MANCHESTER, Oct 2 (Reuters) Wayne Rooney again proved the scourge of AS Roma as his first goal of the season gave Manchester United a 1-0 win and top spot in Group F of the Champions League at Old Trafford today.
Rooney had scored in both legs of the quarter-final tie between the sides last season, including one in United's 7-1 rout of Roma in April.
A repeat of that scoreline never looked likely as Luciano Spalletti's side, with a starting lineup including just four of the team humbled six months ago, restored some Italian pride.
However, they were unable to stop Rooney as the England international struck 20 minutes from time to give United maximum points from their first two games.
United had been 3-0 up after just 18 minutes of their previous meeting with Roma but it took them 26 minutes to produce their first effort on goal this time.
Even then it was an attempted cross from Nani which goalkeeper Gianluca Curci, called into the Roma side at the last minute in place of the unwell Doni, had to palm away.
That triggered United's best spell of the first half with Louis Saha shooting at Curci as the France striker made his first start of the season in preference to Carlos Tevez.
Rooney then missed United's first clear chance as he lifted his angled shot over the bar from another deep cross by Nani.
Roma were understandably cautious in their approach but did look dangerous on the break and four minutes into the second half they should have gone ahead through Franceso Totti.
The Italians's talismanic striker got in front of Nemanja Vidic to collect a low cross from Ludovic Giuly but after making space shot over the bar from the corner of the six-yard box.
Alberto Aquilani then put a shot just wide before being carried off on a stretcher with a muscle injury to reduce Roma's attacking threat and United countered with Nani chipping a cross against the bar and Rooney testing Curci with a low shot.
But a goal still looked elusive for Alex Ferguson's side, who had managed just eight in their 10 previous matches this season, before a flash of real quality from Rooney proved the difference.
Michael Carrick and Nani worked the opening and when the winger threaded through a pass, Rooney, playing further up front after the withdrawal of Saha, timed his run to perfection and hit a first time shot across Curci in off the far post.
That was enough to give United their seventh 1-0 win this season, although it needed a bad miss by Manchester-born Simone Perrotta and another wasted opportunity from substitute Mauro Esposito to prevent Roma snatching a late draw.
Reuters SBA VP0305