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Rooney fails to provide spark

15 Sep 2010 08:30:13

Rooney fails to provide spark

Sir Alex Ferguson recalled his Top Gun for the Battle of Britain but ultimately Wayne Rooney was left crying out for the cavalry to break down a stubborn Rangers rearguard. On a day when all eyes were on United's No10 United's Champions League opener became more about the players Ferguson left out, rather than the inclusion of their star man. United 0 Rangers 0: MEN interactive player ratings The United manager opted to make 10 changes to the side that threw away three points at Everton on Saturday. And just as he may live to regret leaving Rooney out at Goodison Park, the decision to take on Rangers without Dimitar Berbatov, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nani in his starting XI also cost him last night. Such was Rangers' resolute defending that it needed all of the craft at Ferguson's disposal to find a hole through the Scots' firmly shut door. Rooney might be United's chief battering ram, but how he could have done with the guile of Berbatov or Scholes. As Jose Mourinho would say, the Scottish champions parked the bus in front of Allan McGregor's goal, making an eminently winnable match on paper, a real slog on the pitch, raising serious question marks about Ferguson's team selections for the second game in succession. He took the unusual step of taking the under-fire Rooney out of the firing line for Saturday's lunchtime draw with Everton. But back in the comfort of Old Trafford, the England striker was given his first outing on home soil since the sordid allegations about his personal life. Ferguson's protection of the 24-year-old was unusual on two parts. Firstly, because the United manager has rarely allowed his team selections to be influence by external factors. Secondly, because Rooney has shown time and time again throughout his young career that he is not the type to be intimidated by any situation. The suggestion that he needed to be sheltered from the expected bile rolling down Goodison's terraces simply didn't ring true. Response Not considering the way he has stood up to the hate-mobs from Everton to Anfield to Eastlands in the past. And especially not considering his response for England in Switzerland last Wednesday when in the eye of the storm. Scoring after just 10 minutes for Fabio Capello's side, he returned to club duties in the height of confidence. The chance to silence the fans that used to chant his name at his former club also provided the perfect incentive to produce a match-winning performance. Instead he was left out of the action entirely. And if the intention was to release him like a caged animal against Rangers, he instead found himself shackled by Walter Smith's disciplined side. But he was also shackled by the lack of support he needed to force his way through, rather than cutting a frustrated figure, starved of genuine goal-scoring opportunities. United 0 Rangers 0: MEN interactive player ratings In truth, neither Rooney, nor anyone else in United's line-up looked likely to find a winner. Rooney was as frustrated as the rest of his team-mates in a first half in which Rangers stubbornly stood up to United's muted attack. His first effort in anger came on 38 minutes a tame shot that limped towards McGregor from 20 yards. He looked to be in a much better position 15 minutes earlier when through on the right. But caught in two minds as he closed in on goal, he opted to square to Javier Hernandez, rather than shoot, but made a mess of that too. Short of a worrying twist of the ankle that eventually put paid to United's title and Champions League challenges last season, just before the break, and Rooney's contribution to a dour first 45 minutes was minimal. It was even less in the second a header on 70 minutes as close as he came to breaking the deadlock. Whether Ferguson's team selection was partly with a view to Sunday's clash with Liverpool and partly as punishment for the Goodison collapse, he will have no choice but to view last night as an opportunity missed. Not even the inclusion of Rooney was enough to inspire a winning start to a group that will include daunting trips to Turkey against Bursaspor, Valencia and Ibrox. Points at home will be as crucial as ever, which is why Ferguson must now hope that the decisions made for United's last two games will at least pay off against Liverpool at the weekend. United 0 Rangers 0: MEN interactive player ratings


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