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Sep 192013

69902634 69902633 An Improving United Battle Past BayerNever mind Wayne Rooney reaching the landmark of 200 goals for Manchester United or the new manager David Moyes making a victorious start start to his first Champions League group play. This was the Manchester United we know and love. Score four goals: One dead jammy! Give up two home goals out of sheer bloody-minded laxity. Moments of utter bliss coupled with pub team slovenliness. “Who’s that team we all adore?”

Although Wayne Rooney may be a pain in the arse: Someone we see a train wreck in wait for somewhere in the infinite distance. All is now definitely forgiven! After all kinds of soap opera machinations at the start of the season–not all of which were his fault, to be sure, Rooney has gone into the second month of the season on fire. On the night, while covering every slippery blade of grass at Old Trafford, he was downright inspirational. 4-2 looks simply like a successful win, but the truth is that Bayer Leverkusen really were comfortably beaten. The main reason was the Scouser striker. Still covering up a head wound with a toweling bandage—an injury that had kept him out of the club’s defeat at Liverpool and England’s draw in Ukraine–Rooney put the red devils ahead in the 22nd minute.

Leverkusen felt Van Persie was offside by the corner flag in the build up, but then had a mass hissy-fit when, with the referee’s assistant standing directly in front of of the incident, he failed to spot Valencia, standing in a clearly offside position as he tried to block Bayer’s keeper Bernd Leno’s line of view. This allowed Rooney to charge in and push a Patrice Evra cross home. And despite Bayer’s righteous protests, the referee allowed the goal to stand.

69902694 hi019338987 An Improving United Battle Past BayerThis was Rooney’s 200th goal for United, he now stands fourth in line as part of the clubs goalscoring history behind Jack Rowley at 211, who he will certainly catch this season, Denis Law at 237, and, at 249, Sir Bobby Charlton.

United were uneven for the rest of the half, still prone to give the ball away to the German team’s hard-pressing midfield. Indeed, Leverkusen showed signs of life after Rooney’s goal, although Simon Rolfes seemed to miss the presence of his usual sidekick, Sven Bender, who stayed on the bench until the second half. Still, despite some ragged passing, it was definitely United, with Marouane Fellaini patrolling midfield with a kind of effortless majesty on his full debut, who were well in control and creating the better chances, as Rooney went just slightly off target with a free-kick and Shinji Kagawa’s shot was deflected just wide by Leno.

Still, nobody was even slightly surprised when a casual United defense made a hash of getting a loose ball out of their penalty box in the 54th minute. A slipshod pass from Rio Ferdinand didn’t make it to Patrice Evra and Leverkusen’s captain, Simon Rolfes, was there to volley home beautifully from fifteen yards out to make it 1-1.

This was just the bit of a scare United needed. It took a while, though. Another sixteen minutes before Robin van Persie’s acrobatic volley allowed them to grab the lead again, It was only justice after United had attacked the Germans in wave after relentless wave. The sitter Rooney missed after collecting a long De Gea kick and casually rounding Leno was a gob-smacker. The two wide open, gaping chances Van Persie missed after exquisite set-ups from Valencia and Carrick were a shocker, too. But then Rooney did it again, twice. Firing one home at the near post minutes later after ghosting past a tired but static Bayer defense as a clever Valencia pass found him. Rooney then set up another for Antonio Valencia with a pass weighted to perfection, allowing the Ecuadorian winger all the time in the world to make long diagonal strides into the box before firing home in the 79th minute.

Omer Toprak’s late second goal for Bayer was the result of another slipshod pass from Rio Ferdinand coupled with a slow-witted lack of concentration from an otherwise faultless David De Gea and an accidental deflection off Carrick. One of these years the defense will get it together early in the season, I pray.

Along with finally seeing a return of confidence and form in Antonio Valencia and witnessing the superb quick feet and awesome passing skills of Shinji Kagawa, Moyes will clearly feel happy to be finally receiving the benefits of United’s truculent refusal to do business with Chelsea. Here was the evidence that the club’s early season stance was righteous in spite of much criticism. It was also good strategy for Moyes to substitute Rooney late with Hernandez. The two clearly did not act out any kind of rapprochement as the striker left the field, but the crowd, which stood up en masse for him, and its passionate applause lasted for minutes and surely reiterated to our sensitive Scouser that he really is truly adored by the majority. Well, of course, there was crusty Sir Alex Ferguson, who remained glued to his padded seat, but he’s just had hip surgery!
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Ivor Irwin

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