|1||Van der Sar|
There was no such indecision in United’s forward play moment s later, however. Wayne Rooney needed no second invitation to pull the trigger from 25 yards, and his powerful drive arrowed just a yard wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s top corner.
Both sides continued to trade early blows, and the Reds might have had a penalty when Cahill flung himself to block a Chicharito shot, and the Mexican’s half-hit effort was diverted wide by the defender’s flailing hand.
Those claims were waved away by referee Andre Marriner, who found himself further subjected to home protestations soon afterwards when he deemed Evans to have fouled Kevin Davies just outside the United area. The Reds’ ire was soothed, however, when van der Sar comfortably clutched Martin Petrov’s set-piece.
To and fro, the game continued to swing, with both sides’ ambition coming at the cost of composure in possession, but not chances. Rooney’s powerfully volley from a Valencia cross was well fielded by Jaaskelainen, while Evra alertly blocked Elmander’s effort. In riposte, a neat exchange between Valencia and Rooney culminated in the striker’s cross being turned wide by Chicharito.
The front pairing’s link-up bore signs of their increased familiarity, having started five of the last six games in tandem, but the visitors scarcely allowed either striker a chink of space to exploit. Perhaps mindful of this, Rooney sent another vicious long-range effort scorching over the bar shortly before half-time.
Unexpectedly, Sir Alex used the interval to freshen up his side’s approach, introducing Berbatov and Fabio at the expense of Chicharito and Brown.