Champions League - Manchester United amble past Galati

Wed, 02 Nov 21:38:00 2011

Manchester United struck early and late to secure an uninspiring 2-0 Champions League win against Otelul Galati at Old Trafford.

2011-2012 Wayne Rooney - 0

Antonio Valencia opened the scoring in the eighth minute, and Wayne Rooney made the result safe with a deflected effort on 87 minutes that may go down as an own-goal.

Those moments bookended an otherwise unremarkable performance enlivened only by the selection of Rooney in central midfield.

The Romanian visitors, who are still without a point in the competition, performed creditably with Ionut Neagu particularly impressive in midfield.

However, United barely put them under pressure and have ample room for improvement despite taking a significant step towards the knockout stages.

Benfica's draw against Basel means United now top the group on goal difference, and have a three-point cushion ahead of third-placed Basel.

Sir Alex Ferguson made a bold statement with a line-up including Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen - the latter pair making their first European starts of the season.

However, Owen's evening lasted only 10 minutes until he limped off with a suspected thigh injury.

He was replaced by Javier Hernandez, a change that can hardly have pleased Otelul coach Dorinel Munteanu.

United operated a fairly orthodox 4-4-2, with Rooney spraying passes around in midfield, playing the sort of 'quarterback' role occasionally handed to David Beckham for England. Rooney completed 98 passes, by far the most of any United player.

The home side started slowly however, with a number of sloppy passes conceding possession.

On eight minutes, Rooney released Berbatov down the right with a superb ball and the Bulgarian found the overlapping Phil Jones.

The cross just missed Owen at the near post but bounced through to Valencia who converted from close range.

Despite Rooney's expert distribution, United failed to turn their possession and territorial advantage into goalscoring opportunities, and looked content to sit on their lead.

There was no excuse for complacency given their last Champions League game at Old Trafford, in which they surrendered a 2-0 lead against Basel, went 3-2 behind and escaped with a point courtesy of a late Ashley Young header.

And so Otelul gradually started to make their presence felt. Ionut Neagu tested David De Gea with a long shot, then brought a good save from the goalkeeper after Nani surrendered possession.

The visitors grew in confidence after the break, with Neagu playing clever balls into the box for the lone striker Marius Pena, though De Gea was rarely troubled.

At the other end, Jones galloped down the right flank to set up a Hernandez header which flashed over.

Anderson might have added to the lead after he nudged the ball past goalkeeper Branko Grahovac but Sergiu Costin cleared off the line.

Nani and Hernandez also tested the goalkeeper, but neither made him work hard enough, and as Galati put together a series of corners it looked like United might be made to pay.

But Rooney eventually settled the nerves when he hit a 25-yard shot that took a big touch off the luckless Cristian Sarghi and left Grahovac wrong-footed.

United rarely shine in the Champions League group stage but they nearly always get the job done. This was a case in point - despite the eye-catching team selection, this was an exercise in doing just enough.

Alex Chick - on Twitter @alexchick81 / Eurosport

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