Rooney scores as United wins 1-0 to advance
Wayne Rooney marked his first start for Manchester United in two months with a late winning goal as the English side beat Rangers 1-0 on Wednesday to secure its place in the knockout stage of the Champions League.
The England striker, who has only recently returned from an ankle injury, converted a penalty in the 87th minute after Fabio had been fouled by Steven Naismith to guarantee United a top-two finish in Group C.
It was just his second goal of the season for United, with the other also coming from the penalty spot in a league game against West Ham in August.
Naismith inadvertently kicked Fabio in the face when the Rangers forward tried to clear the ball in his own box, and Rooney calmly slotted the spot kick into the bottom-left corner.
''It took courage for Wayne Rooney to take the penalty,'' United manager Alex Ferguson said. ''It wasn't the easiest night for him having missed couple of chances but that's what you expect with the rustiness in his game. We are pleased for him.''
The visitors had done most of the attacking at Ibrox, with Rooney central to many of their moves, but had been denied by wasteful finishing and good goalkeeping.
United needs a point against Valencia, which is three points behind in second, to seal top spot in the group. The defeat eliminates Scottish champion Rangers, which instead goes into the Europa League.
Rooney was making his first start for United since a Premier League game against Bolton on Sept. 26. The intervening two months has been a turbulent period for the striker, during which he threatened to leave the club before performing a dramatic U-turn days later and signing a new five-year contract.
An ankle injury sustained in training on Oct. 19 kept him out of action for four weeks but having made his return to first-team action on Saturday as a second-half substitute in United's 2-0 win over Wigan, he was handed a start against Rangers.
After looking understandably rusty in the opening 20 minutes, Rooney gradually came into the game and was his side's most potent attacker.
Rooney's strike partner Dimitar Berbatov was also back in the team after being dropped from United's squad for the Wigan game following a recent dry spell in front of goal.
The former Bulgaria international was denied what appeared a clear penalty in the third minute when he looked to have been brought down by Steven Davis and then had a header saved by Allan McGregor.
After Rangers striker Kenny Miller nodded a good chance narrowly wide, Rooney started imposing himself at the other end. He failed to get the right contact on a volley, had a goalbound shot blocked by David Weir and then floated a header onto the top of the bar following Fabio's left-wing cross.
A curling free kick by Rooney at the start of the second half went just wide before his neat flick sent in Michael Carrick, only for the central midfielder to shoot tamely at McGregor.
Rangers was not without its openings. United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who had denied Miller with his legs just before the break, came out well in the 57th to block Naismith.
But it was the visitors doing most of the attacking, with Rooney heading a long way wide in the 74th and then mis-hitting a volley moments later after being fed by Berbatov before eventually finding the net from the spot.
''We want to go and win the group,'' Ferguson said. ''We've got Valencia at home and we can look forward to that.''