Rooney Saves United Late vs. Moscow

Rooney scores for United

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The first week of November saw the return of UEFA Champions League. Going into the fourth round of fixtures, Manchester United played host to CSKA Moscow. The Red Devils’ offense has been anything but potent lately as they had failed to score since Anthony Martial’s late equalizer in Moscow two weeks ago. Fans and commentators alike were piling on the criticism of Louis Van Gaal’s offensive tactics and in particular the poor form of Wayne Rooney. The guests, on other hand, were in the midst of an eight game undefeated run through all competitions. A victory for either side would send them to the top of Group B, and give them a great opportunity to position themselves for a place in the knockout round.

Rooney almost silenced the critics just three minutes into the match, but his volley from the top of the penalty area flew just wide of the post. United looked a determined side in the opening stages of the first half as they peppered Moscow’s net with chances. In the ninth minute, Rooney was again involved in the attack, but his slicing through ball for Jesse Lingard was just cut out by Igor Afinkeev. The hosts’ next chance came in the 17th minute when Michael Carrick played a Paul Scholes-esque long ball from 45+ yards out, but Juan Mata couldn’t get enough power on his effort to put the hosts ahead.

Despite their dominance in attack, the Red Devils’ goalless drought continued on through the opening half hour of the match. For a moment, it looked like it would be Chris Smalling that finally found the back of the net to open the scoring. A long service in from Rooney from a set piece curled dangerously into the penalty area, but the English defender seemingly lost track of where he was on the field and avoided the cross altogether. Less than a minute later, Lingard should have put the hosts on the board. A great pass from Ashley Young on the wing found Lingard open at the far post, but the United academy product held the ball for too long as he sent his effort high and wide. When the halftime whistle blew, the scores were still level between the two clubs, and fans at Old Trafford looked to be growing restless.

The second half started off with more of the same from United. In the 47th minute, Marcos Rojo, who only recently has returned to the good graces of Van Gaal, got his head to a corner, but he didn’t have the accuracy to put his shot on target. Anthony Martial was the next Red Devil to try his hand at finding the back of the net in the 50th minute, but his headed effort followed the trend set by his teammates and fell harmlessly to Afinkeev in net. As the missed opportunities began to pile up, it looked as if it would be just another goalless day at Old Trafford.

The best chance of the second half fell to who else but Wayne Rooney. The 30-year-old striker scuffed his first-time effort on Mata’s cross on the edge of the six-yard box, and failed to get a shot off on the ensuing rebound. Moscow’s first actual chance of the match came in the 78th minute when Seydou Doumbia surged past the United defense before having his shot denied by David De Gea. The Spaniard’s save didn’t clear the danger though, as Doumbia collected the rebound and had a near-wide open net to shoot at, but a heroic sliding effort from Chris Smalling kept the sides level. Just two minutes later, United finally struck. Carrick sent in another brilliant lofted ball into the penalty area to Lingard who made a one-touch pass into the middle of the 18-yard box. Waiting in the middle was England’s all-time leading goalscorer, Wayne Rooney, and the polarizing striker made no mistake in placing his header past Afinkeev and giving the Red Devils a well-deserved 1-0 victory in Europe.

Rooney’s goal ended a 404-minute goal drought for United and sent them to the top of their Champions League group. Next up for the Red Devils in Europe is a visit from PSV Eindhoven. The last time they met the Dutch club, United fell 2-1 and lost Luke Shaw for the foreseeable future with a broken leg. CSKA Moscow will enjoy a visit from VfL Wolfsburg who defeated the Russians when they traveled to Germany.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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