Rooney saves United blushes
Wayne Rooney saved Man Utd from an embarrassing Champions League defeat at home to Aalborg, but the striker was lucky to avoid a red card for a first-half foul on Kasper Risgard during this 2-2 draw.sports Updated: Dec 11, 2008 11:47 IST
Wayne Rooney saved Manchester United from an embarrassing Champions League defeat at home to Aalborg on Wednesday, but the striker was lucky to avoid a red card for a first-half foul on Kasper Risgard during this 2-2 draw.
England striker Rooney scored a crucial equaliser on 52 minutes to extend United's unbeaten run in the Champions League to 19 games - a record shared with Ajax and Bayern Munich.
But Sir Alex Ferguson's team were unconvincing and although defeat would have been a setback, the loss of Rooney to suspension could potentially have been much more damaging.
"There were some great chances," Ferguson said. "We should have taken at least 30 per cent of them and then we would have won the game comfortably.
"We should have won the game, but the good thing is we won the group which we wanted to do and our unbeaten record remains, which is good."
Topping the group means United will play the second leg of their knockout tie at home and Ferguson feels that could be an advantage.
"(We will) come to Old Trafford with a full house and a really good atmosphere," he said. "We are there, have got the track record and the players so let's go and have a go."
Rooney admitted this Aalborg side was a lot better than the one United had beaten 3-0 in Denmark in October.
"We know we can play a lot better," he said. "Aalborg were definitely a better team than we played in the first game. But with the players we have we should be winning these games.
"In the first half the tempo of our game wasn't good and they caught us on the counter-attack a few too many times. I think in the second half we could have won the game."
With United already assured of their place in the December 19 draw for the Champions League knock-out stages, Ferguson rang the changes against the Danish champions, making nine changes from the team that defeated Sunderland at Old Trafford last Saturday.
Cristiano Ronaldo, sidelined due to the hip injury sustained in that 1-0 victory, made a brief appearance on the pitch before the game, however, when he was presented with the Ballon d'Or by Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton - two of United's three, along with the late George Best, previous European Footballers of the Year.
Even without Ronaldo, United would not have expected to be troubled by an Aalborg team treading water in mid-table in the Danish League, and the European champions appeared to be threatening a rout when they took the lead from their first attack after just three minutes.
A swift one-two between Ryan Giggs and Rooney led to Giggs releasing Tevez inside the Aalborg penalty area and the Argentina striker ruthlessly took his chance by guiding a first-time left foot shot past goalkeeper Karim Zaza.
Rooney and Tevez proved a lethal double act at times last season, but their partnership has been broken up by the arrival of Bulgarian hitman Dimitar Berbatov.
The pair showed signs of their old understanding, however, as they tore apart the Aalborg defence in the early stages and Tevez should have scored a second when he shot wide from fifteen yards after being picked out by Rooney.
Tevez then sent a glancing header from Rooney's cross wide of the far post on 23 minutes as United maintained the pressure, but Aalborg were able to withstand the pressure and they stunned United by equalising on 31 minutes.
Anders Due's in-swinging free-kick from the right flank was met with a backwards header from Michael Jakobsen and his contact was enough to take the ball past goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
Four minutes before half-time, Rooney then had his lucky escape when French referee Laurent Duhamel failed to spot his foul when he placed his studs in Risgard's chest.
Aalborg were angry at the referee's failure to spot the incident, but they made United pay in perfect fashion by grabbing a shock lead when Jeppe Curth headed in Due's cross two minutes into injury time.
United responded well in the second-half, though, and Rooney hauled them level when he rifled in from 20 yards after being released by Brazilian midfielder Anderson.
But although the home side poured forward in search of a winner, Aalborg held out and the visitors claimed a deserved draw.