Rooney in foul mood as United's star wanes

Beijing Hyundai 0 - Manchester United 3
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The Independent Football

Van Nistelrooy was substituted in the 70th minute after charging at defender Zhang Shuai following an aggressive tackle, but the Dutchman's disappointing tour had already seen him miss several scoring opportunities. Wayne's Rooney irritation was evident too, with both players involved in earlier altercations with Yang Pu, the Beijing midfielder voted China's player of the 2002 World Cup. Rooney lashed out, kicking Yang after a first-half challenge, but the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson played down the incidents.

"It was a competitive game and when professional players meet each other in that situation, it can become more physical," Ferguson said. "But I don't think it ever went out of control and the referee handled it well."

"Ruud played very well and I'm not worried," Ferguson said about his centre-forward who had a poor season by his own standards in the last campaign. "I thought he did very well. He will score goals this season, I have no worries about that. We were using the game as a bigger platform for the forthcoming European Cup game [in the second week of August] and we needed more players to play 90 minutes. We had five players who played for 90, whilst others played for 60 or 70. That built up far more to the level of fitness we need."

A watching Bryan Glazer will have been concerned that the 70,000-capacity stadium was just over a third full. When United last played in China in 1999, 78,000 paid to see them in Shanghai. As further evidence that their star is dimming in Asia, last Saturday's visit to Hong Kong attracted 8,000 fewer than when United last visited.

More than 50,000 watched Real Madrid defeat Beijing 3-2 in the same stadium on Saturday, but their visit received negative publicity as they fielded a weakened side without David Beckham.

A series of critical editorials in the Beijing media suggested that local fans of European football were becoming more discerning about watching teams live for pre-season games, but with ticket prices costing as little as £7 and widely available before the game, United officials will be concerned, especially as the club's new board want to increase revenues from Asia.

United no longer have a star with Beckham's profile, but Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who effectively replaced him, is hugely popular with Chinese supporters. Ronaldo's name was cheered loudly when he appeared after half-time and he provided the game's most entertaining move almost immediately. Skipping past two players, the winger, who only arrived in Beijing yesterday after spending time with his ill father, then crossed perfectly for Park Ji-Sung to head in his first goal in a red shirt and United's third after 48 minutes.

Paul Scholes had given United the lead in the 40th minute, with a glancing near-post header from Darren Fletcher's cross. United's sharpest player got his second three minutes later when he guided the ball home after Van Nistelrooy had miscued a volley from a Gary Neville cross.

United have rejected offers for both Phil Neville and Kleberson. "There have been a few enquiries about Phillip Neville in the past two or three weeks but we haven't accepted any of them," Ferguson said.

A Besiktas bid for the Brazilian midfielder Kleberson, a £6m capture from Atletico Paraense two years ago, was also dismissed as the Turkish club's offer did not meet United's valuation. The FA Cup runners-up fly to Tokyo today ahead of their final two games of a four-game tour.

Manchester United: (4-4-2) Van der Sar (Steele 75); G Neville (P Neville 59), Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea (Richardson 69); Smith, Fletcher, Scholes (Ronaldo 45), Park (Giggs 59); Van Nistelrooy (Dong 69), Rooney.

Referee: Sun BJ (China)

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