Aalborg BK bowed out of the UEFA Champions League on a high note after giving holders Manchester United FC a scare in a 2-2 draw.
It took a second-half Wayne Rooney strike to preserve United's long unbeaten home record in Europe after the visitors responded to an early Carlos Tévez effort by stunning Old Trafford with goals from Michael Jakobsen and Jeppe Curth. If the UEFA Cup-bound Danish outfit had begun their campaign as they ended it, they may have fared better than finishing third, although they can still take immense satisfaction from ensuring caretaker coach Allan Kuhn completed his 12-match stint in charge undefeated.
A home victory had seemed certain when United opened the scoring inside the third minute but they too could head home happy as Villarreal CF's defeat at Celtic FC secured for them first place in Group E. Indeed, Rooney's equaliser meant they have now gone 19 games unbeaten in the UEFA Champions League, equalling the record held by AFC Ajax and FC Bayern München in the competition's modern era.
They started superbly, with the kind of goal that makes football look easy. Ryan Giggs, breaking from central midfield, lifted the ball up to Rooney, collected the England forward's headed touch back to him and then slipped a pass through to Tévez who slotted home. It was the Argentinian's first European goal of the campaign and moments later it should have been two as Rooney teed him up but this time Tévez put the ball wide.
United had AaB chasing shadows for the first quarter. Zaza saved at the feet of Nani and Rooney, Tévez turned a header wide, then Giggs released Nani down the right but his shot found the side-netting. United were toying with AaB – even Gary Neville attempted an ambitious backheel – but perhaps it got too easy because suddenly, against the run of play, AaB equalised with their first effort on target.
Overturning the odds
Anders Due sent in a free-kick from the right and Jakobsen, his run unchecked by a red shirt, flicked the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak, the keeper getting a hand to it but only helping it on its way. United's goalkeeper did rather better soon after to palm away a Due free-kick, but the visitors' second goal was not far away, arriving in first-half stoppage time with the help of some slack defending. Making his first start in the competition for United, Darron Gibson gave the ball to Due inside AaB territory and the winger advanced unchallenged virtually to the edge of the United box. He spotted Curth arriving unmarked on the far side of the penalty area and the ensuing cross was met by a perfect header back across Kuszczak and inside the far post.
Sir Alex Ferguson introduced Paul Scholes and Ji-Sung Park at the start of the second half and within seven minutes United were level. Anderson arrowed a pass to Rooney who, cutting across the line of the penalty box, drilled a shot through Zaza's legs. It was now normal service resumed with United pushing for a third. Tévez sent Scholes through only for Steve Olfers to produce a superb goal-saving tackle. Zaza then denied Neville at point-blank range before Olfers crashed a back-header against his own crossbar. Tévez could have won it yet struck the sidenetting after rounding Zaza, but AaB deserved their point.