Wayne Rooney came to the rescue as Manchester United beat South American champions Liga de Quito 1-0 yesterday to win the Club World Cup and lift one of the few trophies to have eluded them.
The England striker pounced in the 73rd minute after being set up by Cristiano Ronaldo, with United rallying to victory after Nemanja Vidic was needlessly sent off for a deliberate elbow early in the second half.
Rooney’s goal gave them an unprecedented treble this year, with the English and European champions now able to call themselves world champions, helping silence those who have criticized the trip.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men also became the first British team to win the tournament, putting them alongside Italy’s AC Milan and Brazil’s Internacional and Sao Paulo.
“I’m very happy because we won this with 10 men,” Rooney said. “To be crowned the best in the world is a great achievement. We are all very proud because we’ve worked hard. To score the winning goal in a match like this is a great feeling for me personally.”
Conscious that he needed fresh legs for the match against Stoke City on Friday, Ferguson made a number of changes to the side that beat Gamba Osaka last Thursday, with Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nani relegated to the bench.
On a windy night, Ronaldo was clearly a marked man and was heavily tackled twice in the opening minutes as the Ecuadorians made their intentions clear.
It was Liga who created the first chance, almost taking the lead on four minutes when Jairo Campos beat the offside trap from a free-kick, but fluffed his shot.
United though soon found their feet and Rooney chested down a through ball from Vidic just inside the box on 10 minutes and unleashed a fierce shot that goalkeeper Jose Cevallos did well to punch away.
He tested Cevallos again minutes later when he sent another powerful drive toward goal that the keeper deflected for a corner.
Ronaldo, tipped by Ferguson to develop into a legend like Pele and Maradona, was putting on a show for the 68,000 fans, employing his full bag of tricks.
And it was the Portuguese winger who whipped in a cross to Carlos Tevez on 19 minutes, with his shot forcing a spectacular save.
Soon after, Rooney tried a cheeky lob as Cevallos rushed out, only to see the ball hit the top of the net.
Liga maintained their discipline and tried to keep possession, but there was nothing they could do when Rooney and Tevez combined superbly to feed Rafael on the right, with the young Brazilian forcing yet another good save.
Park Ji-sung should have put United one up, but volleyed over from close in and the two sides went to the break level.
United got off to the worst possible start in the second half when Vidic was given a straight red card on 49 minutes for elbowing Claudio Bieler.
Despite being down to 10 men, United knuckled down amd Ronaldo troubled Cevallos with a long range strike, then Rooney got a header on target.
With the game looking like it could go either way, Michael Carrick slipped the ball to Ronaldo who deftly laid it off to Rooney and the 23-year-old made no mistake, side-footing beyond Cevallos and into the right hand corner.
The win earned United US$5 million, with Liga taking home US$4 million.
Liga coach Edgardo Bauza admitted United deserved to win, but praised his team.
“Manchester United is a fantastic team. We had a very good second half, we gave everything and we are very satisfied,” he said.