MANCHESTER United manager David Moyes and his Cardiff counterpart Malky Mackay last night played down controversy surrounding Wayne Rooney after the Manchester United striker appeared lucky to avoid a red card during an entralling 2-2 draw in Wales.
Substitute Kim Bo-kyung struck in stoppage time yesterday to earn Cardiff a deserved point against the English champions, but much of the post-match talk surrounded Rooney, who scored United’s opening goal but was only booked for lashing out at Jordon Mutch during the early exchanges.
The England forward kicked midfielder Mutch in the eighth minute before lashing out with his left hand as his run was blocked off.
However, Moyes said of referee Neil Swarbrick’s decision to brandish only a yellow card: “I think Mutch runs across his path and runs down the line of the ball and I think Wayne’s half in motion, I don’t think it is any more than a booking, that’s for sure.”
Mackay said: “I have looked at it again and some referees might send him off, but I thought overall Neil Swarbrick had a good game and I think he handled it well.
“I think it was two teams who were tough and committed and there were some tasty challenges throughout the whole game. But I think his handling of the game was reasonably good.”
However, former Liverpool and Rangers manager Graeme Souness did not share the opinion of the two managers when it came to Rooney’s clash with Mutch. Speaking from a television studio, he said: “He should be off, there’s no argument. Why the ref has given him a yellow card is beyond me.
“He’s got a great view of it, he’s keeping up with the incident all the time. If he’s booked him, he’s seen something. If he sees that, it’s a sending off. I don’t know what Wayne is thinking of. He’s got an exploding head, we know that. That’s just born out of frustration.”
Moyes was more concerned by his side’s failure to see out a game in which they led 2-1 until the start of injury time when Kim found the net from Peter Whittingham’s free-kick.
United’s unbeaten run now extends to ten games but they missed out on the chance to climb into the top four and an ineffectual display, particularly in midfield, indicates there is still plenty of work ahead for Moyes. “I am disappointed,” he said. “It was similar to against Southampton where we had the game in our control with a minute to go and conceded from a set-piece.
“I thought we should have played better. We did not have a lot of rhythm in the second half.
“This has been a tough place to come for teams. We were on the back of having players on international duty so we would probably have taken a result however it came, but I would have liked it to be better. It wasn’t to be.”
Following his booking, Rooney opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Ben Turner gifted Antonio Valencia possession and when the winger’s ball ran through to Rooney, via a flick by Javier Hernandez, he turned and shot beyond David Marshall with the aid of a deflection off Gary Medel.
Marshall then pushed out a goalbound Marouane Fellaini header at the back post.
Cardiff needed to settle and they slowly but surely found a foothold before hitting back in the 33rd minute. Mutch was the architect with a lovely pass for Fraizer Campbell to race on to and guide past the advancing David De Gea for his first goal since August.
Campbell volleyed over a few minutes later, with Don Cowie prodding wide from an Andrew Taylor pull-back as the home side grew in belief.
But they were punished right on half-time for some poor set-piece defending. Rooney swung in the corner and Medel simply allowed Patrice Evra to wander away from him and head in at the near post.
They almost came undone from another Rooney delivery early in the second half but Marshall made an agile save from Fellaini’s glancing header, before blocking Chris Smalling’s powerful effort from the resulting corner.
Having survived those scares, Cardiff came close to a leveller. Rooney could not control Tom Cleverley’s poor pass and Campbell pounced to chip De Gea, only to see the ball come back off the bar.
Cleverley headed narrowly over his own bar before Ryan Giggs came on in place of Hernandez to face his hometown club for the first time, making them his 117th opponents as a United player, but he received a surprisingly mixed reception from the home fans.
Substitute Danny Welbeck should have made the game safe for United after a nice link-up with Rooney, but fired over the bar, before Cleverley was booked for a wild and ugly challenge on Whittingham. Welbeck’s miss proved costly as Kim got ahead of his marker to head beyond De Gea and spark delirious Cardiff celebrations.
United could yet have snatched a winner, but Rooney’s attempted lay-off for Welbeck was under-hit, and Marshall pounced on the loose ball.
Moyes believed his side had lost concentration when referee Swarbrick pulled Medel and Fellaini to one side, after the Chile midfielder appeared to slap the Belgian as Cardiff prepared to take the free kick from which Kim scored.
Moyes said: “I think if the referee sees it, he must have stopped the game for something because, most importantly, we lost our concentration. They actually have delivered the first ball in, so Peter Whittingham has had the chance to cross one in as the referee is blowing up.
“So he has his sighter for the second one and I thought we lost concentration with it more than anything at that point. I think it worked against us as we were set, and we didn’t defend as well as we should have done on the next ball.”
For Mackay, there was joy at a well-earned point. “I think we played really well today,” said the Scot. “In terms of chances I thought we created a lot, we passed the ball really well. It’s probably the most complete first-half performance we’ve had this season. We were playing the champions so I’m delighted.”