Ferguson had praisedhim for displaying more maturity and composure. For finally performingin a manner that justified his £17million price tag and easing thesense of loss that followed Ronaldo's departure. But Ferguson was notquite so complimentary on this occasion, particularly when he realisedthe Portuguese winger will miss the Carling Cup final as well as twoPremier League matches.

'It was naive,' said Ferguson. 'He's not a malicious player but hehad two feet off the ground and you can't do that. It was a red card.He gave the referee no option.'

MATCH FACTSASTON VILLA (4-5-1): Friedel 7; Cuellar 7, Collins 6, Dunne 7, L Young 6; A Young 7, Petrov 6 (Sidwell 64 min, 6), Delph 6 (Carew 58, 6), Milner 7, Downing 6; Agbonlahor 7.

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-5-1): Van der Sar 6; Rafael 6, Brown 7, Evans 7, Evra 6; Nani 4, Fletcher 7, Carrick 6, Scholes 5 (Valencia 46, 6), Carrick 6, Giggs 6 (Berbatov 73, 6); Rooney 6.

Booked: Evans.

Sent off: Nani.

Man of the match: Richard Dunne.

Referee: Peter Walton.

For United, it added to the sense of frustration on a night whencould have made more of Chelsea's defeat at Everton. 'We should havewon,' said Ferguson on a night when he also had concerns over thefitness of Ryan Giggs after a collision with Steve Sidwell left himneeding an X-ray on his right arm. 'We were the better team, even with10 men. My players worked their socks off.'

Nobody worked harder than Rooney, the sight of him sprinting backlate in the second half to tackle a rapidly advancing Ashley Youngproviding still further evidence of those extraordinary energy levels.

Young also impressed, although mainly in the opening half. He made aterrific start, attacking on both flanks and winning a most importantcorner with one surging run from the left in the 19th minute. When theball was delivered by Stewart Downing from the right and Rafael triedto clear while under pressure from Dunne, it was Cuellar whointercepted the clearance with a header that looped over Edwin van derSar and into the United net.

That they failed to protect their lead for more than four minuteswas tough on Villa, especially when the equaliser came in the form ofan own goal. The cross from the right was a decent one from Nani butthe volley that followed from Giggs really should have been cleared. Asit was, it struck Collins on his left shin and flew past Brad Friedel.

Misfortune: James Collins converts Ryan Giggs' cross into his own net

While Nani's dismissal in the 29th minute should have brought a morepositive response from Villa, it actually had the opposite effect,perhaps because Rooney took it upon himself to do the work of two menand so make himself even more intimidating than usual.

United went close on more than one occasion to adding a second goal,with both Michael Carrick and Rooney forcing world-class saves fromFriedel.

'Wayne Rooney is one of the best players in the world,' saidO'Neill. 'He is playing at the top of his form. His control isfantastic and his movement is sensational. He tackles like a full backand he will not be beaten.

'If there are lessons to be learned, then maybe this was a good one.But it will be different at Wembley. It will be a different environmentand we should still go into that with confidence.'

Even if they would probably rather not be meeting Rooney with 10 other United players.

 I can be world's best, claims bullish Nani after turning United form aroundManchester United were made stronger after defeat to Aston Villa, says O'NeillASTON VILLA FC

Source: Daily_Mail