Manchester United’s goal drought ended in dramatic fashion as Wayne Rooney’s header in front of the Stretford End secured a 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
The Reds had not found the net in consecutive matches against Manchester City, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace, which was a cause for concern ahead of this crunch tie in Group B. Although it took 80 minutes to find a breakthrough at a rain-sodden Old Trafford, the captain eventually delivered the goods to achieve a result that places the Reds top of the pool following Wolfsburg’s 2-0 defeat at PSV Eindhoven.
Louis van Gaal made three changes to his starting XI by recalling Ashley Young, Michael Carrick and Jesse Lingard, while crucially sticking with under-fire striker Wayne Rooney up front. The captain almost scored in the third minute when his left-footed shot flashed just wide of the post, prompting cheers of his name from the Old Trafford faithful who were so eager to cheer goals from the no.10.
Lingard unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty moments later and quickly hit another effort wide of target, before a fine long ball from Daley Blind on the halfway line led to Juan Mata forcing a decent save from goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev on 15 minutes as the Reds pressed for a first goal since Anthony Martial’s header in the previous fixture against CSKA at Arena Khimki, some four matches ago.
United completely dominated the first half – both in terms of possession and shots at goal – but were guilty of missing genuine opportunities with Rooney’s free-kick bouncing wide, Lingard’s second shot flying over and Marcos Rojo’s back-post volley missing the target from close range. It was undoubtedly a much-improved performance from the Reds, with just the finishing touch lacking.