Wayne Rooney featured for only the final 17 minutes as Manchester United eased their way into the final of World Club Cup yesterday but in that time he scored twice and once again raised questions about his temperament with a booking for a foul on Gamba Osaka's Michihiro Yasuda.
United, who will face Liga de Quito in the final on Sunday, had already established superiority over Gamba yesterday thanks to first-half headers from Nemanja Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo. But Rooney's arrival led to a frenzied spell of six goals in 17 minutes, the striker scoring either side of a Darren Fletcher effort.
The laudable objective of this tournament is to gather each continent's top team in one place to show off their respective talents. Unfortunately, there is a serious flaw in Fifa's plan as the European and South American sides are traditionally superior to everyone else.
As winners of the Asian Champions League, Gamba did not need to be exposed to such high-class opposition to know that defending at set pieces is fairly essential in the modern game. The Japanese side had actually started quite brightly, although United had begun to get on top when Ronaldo won a right-wing corner. Ryan Giggs took it and found Vidic at the far post, the Serbian defender guiding his header beyond goalkeeper Yosuke Fujigaya.
If Anderson, who has yet to score in 56 appearances for United since his arrival from Porto last year, had been equally clinical when Ronaldo picked him out on the edge of the six-yard area shortly afterwards, the contest would have been virtually over.
Instead Ronaldo himself made it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time, powering home his 10th goal of the season, and his first in five weeks, from a Giggs cross. Given that Rooney was only a substitute as Sir Alex Ferguson opted not to take a chance with his fitness, and Dimitar Berbatov remained in bed with a virus, it was an adequate return on the opening 45 minutes, especially as some United players were still suffering from jet lag.
United's second goal took the competitive edge away from a second half that was more akin to the pre-season games they have played in the Far East over the past few years. That all changed, though, when Rooney was introduced. Before he had even touched the ball, Gamba pulled one back through Masato Yamazaki. But it proved to be just the prelude to a blistering spell of United attacking, in which Fletcher nodded in either side of a Rooney double.
First, the England forward shrugged off Sota Nakazawa to finish, then he collected Giggs' pass and slotted home. Rooney was then booked for an unseemly foul on Yasuda before Yasuhito Endo scored with a calm penalty after a handball decision had gone against Gary Neville. There was still time for another Gamba goal from Hideo Hashimoto, although it not affect the final outcome.
Gamba Osaka (4-4-2): Fujigaya; Kaji, Nakazawa, Yamaguchi, Endo; Michihiro Yasuda, Myojin, Hashimoto, Bando (Terada, 85); Lucas, Yamazaki. Substitutes not used: Matsuyo (gk), Shimohira, Futagawa, Kurata, Takei, Roneliton.
Manchester United (4-4-1-1): Van der Sar; Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic (Evans, 69), Evra; Nani, Anderson, Scholes (Fletcher, 67), Giggs; Ronaldo; Tevez (Rooney, 73). Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Rafael, O'Shea, Carrick, Gibson, Park, Welbeck, Amos.
Referee: B A Tellez (Mexico).