Sheffield Utd 1 Manchester Utd 2: Magic of Rooney leaves the Blades dumbfounded

Warnock's scolded players outclassed by the Red Devils

One of the more flattering things Neil Warnock said about his Sheffield United players last week was - how can we put it - that they might have problems joining Mensa. Intellectually challenged they may be, but yesterday they gave Manchester United an examination that was far from easy.

Warnock's outburst came after two of his players, Paddy Kenny and Alan Quinn, were involved in late-night fights during the week and, true to their newly acquired image, they stood toe to toe with their supposed betters. Not in terms of quality - the Old Trafford side must have been close to setting a Premiership possession record - but in terms of in-your-face obduracy.

Indeed, but for the efforts of Wayne Rooney, Sir Alex Ferguson would have been questioning the thinking of his own team and Sheffield United would been celebrating a famous victory. Thankfully for the harmony in the visiting dressing room, Rooney scored twice to overtake Keith Gillespie's surprise opening goal in the 13th minute.

"Marvellous goals," was Ferguson's verdict of Rooney's strikes, while Warnock was equally effusive. "They were two great finishes from the king," he said. "There were mistakes with both goals, but with anyone but a world-class finisher we would probably have gone unpunished."

The home side had barely crossed the halfway line when they took the lead, yet no one could fault the quality of the goal nor the paradox behind the identity of the scorer. Gillespie might have had a very different career had Ferguson not sold him as part of the deal that brought Andy Cole to Old Trafford, and even then it is difficult to imagine him scoring a better header. Derek Geary thumped a cross from the left and the winger adjusted to send the ball flying past Edwin Van der Sar. Cue 77 minutes of domination by Manchester United that could not have been more complete if the visitors had annexed Bramall Lane. Yet it required two pieces of ruthless finishing from Rooney to profit from this possession.

His first goal, after 30 minutes, was, on the face of it, a simple matter of teeing up Gary Neville's exquisite pass with his left foot and then putting it across Kenny with his right. All this with the England striker running at close to full pelt as he met the ball with a defender inches behind him. To retain his balance and bearings and react in a blur of movement was wonderful.

"To get that goal before half-time gave us confidence," Ferguson said. "It also gave us the patience to wait, which was important."

It was a case of waiting and wondering, because anxiety was beginning to creep through the visiting ranks before Rooney got his second in the 75th minute. This time, United's other fullback, Patrice Evra, supplied the ammunition, crossing over Claude Davis to where Rooney had made a step back to create space. His volley across Kenny flew in at the far post.

With that the game was over, and the visitors should have increased their advantage. Cristiano Ronaldo hit the bar, Paul Scholes had an overhead kick cleared off the line by Phil Jagielka and Ronaldo made a serious bid for the miss of the decade by ballooning a shot from four yards over an open goal.

Not that Ferguson was too concerned, as he could tuck the points in his pocket and prepare for the visit of Chelsea next weekend. "It was important to go into that game with a lead over them," he said. "That is going to be a fantastic game and the whole world will be watching."

And just to get the mind games rolling, he added: "I just hope it's not going to be decided by a refereeing decision."

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

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own