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."

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits