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21 Oct 2010

Manchester United forgot about Wayne Rooney for 90 minutes as they recorded an unspectacular Champions League victory over Bursaspor.

Nani's stunning winner went some way to cushioning the shockwaves that were still reverberating around Old Trafford after Rooney confirmed his desire to leave and accused United of lacking ambition in a stunning statement delivered two hours before kick-off.

Whether United lack ambition or not, they are now in control of Group C and will travel to Bursaspor for the return fixture in less than a fortnight knowing that victory will leave them on the brink of a last-16 place.

And Rooney's potential departure did not appear to affect his team-mates as a youthful line-up just about did enough to deserve victory over their Turkish visitors.

It was not a classic but that did not matter. After the high-profile hammering United boss Sir Alex Ferguson felt his club had been dealt by England's star player, a low-key victory was more than acceptable.

And perhaps Ferguson deliberately made a point by including the likes of Tomasz Kuszczak, Chris Smalling, Rafael and Federico Macheda.

It did not take long for United to take the lead - and it came courtesy of a stunning solo effort from Nani who cut in from the right and hit a sweet 20-yard curling shot past the despairing Dimitar Ivankov.

There was a hint of "I told you so" about the quality of the strike and Nani's reaction was almost as if to say that United's more recent recruits do have the quality to keep the club at or near the top of European football.

Bursaspor created a moment of danger when Sercan Yildirim broke down the left and slipped the ball past the covering Smalling but there was nobody in the six-yard box to convert it into a real chance.

The Turks - cheered on by a vociferous contingent of visiting fans - almost found themselves 2-0 behind when Nemanja Vidic, who moments earlier had produced the pass of the match down the left, headed a corner wide when he should have hit the target.

Rafael was called to action moments later when the Green Crocodiles broke through the middle with Ali Tandogan, but the young Brazilian right-back showed pace and agility to clear his lines under pressure.

Indeed, United appeared content to play a high game with their back-line pushing up towards the halfway line at every opportunity. That, despite the defensive frailties that have cost them dearly in the Premier League in recent games.

For all their considerable possession, the Red Devils failed to create another clear cut chance before the interval as the first period petered out after such a sparkling opening.

The second half failed to ignite as neither team were able to full stamp any authority on proceedings, though United, with Evra pressing down the left, looked the more likely.

Chances were at a premium with Bursaspor failing to trouble a sound-looking United defence in which Smalling more than held his own.

Substitute Gabriel Obertan should have doubled United's advantage late on but his header from a corner fell wide, while Javier Hernandez was also guilty of lacking the killer instinct when he dragged a shot wide when ideally placed to score.

In the end, Nani's early strike proved enough but United will face far sterner tests in their pursuit of the Champions League trophy this season - and quite possibly without a certain 24-year-old.

In the meantime, United fans - and those at other top clubs both across the city of Manchester and further afield - will await the next chapter of this saga with interest.


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