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Winning start for United overshadowed by laser row

sports Updated: Sep 16, 2009 07:40 IST
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Manchester United got their Champions League campaign off to a winning start, despite the efforts of a fan who targeted Sir Alex Ferguson's players with a laser.

After watching Paul Scholes head in a late winner against Turkish champions Besiktas, Ferguson confirmed that centreback Jonny Evans had been among United players targetted.

"It was in the first half, although thankfully the police did something about it," Ferguson said. "They managed to get the culprit, which is good because I noticed it particularly on Jonny Evans. It seemed to be on him all the time."

A game of few chances was settled by the 77th-minute strike from Scholes, the midfielder heading in the rebound after Besiktas goalkeeper, Hakan Arikan, had beaten out a shot from Portugal winger Nani.

It was a far from vintage performance from last season's runners-up but Ferguson declared himself satisfied with a job well done.

"Over the years, Paul Scholes has got a lot of goals like that for us and it is a very important goal for us," he said.

"It is a fantastic atmosphere here and that's a test of your concentration and your nerve, so this is a good result for us."

The Scot added: "Nani was a bit unlucky not to score himself but Paul Scholes did what he does best. It was a typical Paul Scholes goal."

Much of United's good work, including the build-up to the goal, involved new signing Antonio Valencia and the former Wigan winger's display on his Champions League debut won praise from his manager.

"Antonio was always a threat," said Ferguson. "He got to the byline so many times and really we should have done better. He has got the potential to be a really good player. He is powerful and strong, with a lot of enthusiasm.

"He is very quick, with good balance and in a year's time he will have developed more parts of his game."

Ferguson shrugged off Wayne Rooney's petulant reaction to being substituted just after the hour mark.

"It was always part of our thoughts to bring Wayne off," Ferguson said. "He had been playing as the lone striker for an hour, which is why he was always going to come off.

"He is never pleased to come off. He has so much energy he wants to play all the time."

Besiktas coach Mustafa Denizli admitted United's late strike had been a painful blow. "To concede so late after putting in so much effort is quite demoralising," he said.

United were without Rio Ferdinand. The England defender ruled out by a groin strain having only just returned to the first team following a month out with a calf problem and Ferguson admitted he was a doubt for the Manchester derby at the weekend.

The likes of Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs were also rested while Dimitar Berbatov had to settle for a place on the bench.

With neither side having created anything in the way of clear chances, the passing of the hour mark saw Berbatov introduced into the fray along with Michael Owen, whose last appearance in the Champions League was as a Real Madrid player, four-and-a-half years ago.

Owen's entry might have been spectacular with only an errant offside flag denying him the opportunity to demonstrate his finishing skills in a one-on-one with Arikan after Berbatov's flick had sent him clear of the Besiktas back four.

The Turkish side responded with Mert Nobre heading a good chance just wide but United immediately moved upfield to finally claim the lead.

Having combined with Owen, Valencia found enough space to pick out Nani in the inside left channel, just outside the box. The winger, virtually anonymous up until then, sidestepped his marker and unleashed a fierce drive that Arikan could only beat out, allowing Scholes the opportunity to find the net with a header that went in off the post.

United might have doubled the margin of victory after a neat set-up from Berbatov but Owen's first-time shot from the edge of the area whistled a yard wide of Arikan's right-hand post.