By Robert Morris
The British press has gone into frenzy this week with the news of Wayne Rooney’s decision to leave Manchester United for pastures new. The England international released a statement just hours before kick-off, citing concerns over the squad’s strength as the reason behind his decision to seek an exit away from Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson was determined to put aside off-the-field antics for tonight’s visit of Turkish champions Bursaspor. “Tonight we can take control of our group and put ourselves bang on track to go through to the knockout phase of the Champions League,” said the United boss.
Most soccer fans may have been wondering “Bursa-who?” before kick-off, but United’s opponents were not to be underestimated. They had swept aside Fenerbache, Galatasary and Besiktas to win their first league title last season. Despite their league success, Bursaspor have failed to score a single point so far in Europe. However, there would be no greater opportunity, what with the Red Devil’s naming a weakened starting eleven without the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand and Edwin van der Sar.
As the game got under way, the only thing louder than the visiting Turkish supporters were Federico Macheda’s yellow boots. It was the Italian who struck the first shot on goal, and it seemed it would be a long night for Dimitar Ivankov in the Bursaspor net. It didn’t take long for United to take the lead, as, just seven minutes in, Nani cut inside before releasing a terrific 20 yard solo effort. The home fans breathed a sigh of relief and Nani’s finish proved United has ability beyond Wayne Rooney. As far as a spectacle was concerned, an early goal from the reds meant they could relax, and thus the match struggled for tempo. Bursaspor’s uninspiring 4-5-1 formation certainly didn’t help matters, and although they rarely got forward, they were gifted several half chances from a complacent United back-four.
The second-half also provided little in the way of clear cut chances. Even though the Red Devil’s looked dangerous with Patrice Evra breaking forward down the left flank, they nonetheless lacked that killer instinct so often supplied by Rooney. Javier Hernandez was lively throughout his short cameo but United failed to add a second before the final-whistle. A cynical fan may have been concerned with tonight’s performance despite the fact United now top Group C with seven points.
Manchester United now face a tough away fixture against Stoke City on Sunday; sure to be a much more intriguing test, as fans begin to come to terms with life beyond Wayne Rooney.