Fiery Rooney shows both sides

Manchester United 2 AaB Aalborg 2

The delight in the eyes of the Aalborg caretaker manager, describing the "biggest point" in his modest club's history and relating his sporting director's vow to fly home naked if they got a draw, was leavened by a sense of bafflement last night at another bizarre performance from one of the most naturally gifted players in the land.

Allan Kuhn was too polite and far too ecstatic about the point gained to make too much of it but Wayne Rooney's apparent stamp at the Danish inside-left Kasper Risgard just before half-time, a similar challenge on defender Michael Jakobsen and a running battle with striker Thomas Augustinussen defied rational explanation – especially on a night when Rooney was his side's best player by a distance. Risgard was certainly bristling with indignation about the 41st minute challenge, in which Rooney seemed to aim a stamp as they fell to the ground together and which could yet lead Uefa to punish him. "He was jumping on my chest. I don't why because they were playing good football and at the time it was 1-1," he said. "Anywhere else but here and it would have been a red card. I think referees are frightened to punish players here at Old Trafford, and especially players like Rooney."

Kuhn was more circumspect about a challenge which bore some comparison to the stamp on Ricardo Carvalho which got Rooney sent off in the World Cup semi-final in Gelsenkirchen two years back. "You have to keep your head and be calm in situations like that, especially a world class player like him," he said. "Stupid things happen in football I know the champions league people will take care of it."

Rooney made light of the incidents – "it's football, it's a physical game," he offered – and so did his manager who implied that Rooney had been deliberately needled, and countered that Aalborg's Jeppe Curth might have been dismissed for the challenge on Carlos Tevez which earned him a booking. Rooney's conduct is part of a pattern of behaviour, though, at its worst this season in the defeat against the similarly modest challenge of Hull City here. Then, as last night, United were losing their way when they should not have been and Risgard's testimony revealed as much. "We could feel they were a bit frustrated and they were yelling at each other," he said.

There are certainly far greater challenges ahead than Aalborg, with United – Group E winners since Villarreal could not manage a win in Glasgow – potentially facing Real or Atletico Madrid and Jose Mourinho's Internazionale, as well as Sporting Lisbon or Lyon in the first knock-out round.

Long before then, Ferguson has the pressing business of Saturday's encounter at White Hart Lane, possibly minus Dimitar Berbatov, who is doubtful having suffered swelling after a kick to his Achilles against Sunderland on Saturday. Michael Carrick is also carrying a thigh injury, which is why Ferguson rested Darren Fletcher last night.

His decision to rest Cristiano Ronaldo, too, seemed no great risk as United tucked in to a visiting side which, judging by the way they started, suggested that some bunch of imposters had blundered into the wrong stadium. Champions of Denmark, perhaps, but not remotely in this league.

It took Rooney two minutes and 40 seconds to help tear them apart, Ryan Giggs lofting a ball to him, taking his headed ball back and hoisting a ball through with the outside of his right foot which Carlos Tevez deposited for his seventh goal of the season.

When even Gary Neville is trying out the backheels then you know that United are feeling a certain insouciance. It was their undoing, just as it was against Blackburn Rovers and Hull City here in games where the visitors scored three apiece. Aalborg had a habit of counterattacking quickly after breaking up United's play and in the dead ball ability of Anders Due they found a surprisingly elementary way of causing trouble.

The entire United rearguard neglected to spot Jakobsen's 31st minute left-to-right run across the box which saw him deposit Due's free-kick in off the back of his head. Kuszczak got a touch but managed only to flap the ball into the net. Unfortunate then, considering the Dane's ability, that it was to Due that Gibson offered a painfully loose pass and that Ferdinand granted him a yard's space to loft a ball across to Curth who was free to head past Kuszczak in first-half injury time.

Scoring goals is what worries Ferguson most, just now. Neville fired over from a few yards after chesting a lofted Rooney pass beyond Jakobsen and racing in on keeper Karim Kaka, and Tevez somehow deposited Rooney's through ball into the side-netting. Rooney spared any embarrassment, running onto Anderson's elegant ball to thump a 51st minute equaliser. But he will remembered for less creditable work.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Neville (Rafael, 76), Ferdinand, Evans, O'Shea; Gibson (Scholes h-t), Giggs (Park h-t), Anderson, Nani; Tevez, Rooney. Substitutes not used: Foster (gk), Vidic, Fletcher, Possebon

Aalborg (4-5-1) Zaza; Bogelund, Olfers, Jakobsen, Pedersen (Sorensen, 76); Curth (Caca, 74), Enevoldsen, Augustinussen, Risgard, Due (Kristensen, 65); Saganowski. Substitutes not used: Stenild (gk), Nomvethe, Braemer, Schwartz.

Referee: L Duhamel (France).

Group E

Results: Celtic 0 AaB Aalborg 0; Manchester Utd 0 Villarreal 0; AaB Aalborg 0 Manchester Utd 3; Villarreal 1 Celtic 0; Manchester Utd 3 Celtic 0; Villarreal 6 AaB Aalborg 3; Aab Aalborg 2 Villarreal 2; Celtic 1 Manchester Utd 1; AaB Aalborg 2 Celtic 1; Villarreal 0 Manchester United 0; Celtic 2 Villarreal 0; Manchester Utd 2 AaB Aalborg 2.

Last 16 Qualifiers

Group winners: Roma, Panathinaikos, Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Porto, Juventus

Runners-up: Chelsea, Internazionale, Sporting Lisbon, Atletico Madrid, Villarreal, Lyon, Arsenal, Real Madrid

The draw is on 19 December. Teams from the same country cannot be drawn together, nor teams from the same qualifying group. The First Knockout round takes place on 24/25 February and 10/11 March

News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Frozen out: despite being filmed in Iceland, 'Fortitude' is set further north, in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
tvGerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Life and Style
Carmen Khu from The Royal China Club pours a cup of Dai-Hong-Po tea
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore