Football: Record man Rooney gives Man Utd Europa lift

Rooney (left) celebrates scoring the opening goal with Manchester United's English defender Luke Shaw.
Rooney (left) celebrates scoring the opening goal with Manchester United's English defender Luke Shaw.PHOTO: AFP

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Wayne Rooney became Manchester United's outright leading European goal-scorer as Jose Mourinho's side enhanced their chances of progressing in the Europa League by sinking Feyenoord 4-0 on Thursday (Nov 24).

Rooney struck in the 35th minute to claim his 39th European goal, one more than Ruud van Nistelrooy, and move to within just one goal of Bobby Charlton's all-time club scoring record of 249.

Further goals by Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and a Brad Jones own goal completed a win that left United a point below Group A leaders Fenerbahce in second place ahead of their final game at Zorya Luhansk.

United will go into that game knowing a draw will take them into the last 32, having avenged their 1-0 match-one day defeat at Feyenoord, who slipped to third in the group.

Thursday's win was a personal triumph for Rooney, 31, who branded the British media "disgraceful" after he was pilloried for partying late into the night while on England duty.

Charlton, now a United director, was watching on at Old Trafford and could now see Rooney equal his record against West Ham United in the Premier League on Sunday.

Mourinho made six changes to the United team held 1-1 by Arsenal last Saturday, the most notable of which saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan make his first start since September 10.

The Armenia playmaker, a £26 million (S$46 million) signing from Borussia Dortmund, showed no signs of rustiness and was a source of menace throughout.

After a strong start, there was a scare for United midway through the first half when Eljero Elia jinked past Phil Jones and delivered a cross that was deflected into the path of Rick Karsdorp.

The right-back's shot was blocked by United goalkeeper Sergio Romero and when Dirk Kuyt smashed the rebound goalwards, the Argentina international stuck out his right leg to complete a smart double save.

Feyenoord had struck late to defeat United in the reverse fixture in Rotterdam, but any thoughts of a repeat were banished 10 minutes before half-time as Rooney rolled back the clock in style.

Picking up the ball on the left touchline inside his own half, he beat Karsdorp, slid a pass infield to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and cantered into the box to collect the Swede's through ball and dink a shot over former Liverpool goalkeeper Jones.

There was a question of offside, and Renato Tapia was left on the deck after a coming-together with Rooney on the edge of the box, but German referee Manuel Graefe allowed the goal to stand.

Energised by the goal, United began to turn it on the second half.

Mkhitaryan sped past five Feyenoord players, only to be denied a free-kick after being clipped by Jens Toornstra, while Mata's elegant chip drew a finger-tip save from the backpedalling Jones.

Mkhitaryan was soon on the scene again, exchanging passes with Ibrahimovic, stealing past Kuyt - another Liverpool old boy - and thrashing a left-foot shot into the side-netting.

A second goal seemed a matter of time and so it proved in the 69th minute as Ibrahimovic's deft pass freed Rooney, who cleverly squared the ball for Mata to slide it home.

Jones denied Ibrahimovic after his weak kick had gone straight to Mkhitaryan, but he was more obliging moments later when he inadvertently deflected the Swede's cross into his own goal.

Lingard, a late replacement for Mata, was twice thwarted by Jones, but prevailed at the third attempt with a curling left-foot shot.