Champions League – Berbatov brace topples Aalborg

Dimitar Berbatov opened his Manchester United account with a well-taken second-half brace in a 3-0 Champions League win over AaB Aalborg.

FOOTBALL 2008-09 Champions League Aab Aalborg v Manchester United Dimitar Berbatov - 0

Wayne Rooney also got on the scoresheet at the Energi Nord Arena as the defending champions went top of Group E on goal difference after Villarreal beat Celtic 1-0 in the other game.

It was a satisfying evening for United, although a knee ligament injury to Paul Scholes – who was forced off and replaced by Ryan Giggs after just 16 minutes – tainted celebrations.

The visitors started strongly and Rooney made United’s early domination count with a neat finish after 22 minutes.

The striker has been accused of not pulling his weight in the goals department in the past, but he netted his second in as many games when he ran on to Ryan Giggs’s neat through pass and fired confidently past Karim Zaza in the Aalborg net.

Rooney was in effervescent form throughout, although there was further cause for concern – not only for United but England as well – when he departed with a knock just before the hour mark.

But if United boss Alex Ferguson was pleased to see Rooney finding his shooting boots once again, he must have been delighted to see big money summer signing Berbatov finally open his United account.

The Bulgarian’s two goals may have come from wildly contrasting sources, but both were finished with typical aplomb.

The first was presented on a plate following a comical error by Thomas Augustinussen on 55 minutes, the Aalborg captain horribly miscontrolling a pass and the ball skewing into Berbatov’s path. The £30.75 million man did the rest, firing the ball into an almost empty net.

The approach play for his second could not have been more different, Cristiano Ronaldo getting to the by-line and sending a cross over to Berbatov, who let the ball bounce once before netting with a delightful scissors kick.

Two goals in the bag and the headlines were Berbatov’s, but it all could have been very different had he let a glaring early miss – a sixth minute volley which was sliced wide of the mark – affect his game.

Two minutes after that chance had gone begging, Rio Ferdinand showed Berbatov just how to strike a volley, the defender connecting sweetly with a John O’Shea flick-on from a corner, only to see his effort repelled by the legs of Zaza.

Young full-back Rafael Da Silva – who impressed on the right hand side after Alex Ferguson preferred him to England international Wes Brown – also went close for the reigning champions early on.

Zaza found the 18-year-old Brazilian’s long-range effort on 21 minutes too hot to handle – fortunately for him the ball fell to a red and white shirt, and not to the blue of United’s away strip.

Rafael showed a willingness to get forward at every opportunity and went close again as the first half neared a conclusion. This time Zaza was forced into tipping over the bar.

United continued in an attacking vein after the break, and soon after Berbatov’s first, Carlos Tevez – Rooney’s replacement – bundled the ball into the back of the net, only to have the ‘goal’ chalked off for hand ball.

The Argentinian then fired a powerful drive just over the bar before Ronaldo nearly added a fourth late on – his effort hit the side netting after he was forced a little too wide when rounding the keeper from Berbatov’s lovely through ball.

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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