LONDON • After a night of tension and dissent at Old Trafford, a "relieved" Louis van Gaal insisted that his tactics had been vindicated, as Manchester United claimed a 1-0 Champions League victory over CSKA Moscow and Wayne Rooney reached another scoring landmark.
With Manchester City qualifying for the knockout stage with two games to spare, and with a club-record fourth consecutive goalless draw beckoning and supporters rebelling against the manager's decision to substitute their young striker Anthony Martial, Rooney scored United's first goal for 404 minutes.
In doing so, the England record scorer equalled Denis Law's total of 237 for United, taking him to joint second in their all-time list behind Bobby Charlton.
It also lifted his stuttering side to the top of Group B.
While Paul Scholes, the former United stalwart, repeated his recent criticism of van Gaal before kick-off, saying that the Dutchman is promoting "a boring style of football", the BT Sport analyst was more conciliatory afterwards. "I think that was more of a Manchester United performance," he said.
And yet the overall tone was unconvincing. David de Gea was forced into one fine save and Chris Smalling made a block on the line less than two minutes before Rooney's intervention, while fans greeted both kick-off and half-time with widespread chants of "attack, attack, attack".
There was also a sustained and unprecedented round of booing in the 66th minute, when van Gaal brought on Marouane Fellaini for Martial, the 19-year-old France forward.
At that point, United's fans appeared close to mutiny, but the manager's decision to move Rooney to a more orthodox attacking position was rewarded when the striker leapt to meet a clever volleyed cross from Jesse Lingard.
Van Gaal was aware of the discontent of supporters but was adamant that his change of personnel was justified.
"Of course I heard it (the boos)," he said. "I'm not deaf. That's the opinion of the fans, but they will not be disappointed with the decision of the manager."
He did, however, admit to a sense of relief that United had avoided a run of four matches without scoring for the first time since 1992.
"I'm relieved but I'm also proud because it's not easy. Even during the golden years of Manchester United they never won at home against a Russian team. Everyone thinks it's easy, but it's never easy for any club to win in the Champions League," he said.
United need just one win from their last two group matches, at home to PSV Eindhoven and away at Wolfsburg, to reach the last 16.
PSV beat Wolfsburg 2-0.
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE