Wayne Rooney came to Manchester United’s rescue against CSKA Moscow as his 79th-minute header clinched a nervy 1-0 Champions League win over CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford.
The England captain moved level with Denis Law on 237 goals for the club when he nodded home Jesse Lingard’s cross, ending United’s goal drought in all competitions at 404 minutes.
The late strike moved United top of a highly competitive Group B table on seven points, earning their first home win over Russian opponents in European action.
It also spared manager Louis van Gaal from a fourth consecutive game without a goal, something the club had not endured since 1992.
United started brightly in their bid to end a barren spell in front of goal that stretched back to Anthony Martial’s effort in the 1-1 draw in Moscow.
The French forward was given the chance to play down the middle in the reverse fixture, as he was picked to start alongside his captain Rooney up front.
It was Rooney who skewed an early attempt wide with his left foot, while strike partner Martial failed to get enough on a beautiful long pass from Daley Blind to steer the ball beyond Igor Akinfeev.
However, the tactical switch still could not help United find a way to break the deadlock in the first 45 minutes.
Lingard, picked ahead of Ander Herrera, wasted a clear sight of goal when he lifted a shot over the bar on the half-hour mark.
Yet it was Marcos Rojo who had the best chance of the opening half, the defender volleying Ashley Young’s right-wing cross wide of the target after CSKA had failed to spot him creeping into space at the far post.
The same player failed to hit the target with a header in the opening minutes of the second half as the hosts’ frustration grew.
Marouane Fellaini was introduced after 65 minutes, though Van Gaal’s decision to take off Martial was greeted with boos from a disgruntled home crowd.
Rooney had claims for a penalty waved away before failing to convert Juan Mata’s pass, CSKA getting back to twice deny him converting from close range.
The gloom in the ground nearly deepened when David de Gea and Chris Smalling denied CSKA substitute Seydou Doumbia in quick succession on the break, though soon after the ball was in the net at the other end.
Lingard’s volleyed cross was converted by Rooney, bringing him level with the legendary Law. The sense of relief from the home fans was evident, and most likely mirrored on the bench.