Wayne Rooney heads United to Carling Cup
The unstoppable striker shrugged off the flu to score the winner against Aston Villa at Wembley
There is just no stopping Wayne Rooney at the moment. He was left out of Manchester United's starting line-up because of a bout of flu, but he ended up as the matchwinner after coming off the bench and scoring yet another headed goal as United claimed the Carling Cup.
The striker had entered the fray late in the first half when Michael Owen was forced off with a hamstring problem having scored United's first goal, and showed no signs of sluggishness as he scored with one header and hit the post with another in a powerful second half display.
United withstood a late barrage from Villa but held on to secure the Carling Cup for a second straight year - it is the first time that the club has ever retained a knock-out trophy.
Villa, in their first showpiece final for 10 years, had a near perfect start and took the lead after just five minutes. James Milner scored from the spot after Nemanja Vidic brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor as he burst into the box.
The United defender was the last man and perhaps should have been given his marching orders after hauling down Agbonlahor, but referee Phil Dowd did not even book the Serbian, much to the annoyance of Villa manager Martin O'Neill.
His anger increased less than 10 minutes later when United equalised thanks to a trademark finish from Michael Owen. Richard Dunne was at fault when he lost the ball to Dimitar Berbatov and as the Villa defender tried to atone for his error his tackle simply diverted the ball into the path of Owen and the former England striker masterfully swept the ball home from 18 yards.
However impressed the watching Fabio Capello was by Owen's finish the striker's World Cup dream may have been dealt a fatal blow after 40 minutes when he pulled up on the edge of the box with a hamstring problem. The bad news for Villa was that it meant Rooney was introduced as a replacement and United ended the half well on top and they were lucky to go in all-square after Ji-Sung Park hit the post.
In the second period United continued to press with Antonio Valencia making inroads down the right wing. Eventually his efforts paid off when he crossed for Rooney to loop a header over Brad Friedl in the Villa goal after 74 minutes.
Before the season began, Rooney had managed just four headed goals in his career. He has now scored five in the last 10 days.
It was almost six in 10 days just minutes later when Valencia crossed once again and once again Rooney rose to meet the ball only to see it come back off the post.
Villa staged something of a comeback in the final minutes and Vidic was fortunate when Emile Heskey's header deflected off him and onto the bar. But in the end United held out to secure the first silverware of the season.
Amid the celebrations there were further protests against United's American owners. During the game anti-Glazer chanting could be heard and many, if not most, of the United supporters had swapped red and white for green and yellow - United's original colours when they played as Newton Heath, and now a symbol of protest against the Glazer family. ·