Wayne Rooney showed he has heeded the advice of Brazilian great Pele by rounding off Manchester United’s tour of South Africa with a dazzling performance in a 4-0 win against Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Pele had earlier this month called on Rooney to punish his opponents with his ability rather than allow himself to become embroiled in physical confrontations.
And after being lulled into an angry performance against Chiefs in Cape Town last Saturday, Rooney made the difference as the Premier League champions won the Vodacom Challenge by cruising to victory with goals from Ryan Giggs, Rooney, teenage midfielder Tom Cleverley and Fraizer Campbell.
United, who are due to play Portsmouth in Abuja, Nigeria, on Sunday, had been given a stern physical test in the games against Chiefs and Orlando Pirates before this clash, with the South African teams dishing out some bruising challenges to Sir Alex Ferguson’s stars.
The United boss had voiced his concerns about the aggressive nature of the Chiefs before this game and his fears were justified as the Johannesburg-based outfit continued where they left off at Newlands a week ago.
And the main target of Chiefs’ strong-arm tactics was Rooney, who had to be taken off by Ferguson last week in order to save him from a red card.
Whenever Rooney had the ball, he found himself on the wrong end of some heavy-duty challenges and it wasn’t long before the England striker’s temper began to fray.
Madagascan referee Floriant Raolimanana failed to protect the United man from the X-rated tackles and Rooney’s frustration boiled over when he appeared to swing an elbow at midfielder Nengomashe Tinashe on 23 minutes.
The furious Rooney was then hacked down by defender Nahayo Valery ten minutes later and his protests resulted in a long-overdue free-kick.
Moments later, Nemanja Vidic had to make a goal-line clearance to deny Mthembu Siphelele after youngster Craig Cathcart had fluffed a defensive header on the edge of the penalty area.
But United went in with a half-time lead thanks to Giggs, who netted a rare goal with his right foot when he volleyed Lee Martin’s cross into the far corner on 40 minutes.
Rooney had visibly cooled down by that stage and he was rewarded on 57 minutes with the goal that sealed the game for United.
Defender Danny Simpson’s pass released Rooney through the centre and the England forward doubled United’s lead with a cool finish from eighteen yards.
And Rooney then became the creator when his downward header from Simpson’s cross allowed Cleverley to mark his first senior appearance with a goal from close range.
Substitute Campbell made it 4-0 with a right-foot strike on 86 minutes.
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