Rooney covers United's cracks

Manchester United 2 AaB Aalborg 2

A night when Manchester United got a bit above themselves. Cristiano Ronaldo was introduced as the best footballer in the world when he appeared on the pitch with his Ballon d'Or, the trophy for Europe's finest. Then, when his team-mates were striding around the place like schoolyard bullies, they forgot about defending and somehow never quite remembered. Villarreal's 2-0 defeat in Glasgow makes the dropped points academic – United progress as group winners once again – but Aalborg left Manchester jubilant and rarely in a six-week period have a United side conceded so many soft goals.

The memories of the May night in northern Italy, last year, when Milan taught United a lesson in their own footballing mortality in a Champions League semi-final, seemed a lifetime past as United rolled into action again. They had not lost in Europe since and went into last night's game seeking to equal the longest unbeaten run in the Champions League's 16-year history. Only Ajax and Bayern Munich had the 19-game unbeaten record United were seeking. The way that the Danes set about doing something about that record suggested some bunch of imposters had blundered into the wrong stadium. Champions of Denmark, perhaps, but not remotely in this league.

It took United approximately two minutes and 40 seconds and four impeccable touches to tear them assunder, Ryan Giggs lofting a ball to Wayne Rooney, taking his headed ball back and hoisting a ball through with the outside of his right foot which Carlos Tevez ran through to deposit for his seventh goal of the season. It was second only to Ronaldo and not bad for a player who's warmed the bench nine times this season, his advisers still to agree that £32m permanent deal with United. Left-back Michael Jakobsen was wearing white gloves but for 20 minutes at least he needed a white flag as Aalborg's rickety defensive edifice looked like it might give way entirely. Jakobsen's loose pass, 20 yards from his own goal, was seized upon by Anderson, whose ball to Rooney was despatched on to Tevez. Clear on goal again, he hit his shot wide.

Even Gary Neville was trying out the backheels which have become an increasing part of United's creative currency in the months he has struggled back to the fringes of the side but Giggs was at the hub. His one-two with Nani had the Portuguese clear but the touch he took with his thigh took the ball out of his control.

Then, the calamities. There had been a few hints that the young United players Ferguson had put his faith in – this was a side missing Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov with Saturday's trip to White Hart Lane in mind – were not to go entirely untested. Darron Gibson and the generally assured Jonny Evans were left for dead on each of the flanks. But Aalborg's equaliser was as defensively disappointing as it was unexpected, the entire rearguard neglecting to spot Jakobsen's left to right run across he box which saw him deposit Anders Due's free kick in off the back of his head. Tomasz Kuszczak got a touch but managed only to push the ball into the net. Aalborg were heartened. Rio Ferdinand dumped Marek Saganowski to the floor and Due's arced left-foot free-kick forced Kuszczak to dive and palm away.

Then, seconds after John O'Shea had seen a shot cleared off the line by the conspicuous Jakobsen, Gibson offered a painfully loose pass to Due who was granted a yard's space by Ferdinand to loft a ball across to Jeppe Curth who was again left free to head past Kuszczak.

United set about business after the break in a manner which suggested Aalborg's fun had been only a minor intermission. Tevez somehow managed to nod wide a cross Nani put over for him and then Anderson's left-foot pass from 30 yards out bisected the defence, Rooney chasing on to it to thump in an equaliser before Jakobsen could place his challenge. Curth was booked for a lunge at Tevez but Rooney was lucky to escape the referee's book for another of his tetchy displays. He lunged at Martin Pedersen and swung an arm at Thomas Augustinussen during a running battle with the tall striker.

Scholes' arrival took him to 104 Champions League appearances, more than any Englishman, and his influence was as palpable as ever, as he lofted deep passes left and right.

But frustration reined. A low ball by Nani somehow evaded the arriving boot of substitute Ji-Sung Park and Gary Neville thumped the pitch in frustration after firing over from a few yards after chesting a lofted Rooney pass beyond Jakobsen and racing in on keeper Karim Zaza. Tevez then somehow managed to deposit Rooney's through-ball into the side-netting.

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).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine