United set the seal on an historic year by becoming the first British side to win the Club World Cup to end 2008 as the best team on the planet.
First-half dominance gave way to second-half nerves as the Reds were forced to play 45 minutes with only 10 men following Nemanja Vidic’s sending off, but a 73rd minute goal from player of the tournament Wayne Rooney gave United a deserved victory.
Sir Alex Ferguson had shuffled his pack, making four changes to the side that beat Gamba Osaka, while Liga de Quito coach Edgardo Bauza - managing the Ecuadorian side for the last time - named the same XI that started against Pachucha in Wednesday’s other semi-final. There had been pre-match speculation that the tough-tackling South Americans may target Cristiano Ronaldo, and sure enough, Claudio Bieler was in the book just two minutes into the match for a rough shoulder-check on Ronny. The Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov made it clear he was wasn’t going to stand for any nonsense during this game, and the yellow card was duly shown.
With the eyes of the world on this match and a sell-out crowd of 68,682 inside the Yokohama International Stadium, United were determined to put on a show. Wayne Rooney had enjoyed a highly eventful 20-minute introduction to the Club World Cup at the end of Thursday’s semi-final, and United’s no.10 looked to begin the final where he had left off. He was involved in a handful of attacks in the first 15 minutes, and let fly with two powerful shots that made keeper Jose Cevallos realise he was in for a busy 90 minutes. Meanwhile, proof of Ronaldo’s global popularity was never more evident than during his stay in Japan, and the best player in the world was showcasing his full repertoire of tricks and flicks to the delight of the sell-out crowd.
While the Reds had dominated the early exchanges, the Ecuadorians enjoyed a couple of breakaway attacks, generally started by Alejandro Manso. In fact, the clearest chance of the lot fell to the underdogs just five minutes in. The playmaker Manso passed a free-kick short to Bieler, who found the defender Jairo Campo unmarked in the United box, but Edwin van der Sar was relieved to see his shot flash wide of the post.
This was unreflective of the flow of the match however, and Quito’s first-half chances ground to a halt as United’s stranglehold on the match grew stronger. Cevallos’ goal was