Manchester United vs. Bayer Leverkusen: Final score 4-2, Rooney inspires United to big win

Clive Brunskill

Manchester United and David Moyes kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 4-2 win against Bayer Leverkusen. Credit for the victory must surely go to Wayne Rooney, who was in stunning form throughout and claimed two goals and an assist on the night.

United were dominant for most of the first half, and got the goal that their play warranted in the 22nd minute. It wasn't a goal without controversy, however. Leverkusen's players protested -- heartily -- that Patrice Evra was offside in the buildup, but they'd have been better served by marking Rooney, who ghosted into the six-yard box to meet the left back's cross with a sweet volley off the ground and then past Bernt Leno for a 1-0 lead.

That goal sparked a spell in which the visitors could barely get out of their own half. Robin van Persie's cutback looked destined to result in a goal only for Simon Rolfes to steal in just ahead of Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa had a shot deflected just past Leno's left-hand post and Rooney came very close to grabbing his second with a free kick reminiscent of his goal against Crystal Palace over the weekend.

Leverkusen were a little better in the second half, but not by a huge amount. Their first opportunity of the match came after a Rio Ferdinand error allowed Sidney Sam space to shoot in the box -- but with the whole goal to aim for Sam's strike ended up going straight down David de Gea's throat and the goalkeeper caught it easily.

United were still on top, and seemed sure to go 2-0 up when Toprak slipped at the edge of the Bayer box. In a flash, Rooney was onto the ball, eschewing the opportunity to pass to van Persie, instead rounding Leno and setting up at two versus zero. At that point, Rooney squared across the face of goal -- but to everyone's horror van Persie had given up on the play and couldn't convert.

Considering the utter lack of punch Bayer had demonstrated until that point, the miss seemed more annoying than truly dangerous, but as is so often the case that mistake came back to haunt them. Neung-Min Son laid the ball out to Rolfes 25 yards out, and the midfielder produced a magnificent curling strike that swerved back inside the post and left David de Gea both motionless and marveling at the strike.

A game that should have been entirely under control was now 1-1, but it didn't stay that way for long. The visitors, thrilled to have clawed their way back into the match, had their bubble re-punctured by an audacious strike from van Persie, who met an Antonio Valencia cutback that seemed both too high and too far behind him for solid contact with a fizzing volley that Leno got a hand on, but couldn't keep out.

Another Ferdinand error then nearly led to a goal. The center back was outmuscled by Stefan Kiessling in the box, and the striker managed to lay the ball off for substitute Lars Bender. The midfielder shot through Nemanja Vidic's legs -- but right at de Gea.

Rooney killed off the match immediately thereafter. A poor clearing header by Emir Spahic fell to the striker's feet, and, through on goal, Rooney smashed his shot in at the near post. With a two-goal cushion, the rest of the game was spent mopping up, and Valencia put some gloss on the win, finishing a well-worked counterattack in the 79th minute to make it 4-1.

There was enough time for Toprak to grab a consolation goal, stabbing in off the crossbar after Bender's header cannoned off the woodwork, but the match was over. That's what van Persie will tell himself, at least -- otherwise his hilarious failure to hit an open goal from less than two yards out after being set up perfectly by Valencia will sting.

Manchester United starting lineup (4-2-3-1): David De Gea; Chris Smalling, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra; Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini; Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa (Ashley Young, 71'); Robin van Persie.

Goals: Wayne Rooney 22' 70', Robin van Persie 59', Antonio Valencia 79'.

Bayer Leverkusen starting lineup (4-3-3): Sebastian Boenisch, Omer Toprak, Emir Spahic, Giulio Donati; Simon Rolfes, Stefan Reinartz, Emre Can; Neung-Min Son (Lars Bender, 64'), Stefan Kiessling (Erin Derkiyok, 78'), Sidney Sam (Robbie Kruse, 78').

Goals: Simon Rolfes 54', Toprak 88'.

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