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Manchester United goal hero Rooney is smiles better

There were no four-letter words into the camera from Wayne Rooney this time.

There were no four-letter words into the camera from Wayne Rooney this time.

No anger. None of the bewildering angst which was on show at Upton Park on Saturday when he scored a hat-trick and ended up sparking a debate on football's morals and incurring the wrath of the Football Association.

This time at Stamford Bridge in a tense and at times fractious all-English Champions League encounter which Manchester United won 1-0 Rooney demonstrated there is joy running through his veins.

It was some goal, it has to be said. Not as spectacular as the overhead bicycle kick he scored against Manchester City in February, but in terms of United's season probably much more important.

Michael Carrick's crossfield ball was precise, Ryan Giggs' first touch was exquisite, his pull-back intelligent and Rooney's slide-rule, side-footed shot the picture of perfection.

But there were even more eyes on the celebration and Rooney hit the target there too.

He rolled on to his side, sat there on the by-line with arms outstretched and the widest of grins on his face and implored his team-mates to join him.

The television pictures - and the cameraman was perched at not too dissimilar a distance from his counterpart at Upton Park - were of unbridled joy.

That is what football needs. An example every schoolboy can follow this weekend. Not hard is it? Beauty not ugliness. Sense, not nonsense.

Yet if the Rooney camp had much to be cheerful about after scoring in a Champions League quarter-final for the fifth time in succession then the same could not be said of Fernando Torres.

Torres has not scored for more than 12 hours of football. Not since he hit the back of the net for Liverpool against Wolves in January.

Against United his work-rate was there, his appetite keen, his movement intelligent but his touch heavy and his confidence non-existent.

It is Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti's biggest conundrum. Torres waved his foot at one cross-cum-shot from Didier Drogba in the first half and failed to connect with a chance he would have buried at his best.

On another occasion he drove into the penalty area and went crashing to the ground - only to be accused of diving by United's defenders. He picked up a late booking after going to ground again, although Chelsea's appeals for a spot-kick on this occasion had some foundation.

There is no doubt about it. Torres is a striker out of sorts. Some headache that when three months ago he cost £50million for the express purpose of helping Chelsea win the Champions League.

A clue to the cause of his malaise perhaps was in the fact that he looked much happier when his strike partner Drogba was substituted after 69 minutes. Nicolas Anelka appears to give Torres more assistance, more freedom.

The contrasting fortunes of Rooney and Torres was one of the match's intriguing sub-plots.

Another, of course, was that these two teams had contested the final in Moscow three years ago, a match which was decided in United's favour by a missed John Terry penalty. Chelsea might have played down the motive of revenge but they would have been inhuman if it had not played some part.

The other aspect overshadowing the tie, from Chelsea's point of view, was the burning desire of owner Roman Abramovich to garnish his £700million outlay at Stamford Bridge with a Champions League title.

The domestic cups have gone. The Premier League title is as good as mission impossible considering they are 11 points behind United, albeit with a game in hand. When does Abramovich rip up the current plan and seek another route to his Holy Grail? The answer to that question will depend on whether Chelsea can rescue proceedings in the second leg at Old Trafford next week.

Right now they give no indication they are capable of doing so. They are a side lacking creativity. Ancelotti is a manager under pressure.

The same cannot be said of Sir Alex Ferguson. He wore the widest of smiles. Just like Rooney.

Belfast Telegraph


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