29/12/2008 21:53, Report by Ben Hibbs
United 1 Middlesbrough 0
Liverpool and Chelsea both dropping points while the Reds were away conquering the world. And the determination to follow-up a hard-fought 1-0 win over Stoke was clearly evident in the opening moments of a chilly late December encounter at Old Trafford.
Rooney tested Ross Turnbull’s resolve after just five minutes, with a shot that the Boro goalkeeper palmed away. Seconds later Ronaldo’s jinking turn and cross forced another intervention from the Boro stopper. On 15 minutes the Reds winger’s free-kick, left of the area and 25 yards from goal, fizzed wide, while a second, deflected Ronaldo set-piece worried Turnbull as he tracked its rerouted flight into his arms.
It took Boro until midway through the half to register an effort on goal. A smart feint from Afonso Alves evaded Rafael and Nemanja Vidic’s attentions, but his shot was high and wide. United immediately countered with a neat one-two between Berbatov and Rooney allowing the Englishman to cut the ball back for Ronaldo. Unfortunately his left-foot shot went the wrong side of the post.
Ronaldo, Rafael and Carrick all had shots blocked inside the area, while Vidic sent a header crashing wide, infusing frustration – if plenty of action to warm a chilled Old Trafford crowd, with a feeling that Middlesbrough were there for the taking.
Rooney had United’s last – and possibly closest - opportunity before the half remarkably ended goalless. Ronaldo’s glancing header found his team-mate surging down the right channel, and Rooney’s first-time left-foot volley forced a fingertip save from