SAITAMA — Wayne Rooney shrugged off a barracking from Urawa Reds fans to score two second-half goals, including a stunning chipped effort, as Manchester United completed its tour of Japan on Saturday night with a 2-0 win at Saitama Stadium 2002.
“It was a fantastic goal — measured perfectly,” Sir Alex Ferguson said of Rooney’s second.
In United’s 2-1 loss to Kashima Antlers on Thursday it was an earthquake that rattled the stadium. This time around the cause was man-made — by the thousands of Urawa “ultras” packing one end of the ground.
These fevered fans — among a mammoth crowd of 58,389 — were not there to clap politely as United’s superstars went about their business.
Rooney, in particular, was booed every time he touched the ball in the first 45 minutes.
Urawa started brightly, but the first real chance of the game didn’t come till after the half-hour mark when Yuichiro Nagai forced an outstretched save from ‘keeper Edwin Van De Sar.
Ten minutes later, Keita Suzuki flashed a shot over the bar from 30 meters.
With Rooney and Alan Smith starting in unfamiliar midfield positions, United’s attack was muted in the first half.
It’s first chance came a minute before halftime, with Rooney pulling a shot wide after good work from Smith.
United broke the deadlock on 50 minutes.
Urawa failed to clear the ball from the penalty area and Rooney used his strength to muscle in on the ball before calmly sidefooting home from five meters.
Rooney scored the second on 63 minutes.
From the right side of the penalty area he dug the ball out from under his feet and sent a delightful chip over substitute ‘keeper Norihiro Yamagishi.
Ferguson was impressed.
“It requires skill and imagination,” he said. “It was the highlight of the match.”
With the partisan home crowd behind it, Urawa refused to lay down and die.
Ponte, the recent signing from Bayer Leverkusen, nearly scored when his curling free-kick whizzed just past the upright.
Things threatened to turn ugly again toward the end of the match when substitute Phillip Neville got involved in a shoving match with Yamagishi after his late challenge on a Urawa defender.
Right at the death of the match, 16-year-old substitute Escudero had a great chance to pull one back for Urawa but fired over from point-blank range.
“The gap between United and Reds has been clearly presented,” said Reds manager Guido Buchwald.
“Man United were able to take advantage of a small number of opportunities and score two goals.”