Ten-man Manchester United have won the FIFA Club World Cup, thanks to Wayne Rooney’s 73rd minute goal over Liga de Quito in Yokohama.
However that fails to tell the story of an entertaining final, which saw Nemanja Vidic dismissed four minutes after the interval for an elbow on Claudio Bieler.
United were given a wake-up call as early as the fourth minute. Patrice Evra fouled Bieler on the edge of the penalty area and the resulting free-kick from Alejandro Manso almost caught United napping, with Jairo Campos unable to divert the ball past Edwin van der Sar from close range.
Save for a few long-range efforts from Bieler and Luis Bolanos, which whizzed wide of the United No1’s right hand post, the first half was dominated by the Red Devils who were unlucky not to be ahead at the interval.
Their first chance came after ten minutes when Nemanja Vidic’s long ball was well controlled by Rooney, who unleashed a ferocious volley which Jose Cevallos was forced to push away at full stretch. The England international also tested the keeper five minutes later when his low strike was turned behind for a corner.
Cevallos was in fine form and pulled off an outstanding save to deny Carlos Tevez whose header from Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross seemed to be destined for the net. An audacious lob from Rooney hit the roof of the net, rather than the target and Park Ji-Sung should have at least tested the keeper when he was presented with an opportunity from close range.
Rooney, Carrick and Tevez all had chances from distance which went wide – and on the stroke of half-time, United went close again when Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross from the right was hit wide.
The dynamics of the game change completely at the beginning of the second half when Vidic was sent off. The Serbian fouled Bieler just inside the United half and then elbowed him in the face. Referee Ravshan Irmatov had a full view of the incident and had no hesitation in brandishing the red card.
Tevez was sacrificed for Jonny Evans as Sir Alex Ferguson reshuffled, but despite the numerical disadvantage, United still played positively. Rooney forced Cevallos into two comfortable saves, but if the end product was lacking – the intent was admirable.
Liga de Quito’s first shot on goal came in the 65th minute when a 25-yard thunderbolt from Manso was palmed away by van der Sar. It was a world-class save from the Dutchman, who at 38-years-old must still be rated as one of the finest goalkeepers in the world.
Rooney finally broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute with a fine goal. Michael Carrick slipped the ball to Cristiano Ronaldo who spotted and found the striker lurking to his left. He made no mistake, firing a low shot across the body of Cevallos and inside the far post.
As expected, the goal provoked a deluge of pressure from Liga de Quito – and once again van der Sar pulled off a truly outstanding save to deny Manso. The Argentinian must have thought he had equalised when his right-footed screamer was heading on target, but once again, he sprung at full stretch to tip the ball over.
That proved to be the last action of an entertaining match in a year which has seen Manchester United crowned champions of England, champions of Europe and champions of the world.