Scholes' laser-guided goal cuts away Rooney rage

Besiktas 0 Manchester United 1

Ian Herbert
Saturday 22 October 2011 21:08

If Sir Alex Ferguson wanted a place to come to think, analyse and try out his new side on Europe then this was the last place on earth to be. The bear pit of the Inonu Stadium rocked and bounced and whistled and when none of that worked, the fans just flashed laser pens in the eyes of Ferguson's players. It was a potent sign of how every side in the world want blood when Manchester United are in town and the visitors' victory earned 13 minutes from time – Paul Scholes leaping to head home after Nani's deftly arced shot was parried into the midfielder's path – represented an admirable night's work.

The win was merited, too, but that thinking time is certainly still needed. Ferguson chopped and changed his attacking options as the night wore on and as the noise gravitated from the spectacular to the uncomfortable he was reminded of the dangers of playing Wayne Rooney alone up front.

The plan always had been to change things after an hour but when Rooney's time was up he trudged off disconsolate and disgruntled, threw down a boot in the dugout and remonstrated with Turkish fans. He will never be happy as a bystander and is not too fond of the lone striker's role either. Ferguson's double substitution was significant, though. It delivered an immediate shift in momentum when Antonio Valencia located some of the accuracy which had eluded him and almost found Michael Owen. Then Nani, racing powerfully in from the left flank, set up the opportunity which Scholes did well to convert. "It was good goal and good football, a typical Paul Scholes goal," Ferguson said.

Rooney's frustration will also have been born of the lack of service he had and the sense of isolation he must have felt for much of the time, in his first lone assignment of the season. Valencia could not deliver much ammunition and as his own contribution drew to a close he was being exhorted by Ferguson to track back. The manager seemed unhappy.

Nani's contributions from the left were exciting but fleeting and had Rooney glanced up at the electronic scoreboard in the first half, he would have found a prescient reminder of what he and United are now missing. Flashed up there was news of the 25-yard effort Cristiano Ronaldo had buried for Real Madrid at FC Zurich on his Champions League debut – not dissimilar to the similar finish he unfurled to dispense with Porto in the Champions League in April.

But none of that should take away from United's escape from a stadium which proved beyond Rafael Benitez's Liverpool two autumns back. "I've never heard a noise as loud as that in a football ground," Ferguson said last night. "They were fantastic, emotional supporters and they never stopped and we showed good concentration and composure."

The hostility as United's European campaign began included that old adversary, the green laser pen, last used against Ronaldo during the warm up in Lyons in February last year, and repeatedly flashed into the eyes of United's players in the first half. Scholes was clearly targeted and though none of United's players mentioned it to Ferguson at half-time, it was clear that by the finish Jonny Evans had born the brunt. "The police did something about it and got the individual at half-time," Ferguson said.

It was a challenge United's players were up for. Besiktas are proud of their stadium's record as the noisiest on the planet – 132 decibels four years ago rather takes the edge off the prospect of two continents from the stands which made Pele describe the view as the most beautiful at any stadium in the world – but Ferguson's side command experience to contend with occasions like this.

The brightest period came early. United nearly went ahead on 15 minutes when Valencia bent low to head a Nani corner towards the top right hand corner of the net, forcing Hakan Ankan to leap and claw the ball away. Rooney, drifting to the left, floated a deep cross 10 minutes later which Valencia could not land a head on and would have scored with it if he had.

United were not at their most fluent and Michael Carrick laboured to find an accurate pass, but Besiktas never looked like pressing past Evans, an image of composure in the absence of Rio Ferdinand, who was not ready for consecutive games following his comeback at Tottenham last Saturday.

When the goal finally came the noise was suddenly punctured like the air escaping from a burst tyre. It revived briefly towards the end when Besiktas threatened. One brilliant block was needed from Patrice Evra and Mert Nobre could not make a point-blank header. But United were home by then, released for some quiet and blessed introspection.

Besiktas (4-2-3-1): Arikan; Kas, Sivok, Ferrari, Uzulmez; Dag, Ernst; Holosko (Nihat, 83), Tabata (Tello, 69), Ozkan (Simsek 59); Nobre. Substitutes not used: Recber (gk), Koybasi, Fink, Inceman.

Manchester United Foster, Neville, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Carrick (Berbato, 64), Scholes, Anderson; Valencia (Park, 83), Nani; Rooney (Owen, 64). Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Brown, F Da Silva, Gibson.

Referee: N Rizzoli (Italy)

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