Rooney slap casts ugly shadow on United win

Manchester United 2 - Bolton Wanderers 0

For someone who trained as an amateur boxer, the slap was one of the very softest Wayne Rooney has ever delivered, but the fact that it connected with the face of Tal Ben Haim meant it obscured everything else about this Lancashire derby, even another sublime display from Ryan Giggs.

Although it was missed by the referee, Dermot Gallagher, it is unlikely to be ignored by the FA when it convenes later in the week and with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Louis Saha injured, Manchester United can ill afford a suspension. With United now in fierce pursuit of Chelsea and Arsenal, Alan Smith is likely to begin the year as he started the season, as the only fit and available front-line striker.

Sir Alex Ferguson, questioned by the club's official television station, dismissed the incident out of hand, all but accusing the Israeli of throwing his face at Rooney's open palm. "It's embarrassing, the Bolton player should be ashamed," said the Manchester United manager of Ben Haim's theatrical writhing. "We had a referee who let things go and his performance was one of the best I have seen."

Although conceding that Ben Haim behaved like a very light featherweight confronted by Lennox Lewis, Sam Allardyce was less inclined towards generosity: "Yes, he went down rather too easily, but there is no doubt Wayne Rooney pushed him in the face and under today's rules he should have been sent off."

The Bolton manager did not share Ferguson's warmth towards Gallagher, especially his disregard of a venomous tackle from behind delivered by Roy Keane on El Hadji Diouf which merited not even a quiet word and ensured Diouf kept his distance from the United captain thereafter.

Keane is a player who can smell vulnerability and a Bolton side careering towards their fifth successive defeat stank of it. After picking up two points from a possible 21, Allardyce had embraced radical surgery, dropping Jay-Jay Okocha and Bruno N'Gotty. Instead, he invested his faith in Ricardo Vaz Te, an 18-year-old signing from the Portuguese side Farenese making his first Premiership start. There were a couple of sweet touches but his main contribution was to be struck in the face by an Ivan Campo drive that represented Bolton's best chance of the match.

This has been a month when the old heart of Manchester United - Giggs, Keane and Paul Scholes - has been beating strongly. Yesterday Giggs woke up to headlines suggesting that Manchester United might resolve the impasse on an extension to his contract that has 18 months to run by offering him a performance-related deal. On the Welshman's recent form, this could make Giggs very wealthy indeed. The passing, the running, the sheer lovely confidence of his game were absolutely undimmed.

His 125th goal in a United shirt was spectacularly consummated; falling backwards to connect with a cross from Gabriel Heinze that was meant for either Rooney or Cristiano Ronaldo but which missed them both. He ought to have had another when put clean through by Liam Miller but Jussi Jaaskelainen held his nerve - which is rather more than his defenders managed.

Allardyce thought the way they dealt with Heinze's cross for United's opening goal was unforgivably poor. However, there was little they could have done to prevent Scholes's seventh goal in as many Premiership matches, which was absolutely typical of a man whom Thierry Henry rates as the best English footballer in the world. It was brutally struck from the edge of the area, from a finely timed Giggs pass, and struck the back of Jaaskelainen's net with a minute remaining.

For Allardyce what had threatened to be a tilt at European football is now turning into what his hitherto hugely successful stewardship of Bolton was always about, keeping Premiership football at the Reebok Stadium. For a former centre-half it must hurt deeply that the deficiencies are where he used to play. "We need a minimum of 11 to 12 clean sheets in a season and so far we have had two in 19 matches," he reflected. "When we were winning games 2-1 it did not seem to matter but I always told the players that a reckoning would come."

Goals: Giggs 10 (1-0), Scholes 89 (2-0).

Manchester United (4-4-2): Carroll; O'Shea, R Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze; Ronaldo (Scholes, 68), Fletcher, Keane, Giggs; Smith, Rooney (Miller, 85). Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), P Neville, Bellion.

Bolton Wanderers (4-3-2-1): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Haim, Jaidi, Cesar; Nolan, Campo, Speed; Vaz Te (Giannakopoulos, 68), Diouf (Okocha, 51); Davies (L Ferdinand, 62). Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), N'Gotty.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Man of the match: Giggs.

Attendance: 67,867.

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

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...