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Early Nani goal helps United sink Bursaspor
Published : 20 Oct 2010 21:48:00
Manchester United put the Wayne Rooney issue to one side to secure an unconvincing 1-0 Champions League Group C victory over Bursaspor. Their performance at Old Trafford was nothing special once Nani had netted the seventh-minute goal that earned United a win over the struggling Turkish outfit. Neither did it do much to dispel Rooney's claim his club now lack ambition, a view late chants of "we want the Glazers out" showed there was some resonance with amongst the Old Trafford faithful. But after a traumatic view days, in which United's world has been turned upside down by their star striker, the result was all-important. Sir Alex Ferguson knows far greater tests lie ahead for his players, who must now respond to Rooney's thinly disguised claim they are substandard. But at least they are able to face the future with some optimism. The sense of shock so evident in Ferguson yesterday was mirrored in the stands tonight. Rooney's own statement appears to seal his fate, and his future away from a club whose supporters have adored him, revelling in the talents of a man who abandoned his boyhood idols Everton aged just 18 for the lure of what he might achieve. Three titles and a European Cup later, the Rooney era is at an end. His damning verdict about a lack of investment in Ferguson's squad would have met with some agreement from those who looked at the team sheet and felt Tomasz Kuszczak, Chris Smalling and Federico Macheda are not quite what United need to challenge Chelsea and hold off the threat of Manchester City. Amongst the substitutes sat Gabriel Obertan and Bebe, signed on August 12 as a virtual unknown, two days before Rooney began to openly question United's recruitment policy. Yet the home fans also sensed this was not a night for recriminations, at least until victory was virtually certain in this most trying of campaigns. On occasions such as this, unity is required. Within six minutes they had something tangible to cheer. As Rooney is consigned to history and Antonio Valencia condemned to spend a few months recovering from a broken ankle, Nani is going to be a key man. It is a quite remarkable position to be in for a player who, 12 months ago, would have been ushered through the exit door with barely a second thought. Yet his speed and trickery have now found new focus. And after he collected Darren Fletcher's short pass and nipped inside a couple of static Bursaspor defenders, the Portugal winger spotted his opportunity, went for goal for 30 yards and duly saw his left-footed effort find the corner. A second would have come in very handy to settle some nerves, if not all given recent shoddy defensive performances. But skipper Nemanja Vidic and midfielder Michael Carrick - who has so much to prove - were both off target with their half chances and it took an excellent Rafael tackle to rob Ozan Ipek and preserve United's lead after the Bursaspor anchor man had shrugged Vidic aside rather too easily. By no means could it be classed as vintage United. After the break Patrice Evra burst into the area but was unable to beat Dimitar Ivankov from an acute angle, then Macheda failed to collect Anderson's short pass when the goal would have been gaping if he had. Nani then accepted an invitation to shoot from the edge of the box, although this time Ivankov was able to make the save. The less said about his free-kick, which went soaring over the bar, the better. Rooney's replacement, if there can be such a thing, is Javier Hernandez, the Mexican, whose early weeks at United have already gained him credibility. He was introduced for Anderson 13 minutes from time as United looked to seal their triumph. Hernandez was quick to test Ivankov, although Obertan had already hit the outside of a post with a rather tame header from Nani's corner. United came no closer and, luckily for them, they didn't require it.