If the pre-match talk focussed on Wayne Rooney’s statement that the striker is leaving Old Trafford because of Manchester United’s lack of ambition then Sir Alex Ferguson’s second string offered little in counter-argument. United edged a dull encounter against the Turks, but offered little inspiration as the post-Rooney era began.
Rooney, as expected, stayed clear of Old Trafford, although the United faithful let no doubt remain about the collective feeling. One banner, with more than a hint of malice pondered ‘Who’s the whore now Wayne?’, while another suggested United’s supporters were less likely to forgive the Scouser than his wife, Coleen.
Neither Ferguson nor chief executive David Gill would be drawn further on the Rooney saga before the game. Ferguson, however, could hardly have been happy with his side’s underwhelming performance even if a clean sheet is welcome.
“I think we could have pushed on better,” the United manager told Sky Sports.
“We did the job well in the sense that we kept the intensity right. We controlled the whole match and they only had one shot, so we did that right.
“I didn’t think they’d score, because defensively our concentration was right.”
Ferguson responded to Rooney’s criticism by sending out a fringe side, including Federico Macheda as United’s lone striker, supported by Nani and Park Ji-Sung from the flanks.
With Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Dimitar Berbatov rested, Bursaspor might have sensed an opportunity for an Old Trafford upset but the Turkish champions had lost its previous six European matches, including games against Valencia and Rangers this season. That lack of experience showed, with United dominating the opening exchanges.
As, arguably, United’s senior player on the pitch, Nani set about winning the game for the home side early on. A seventh minute turn and drive towards goal brought reward for the winger, who lashed home a left-footed 20-yard shot past Dimitar Ivankov for the winning goal.
On this evidence Nani is United’s sole remaning player of world renown – a fact noted, perhaps, by Rooney.
The stunning goal reflected the early pattern in the match, with United dominating possession, if not creating clear-cut chances.
United’s vibrant early tempo was perhaps understandable given the circumstance; it didn’t last though as Bursaspor, whose players seemed overawed by the occasion for the first 20, slowly grew into the game.
The visitors signalled their intent when Sercan Yıldırım span Nemanja Vidic but failed to pick out a colleague after a rapid break. Then just after the half hour Rafael da Silva was forced into a last ditch tackle as Burdaspor’s rising star Volkan Şen drove into United’s penalty area.
But the scratch United side was guilty, as too often in this season’s Champions League campaign, of wastefulness in possession. Nani, Park Ji-Sung and Anderson each culpable of gifting the ball to the Turks with unnecessary carelessness.
Carrick in particular, whose place at United has been questioned now for more than a year, was seemingly both causal in the pass and wasteful in front of goal, with his sole chance from the edge of the opposition area blasted high and wide.
United fans attempted to raise the flat atmosphere at half time, with a less than family-friendly reminder of which city Rooney hails from. Fun perhaps but it did little for the United side, which was content to hold the slender lead against very average opposition.
Yet it was not until past the hour that United genuinely threatened in the second period, with Anderson and Macheda exchanging passes before the Italian dwelled too long on the ball to get his shot away.
Few chances flowed. Nani, receiving a pass from Darren Fletcher on the right, lashed an effort straight at Ivanov. Then Gabriel Obertan, on as a second half substitute for the disapointing Anderson, headed Nani’s corner wide when perhaps he should have scored.
Another substitute, Javier Hernandez, fired past the post as the game petered out.
Chances, though, were few and far between with United’s tempo almost as flat as the Old Trafford atmosphere. Little wonder, with the minimal entertainment on offer.
Inevitably, talked turned to again to Rooney. Ferguson, told of Rooney’s demand for assurances about United’s future spending, responded in cutting fashion.
”Rooney wants assurances?,” asked the United manager. “Have I won 30 trophies or what?”
He’s right but on this evidence the Champions League isn’t likely to become 31.
United – 451 – Kuszczak; Evra, Smalling, Vidic, Rafael Da Silva; Nani, Anderson (Hernandez 77), Carrick, Fletcher, Park Ji-Sung (Obertan 71); Macheda.
Bursaspor – 451 – Ivankov; Wederson, Erdogan, Stepanov (Ozturk 46), Insua; Sen, Svensson, Ipek, Tandogan (Keceli 71), Ergic; Yildirim (Bahadir 46).
Possession: United 61% – 39% Bursaspor
Attempts: 12 – 4
On target: 6 – 2
Corners: 6 – 1
Fouls: 11 – 9