Wayne Rooney scored a late winner as Manchester United ended their goal drought with a 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford this evening.
Rooney had the game’s first chance as his fired wide with his left foot on the turn. Jesse Lingard, who was seeing a lot of the ball, also smacked an effort off target. Juan Mata was the next to come close for United as they took control of the game. It was an encouraging start for United and they should have had a goal but Lingard and then Marcos Rojo wasted golden opportunities in quick succession when both players found themselves in space at the back post.
Following the interval, Rojo again spurned a good chance with a header from a corner kick. United had the ball in the net but Rooney’s tap in was ruled out for offside, a passage of play which was greeted by ironic cheers. United plugged away but couldn’t quite produce a moment of quality in the final third. Rooney was teed up by Juan Mata yards from the opposition goal but the captain couldn’t sort out his feet and the chance went begging.
It was United on the front foot but substitute Seydou Doumbia almost gave the visitors the lead against the run of play when he raced through on goal. Thankfully, and crucially for United, Chris Smalling scrambled across to somehow force the ball away when it looked for all the world like a goal. It proved to be a pivotal moment in the tie as Lingard’s superb ball into the box was headed home by Rooney for United’s first goal in over 400 minutes of football.
Attack! Attack! Attack!
The Old Trafford faithful made it clear what they wanted to see from their team before the first whistle had even been blown as Louis van Gaal shook up his attacking quartet against CSKA.
Anthony Martial started up top for United, while Wayne Rooney occupied the No.10 role. And United started brightly, with Rooney and Lingard getting themselves on the ball with support from the likes of Rojo. After so many weeks of attacking mediocrity, it was refreshing to see United create chances and threaten the opposition goal. However, the atmosphere inside the stadium grew hostile as it looked like United would be heading for another goalless draw thanks to some poor finishing. Much to the relief of everyone inside Old Trafford, Rooney ended United’s goal drought.
The Frenchman was much more lively in a central role at Old Trafford but he seemed to be isolated up top.
He had zero shots, eight passes and 17 touches of the ball in the first half, which was the least of any United player. It suggests the system, rather than the individual, is to blame for United’s problems upfront this term. Although in Martial’s defence, CSKA often put more than one player on him in an attempt to shut the forward down.
However, Martial was always looking to make things happen. It was bizarre, then, that van Gaal chose to bring the youngster off for Marouane Fellaini after 66 minutes. Boos rung round Old Trafford as Martial left the pitch and it was easy to see why.
Lingard enjoyed a positive performance against CSKA in which he saw a lot of the ball. The Englishman got himself about well, beat his man on a number of occasions and linked up well with Rojo down the left hand side. His ball for Rooney’s goal was excellent and couldn’t have been better placed.
However, his touch and passing were a tad heavy at times. Lingard’s display should also have been capped with a goal in the first half, but a poor first touch when in space in the box led to a hurried effort which went high over Igor Akinfeev’s goal. His first 45 minutes summed up the general feeling regarding Lingard; promising, but far from the finished product. However, he kept plugging away and eventually grabbed an assist. Lingard deserves credit for his determination and van Gaal should also earn some plaudits for leaving him on.
The Argentine certainly had a mixed game. His good work down the left hand side helped United build up attacks but Rojo really should have bagged himself at least one goal against CSKA.
His first effort, a mishit at the back post, required more composure if the ball was to go on target. His second, a header following a corner kick, was poor. Rojo’s inconsistency is becoming an issue and he must be more reliable if he is to keep his place in the starting XI.
Rooney has taken his fair share of flak this season but he was there at the crucial moment for United as he scored late on. The 30-year-old is now United’s all-time joint second highest scorer on 237 goals, equal with Denis Law. He should be regarded as a legend at the club, despite his poor form this term. Hopefully his goal spurs him on to bigger and better things over the course of the campaign.