United eased to three points, and top spot in Group E, with a 3-0 win over Aalborg in Denmark, thanks to a first-half strike from Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov’s second-half double.
Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted to see his £30million summer signing finally get off the mark for the Reds with two well-taken goals. United’s overall performance showed signs of the team and some key players hitting form – Rooney, Berbatov and Ronaldo in particular.
Unfortunately, however, the victory may have come at a cost. Injuries forced off Rooney and Paul Scholes, the latter suffering knee ligament damage which could keep him out for eight weeks.
The Reds had travelled without skipper Gary Neville, who picked up a knock against Bolton, and Owen Hargreaves due to a recurrence of the tendinitis problem in his knee. Sir Alex promised to put out his strongest available side and, with the exception of a Champions League debut for 18-year-old Brazilian right-back Rafael, he did so.
United immediately laid siege on Aalborg's goal and could have been 2-0 up inside eight minutes. Berbatov had a glorious opportunity to put the Reds in front on six minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo’s tackle on Aalborg goalkeeper Zaza sent the ball spinning up in the air. Berbatov met it on the volley but fired wide from eight yards. Two minutes later Rio Ferdinand saw his far-post volley stopped by Zaza.
The match had started at an intense tempo, with the Reds clearly seeking to break the spirit of a determined Aalborg team, whose players and fans were fired up for this game as if it were a cup final.
Scholes’ injury on 15 minutes disrupted the flow. He didn’t appear to be in too much discomfort, but Sir Alex’s prognosis post-match didn’t sound positive. Scholes was replaced by Ryan Giggs, who joined John O’Shea in the centre