BOLTON WANDERERS (2) vs MANCHESTER UTD (2)
IT WAS meant to be the win that thrust them back on the heels of leaders Chelsea, but in the end Manchester United left Bolton with only a draw, salvaged in the closing stages by substitute Michael Owen.
To make matters worse for manager Sir Alex Ferguson, United lost Ryan Giggs to a hamstring injury while off-form Wayne Rooney tweaked an ankle problem, leaving him a doubt for Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Valencia.
Twice United came from behind to level, first when Nani’s superb solo run and low shot cancelled out the prodded effort by Zat Knight that gave Bolton a surprise lead. Then, after Martin Petrov’s powerful strike deflected in off Darren Fletcher, Owen glanced a looping header into the far corner from Nani’s free-kick.
It was less than Ferguson had hoped for, having seen Chelsea and Arsenal both succumb to unexpected defeats on Saturday, but the Scot chose to emphasise the positives of a third successive away draw.
“In the first half we should have done better but we did well to come from behind,” said Ferguson. “The second half was very even. Bolton were a real handful and our chances were reduced but we must take credit for coming back again. It shows a bit of character.”
Ferguson said Giggs would be sidelined for “a couple of weeks” while United assistant manager Mike Phelan revealed Rooney’s injury when asked why the forward had been taken off. “He has a little issue with his ankle. We don’t know how serious,” said Phelan. “He has been playing with it for a couple of weeks now and during the game we decided he wasn’t getting into the areas we wanted and he wasn’t getting chances, so we had to change it.”
Rooney, yet to score in open play this season for United, again looked far from his best, although he did send a powerful shot narrowly over Jussi Jaaskelainen’s crossbar in the first half.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle refused to blame forward Johan Elmander, who missed a golden chance to put the home side 3-1 ahead moments before Owen’s 74th-minute equaliser. “On another day that ball would have rolled into the top corner,” said Coyle. “I am certainly not going to criticise a player who’s given me everything and shown unbelievable quality as well.”