Rooney scores winner for United in Carling Cup final

Aston Villa 1 Manchester United 2

Wayne Rooney was the Carling Cup final head boy as Manchester United came from behind to retain a knockout competition for the first time.

After starting as a substitute, Rooney was only on the pitch because of an injury to Michael Owen, who had levelled James Milner's fourth-minute penalty.

He was not going to let that inconvenience stop him becoming the Wembley match-winner against Aston Villa though.

And 16 minutes from time, Rooney got on the end of Antonio Valencia's cross and looped home yet another headed goal - his fifth in a row - to take his goal tally for the season to 28 and allow United to retain the trophy after a thrilling Wembley encounter Sir Alex Ferguson feared was not possible.

One of the more obvious reasons why Ferguson would choose to leave his best player out of such a showpiece occasion was the surface, which has been claggy every time the Red Devils have played at the rebuilt stadium.

Fearing a draining match, plus extra-time, then an England game and a Premier League trip to Wolves, when victory will take his side top, before that decisive meeting with AC Milan on March 10, Ferguson presumably felt this was an outing Rooney could do without.

Yet any worries about the pitch were groundless. And Villa's flying start meant there was no chance of either side being allowed to turn this into the sterile affair many had predicted.

At the time, Martin O'Neill questioned how Nemanja Vidic avoided a card of any kind for his foul on Gabriel Agbonlahor.

As the contest wore on, and an increasing number of his own players ended up in Phil Dowd's notebook, the criticism grew.

If Agbonlahor had gone down when Vidic first grabbed his shirt, the card should have been red.

Instead, the Villa striker admirably attempted to stay on his feet after outpacing the Serbian to reach Ashley Young's lofted pass beyond the United defence.

In the end, it was too much. Vidic stuck out a leg and hauled Agbonlahor down. Milner kept his nerve, sending Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way to provide the contest with the start it craved.

As tends to be the case when they fall behind, United's response was an all-out attacking assault, which in turn provided Villa with space to counter.

The mixture produced a thrilling spectacle, made all the more absorbing because Ferguson's team levelled so quickly.

So solid all season, it was just Richard Dunne's luck his blunder should come in Villa's biggest game of the year.

The Irishman was robbed by Dimitar Berbatov close to his own penalty area and though he made up the ground, in making his despairing tackle, Dunne only succeeded in rolling the ball into Owen's path, offering the kind of instinctive first-time finish he has made a career out of.

That Owen's contribution - and Rooney's exile - came to an end three minutes before the break was cause for regret, although the watching Fabio Capello has long since deduced those dodgy hamstrings cannot be trusted through another World Cup campaign.

Capello was probably also reaching the conclusion Stephen Warnock should be handed his problematic left-back berth against Egypt on Wednesday.

But when Warnock slipped just before half-time, man-of-the-match Valencia galloped past him down the by-line, his cross eventually arriving at the feet of Park Ji-sung, who slammed it onto the inside of a post, where it rocketed across goal for Carlos Cuellar to hack clear.

Friedel palmed away a magnificently constructed effort from Michael Carrick after half-time, although Villa were United's equals and could easily have levelled when Ashley Young sent a volley bouncing into the ground.

The problem for Villa was knowing Rooney lurked.

After falling victim to him in midweek, Gianfranco Zola claimed England's superstar has the Midas touch. It is more a Boy's Own story he is writing at the moment.

Having looped home yet another header to put his side ahead, Rooney came agonisingly close to making it number six when he crashed another onto the woodwork.

Villa responded in kind, Vidic nudging Emile Heskey's header onto his own bar. But that would have spoiled the story.

Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor