Roon and Ron steal the show
LONDON — Two of the biggest stars in European football stole the show on Tuesday night (yesterday morning, Singapore time) as the leading contenders began the Champions League group stage with a bang by delivering a bonanza of goals.
Thirty successful strikes rained in all around Europe as Real Madrid trounced Galatasaray 6-1 in Istanbul, Manchester United beat Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 at Old Trafford, holders Bayern Munich and Manchester City notched easy 3-0 wins over CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen, and Paris St Germain hammered Olympiakos 4-1.
Almost every big-name player found the net — United’s Wayne Rooney (two goals) and Robin van Persie (one) combined for three, as did PSG’s Edinson Cavani (one) and Thiago Motta (two), while Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo decided to score three goals by himself.
Elsewhere, six different names got on the scoresheet for City and Bayern as Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure scored for the former English Premier League champions, while David Alaba, Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic found the net for the German giants.
But amid the galaxy of scoring stars, it was still Rooney and Ronaldo who dazzled the most.
Rooney shone not only because his two goals made him only the fourth United footballer to score 200 goals for the club — behind Bobby Charlton (249), Denis Law (237) and Jack Rowley (211) — but also because his all-round display, which included an assist for Antonio Valencia and a spectacular miss, showed that the 27-year-old England international is back at his best after a tumultuous summer.
He looked fit, refreshed and focused on the future which could one day see him overtake Charlton as United’s all-time top scorer and many of his qualities were on parade: The assured first touch, the deft pass and the refusal to be distracted by his second-half mistake when he sent an opportunity to make it 2-0 screaming across the face of goal.
Indeed, the standing ovation he received from the singing United supporters when he left the pitch six minutes before the end showed that the fans were once again in love with their one-time wantaway striker.
Tuesday night was also a victory for United manager David Moyes in many senses.
Not only was the win a convincing start to his first European campaign at United, but it also offered proof that his astute handling of the Rooney saga and the efforts he poured into persuading the striker to stay, have been richly rewarded.