AS Roma avoided another embarrassment but they still left Old Trafford a beaten side after Wayne Rooney's second-half goal proved enough to earn Manchester United FC a 1-0 victory and a three-point advantage at the top of UEFA Champions League Group F.
One goal enough
For United, it seems one goal, rather than the seven they scored against Roma in April, is more than enough right now. This was their sixth 1-0 success in eight matches and it came via a player who appears to enjoy facing the Giallorossi – Rooney driving in his third goal in as many games against the Serie A team after latching on to a Nani through pass 20 minutes from time.
Given Roma's desire to make amends for last term's 7-1 humbling here and United's own early-season goal shortage, it was no real surprise that neither of the UEFA Champions League debutants between the posts, United's Tomasz Kuszczak and Roma's Gianluca Curci, was seriously tested in the early stages. Curci was playing after first-choice keeper Doni fell ill earlier in the day yet, despite that setback, it was Roma who looked the more assured side in possession with captain Francesco Totti prominent in most of their best work.
After finding his range with a couple of long-range strikes straight at Kuszczak, Totti had the Polish custodian struggling to gather one low free-kick shortly after the half-hour. There was also one delicious diagonal ball from the Roma No10 which, dissecting the United back line, seemed to have sent Mancini clear before the assistant's flag halted his run. At the other end Cristiano Ronaldo headed over from Nani's cross on 22 minutes before Nani then showed some lovely footwork to get past two black shirts down the left and deliver a far-post cross which the unmarked Rooney volleyed over.
Game comes to life
After that tentative opening period, the game came to life after the restart. Totti missed a golden opportunity when Nemanja Vidić's slip left him with a clear sight on goal and he blazed his shot over. It was the story of Roma's night, with Totti then laying the ball back to Alberto Aquilani who flashed it wide. For all the visitors' probing, United began to impose themselves in enemy territory, however, and after Nani's cross had struck the crossbar, Rooney's drive warmed Curci's fingertips. Rooney then lifted the ball over the Roma back line for Ronaldo to backheel into the net but he was offside. The reprieve was temporary as Rooney fired a low shot across Curci and in off the far post for his first goal of the season.
Roma sought a reply but Luciano Spalletti's men could be justified in feeling Old Trafford really is not their lucky ground: David Pizarro – a replacement for the injured Aquilani – shot low at Kuszczak, Mauro Esposito spurned another late opportunity and, in between, the United goal survived an almighty scramble. Roma can take heart but it is United who took the points.