Rampant Rooney is the king of Manchester

Manchester City 0 Manchester United 2
Click to follow
The Independent Football

He will know that the most unholy of receptions awaits him at Goodison Park on Saturday, but if Wayne Rooney wanted preparation for that FA Cup fifth-round return to his boyhood club, then his first derby day in the blue half of Manchester provided it. As a thousand City voices picked at his patience, not only did the teenager win the battle with his temper - he won the match as well.

He will know that the most unholy of receptions awaits him at Goodison Park on Saturday, but if Wayne Rooney wanted preparation for that FA Cup fifth-round return to his boyhood club, then his first derby day in the blue half of Manchester provided it. As a thousand City voices picked at his patience, not only did the teenager win the battle with his temper - he won the match as well.

At least 80 minutes had elapsed by the time Rooney first responded to the taunts that rolled down to him from the home support, and then all he offered them was a simple reminder of the score. Against Everton even that might prove the prelude to a riot. Against City, it was the last indignity for a home side who had seen their hopes dashed by a goal for the striker whose record now stands at six in eight matches.

It has been Rooney's goals that have forced United forward in their relentless pursuit of Chelsea, nine points clear at the top of the Premiership. Sir Alex Ferguson will have to decide this week whether on Saturday he will spare Rooney that short journey west down the M62 to the city that he will never be able to call home again. When he plays as he did yesterday, it is a monumental decision to leave him out.

There was one flash of temper in the first half when Rooney was booked for a bad tackle on Richard Dunne, but this was a match that asked much of the England striker's brittle patience. He had to wait 67 minutes for his first chance to come and, when it arrived, he brushed home Gary Neville's right-wing cross at the near post despite Dunne's challenge. Eight minutes later, Rooney's cross from the right struck Dunne and beat David James for the second.

On his temperament, Rooney was defensive. "I don't think there is anything wrong with my discipline," he said, "I've had four yellow cards all season and last season I got 11." It is progress of a kind, but in a match that only really found its edge in the second half, he never got close to the kind of rage that consumed him at Highbury.

The real temper came from another Liverpudlian striker, but one whose pace and finishing are very different to those of his teenage years. Robbie Fowler finally caught up with his old enemy Gary Neville on 75 minutes and was booked for his trouble. The two grumbled away at each other for the rest of the match, and the ill-feeling even spilled over into the dug-outs when Kevin Keegan appeared to clash with Ferguson over his failure to retrieve a ball kicked into touch.

City's best chance came seven minutes before half-time, and Steve McManaman's miss proved to be the last clear opportunity this side had to trouble United.

Cristiano Ronaldo had been introduced for John O'Shea, who was suffering from concussion, on 33 minutes and, when he was joined by Ryan Giggs after the hour, United asserted their supremacy. Giggs'notoriously tight hamstrings were protected against the cold by a pair of black tights that any man would be brave to wear in this part of the city, but once again he proved pivotal in changing United's attacking options.

"In the first half I didn't think we played with enough speed," Ferguson said. "Ronaldo and Giggs improved the speed of the game and we were deserved winners. It's unusual when even City people in the tunnel are apologising for the referee not giving us anything. But you have to handle those things and make sure that you win."

The inexplicable decision by James Beattie to head-butt William Gallas on Saturday was, Ferguson pointed out, one of those instances that suggested that Chelsea were still benefiting from some good fortune.

"All we can do is keep winning," he said. "We just have to hope something happens and, hopefully, it will. You have to be hopeful, they might lose a game at home when no one expects them to. They [Chelsea] are not playing well but they are getting results. Sometimes that is all that matters. I keep repeating myself but we are not doing much wrong. They are getting the breaks - no doubt about that."

There is, at least, injury news to console Ferguson. He said that Louis Saha will be fit for the visit to Everton and that Ruud van Nistelrooy and Alan Smith both start full training this week. The United manager might not have the nine-point lead enjoyed by Chelsea but he does have the advantage of a squad that is approaching full strength. It will not make the decision to leave out Rooney any easier.

Goals: Rooney (67) 0-1; Dunne og (75) 0-2.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills (B Wright-Phillips, 83), Distin, Dunne, Thatcher; S Wright-Phillips, McManaman, Barton (Macken, 67), Musampa; Sibierski, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Flood, Onuoha.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Carroll; G Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Heinze; Fletcher (Giggs, 62), Keane, O'Shea (Ronaldo, 33), Fortune; Scholes (P Neville, 84), Rooney. Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), Giggs, Bellion.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Manchester City Fowler, Sibierski; Manchester United Rooney, Scholes, Keane.

Man of the match: Rooney.

Attendance: 47,111.

Premiership table, page 57

Comments