United edged closer to a place in the knockout stages with as routine a 1-0 win as you are likely to see in the Champions League. Nani had three points wrapped up as early as the seventh minute with his piledriver left-foot strike. And after the week United have just had, some semblance of simplicity was almost welcome.
The Reds now lead Group C by two points after Rangers and Valencia shared the spoils at Ibrox.
It’s hard not to feel deflated after the events of the past few days. Even Sir Alex responded to a reporter who told him this was his 2,000th game in management by quipping: “It feels like the 10,000th after this week”.
There can be no mistaking that Tuesday’s revelatory news that Wayne Rooney does not want to sign a new contract rocked Old Trafford. The Reds have experienced adversity before, and the reaction is always to unite. After all, ask any of the 70,000 fans inside Old Trafford and they will tell you: many players have been idolised, but ultimately it’s United the fans love.
Rooney wasn’t on the field due to an ankle injury sustained in training, hours before Sir Alex dropped a bombshell at his pre-match press conference. But it’s not just Rooney’s short-term absence that United must contend with. Sir Alex insisted the door remains open for Rooney to change his mind – there is no doubting his importance to the team since he arrived in 2004 – but the chances of that happening now looking wafer thin after Rooney released a statement hours before kick-off reiterating his stance. Ironically, his United debut in autumn 2004 came against Turkish opposition, Fenerbahce. His hat-trick in a 6-2 win was a glorious glimpse into the good times ahead. Yet, against current Turkish champions Bursaspor six years on, it was more a window into what life without him would be like.