Returning Rooney ends Rangers hopes


STRIKER Wayne Rooney celebrated his return to the Manchester United starting line-up by converting the late penalty which ended Rangers’ hopes of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League.

United now need just a point at home to Valencia in a fortnight’s time to ensure top spot in Group C, while the Scottish champions will have to satisfy themselves with the consolation prize of a run in the Europa League.

Rooney, starting his first game for United since September, bore the brunt of the hostile reception the Ibrox faithful afforded the Premier League heavyweights, but he kept his nerve three minutes from time after Fabio had been felled by the high boot of Steven Naismith.

“It took a lot of courage to take the penalty kick,” said his manager Sir Alex Ferguson. “It was not an easy night, he missed a couple of chances but that’s what you expect with the rustiness in his game. We are pleased for him.”

After sending Allan McGregor the wrong way with an emphatic spot kick, Rooney (right) slid along the turf in front of his adoring fans and let out a primeval scream, in one moment releasing all the frustration that had built up following a turbulent couple of months which saw him ask to leave the club, before being tempted into signing a lucrative new five-year contract.

“Every time he scores a goal he wants to celebrate with the fans and players,” said Ferguson of Rooney’s passionate response. “He’s got a bit to go where his fitness is concerned though.”

United were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty early on when Steven Davis clattered into Dimitar Berbatov from behind.

At the other end, Rangers were disappointingly unadventurous but should have taken the lead close to the break when Kenny Miller shot straight at the legs of Edwin van der Sar from a tight angle.

The second half produced even less goalmouth incident although Rooney twice could have put United ahead, first with a near post header and then with a difficult volley, before he struck from the spot.