Rooney goes on the rampage to launch Old Trafford love affair

Manchester United 6 - Fenerbahce 2
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The Independent Football

When the curator of the Old Trafford museum gets into work today he can start clearing a space for Wayne Rooney. A large one. Sympathy to Evertonians, but the prodigy has arrived upon a stage befitting his talents and he intends to use it.

When the curator of the Old Trafford museum gets into work today he can start clearing a space for Wayne Rooney. A large one. Sympathy to Evertonians, but the prodigy has arrived upon a stage befitting his talents and he intends to use it.

The first exhibit will deal with Rooney's Manchester United debut. Such was the level of anticipation, it seemed certain to end in anti-climax, especially after 96 days out with injury. Instead it set a standard which even English football's most exciting talent in a generation will surely struggle to follow.

Having seen Ryan Giggs put United ahead after seven minutes, Rooney scored a 38-minute hat-trick either side of the break before late goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy and David Bellion finally ended Fenerbahce's spirited resistance. It was no ordinary hat-trick either. Left foot, then right, rifled in goals, then a free-kick was dispatched à la Beckham.

"I've never seen a debut like it," admitted Sir Alex Ferguson with a reluctance which recognised that his desire to shield Rooney had just become nigh impossible. The United manager added: "That's why we signed him. We think he has great potential and it is a great start for him. As a coach, all I can try is to allow the boy to develop naturally without too much press and public attention and live as ordinary a life as he can. Nothing will stop you [the press] going on about him ­ and quite rightly ­ but he's 18 years of age."

He is, but his impact last night cannot be understated. Old Trafford fell in love after the second goal and swooned at the third. It was a performance which recalled memories of George Best destroying Benfica in the old Estadio da Luz, Denis Law in his pomp and, for the few who could remember, perhaps Duncan Edwards, who was not much older than Rooney when he perished at Munich.

Yet hard as it is to imagine, Rooney's was not the only significant return last night. United were equally pleased to have Gary Neville restored to their defence. With his preferred back four in place for the first time this season, and his £46m strike partnership making its bow, Ferguson felt able to take risks in midfield. Roy Keane and Cristiano Ronaldo were rested and the hitherto underperforming Eric Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson were given the chance to seize an opportunity in central midfield.

Kleberson took just seven minutes to do so. Rooney had twice been dispossessed by Marco Aurelio, received a clattering from Fabio Luciano and left a foot in on Deniz Baris, when the 2002 World Cup winner briefly dragged the spotlight from the teenager with a break down the left.

Having skipped over a tackle, Kleberson's fine cross picked out Giggs who headed smartly across goal into the bottom right-hand corner.

Rooney was not long overshadowed. It had been thought that he would play the linkman role to Van Nistelrooy's predator but, after 17 minutes, it was the Dutchman who dropped deep, then slid a ball through the inside-left channel for Rooney. Without breaking his stride, he whipped the ball past Rustu Recber with his left foot.

As Old Trafford rose as one to acclaim him, Rooney headed off for the left corner flag where he was joined by all but Gabriel Heinze and Roy Carroll of his team-mates ­ Gary Neville making a 60-yard sprint to be there.

Eleven minutes later, Rooney took a short pass from Giggs in a seemingly innocuous position some 30 yards out, stepped forward and drilled it, right-footed, into the bottom left-hand corner.

It seemed game over but a spat between Van Nistelrooy and Aurelio suggested there was still life in the tie, an impression confirmed when Marcio Ferreira Nobre tapped in a poorly defended corner immediately after half-time.

You-know-who quickly responded, curling in a free-kick that had been won by Van Nistelrooy. This time Giggs led the celebrations, indicating he would like to swap shirts with Rooney after the match.

The Turkish champions continued to resist their ordained role as backdrop for Rooney's genius and, after Baris brought a point-blank save from Carroll following a corner, Tuncay Sanli drove in the rebound.

Finally Van Nistelrooy and Bellion finished them off. The respective creators were Darren Fletcher and, of course, Rooney.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Carroll; G Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze (P Neville, 87); Bellion, Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Giggs (Fletcher, 63); Rooney, Van Nistelrooy (Miller, 87). Substitutes not used: Ricardo (gk), Ronaldo, Smith, O'Shea.

Fenerbahce (4-4-1-1): Recber; Baris, Luciano, Umit, Fatih (Akin, 61); Balci, Marco Aurelio, Nobre, Tuncay; Alex; Van Hooijdonk. Substitutes not used: Demirel (gk), Fabiano Lima, Yozgatli, Hacioglu, Turaci, Sahin.

Referee: F De Bleeckere (Belgium).