PAUL SCHOLES popped up 13minutes from time to ensure Manchester United’s bid to reach a third successive Champions League final got off on exactly the right note in Istanbul.
Sent off at the weekend at Tottenham for some would say two typical Scholes tackles, the 34-year-oldproduced another skill he is well noted for, ghosting into the penalty area unseen to nod home after Hakan Arikan had saved Nani’s blistering shot.
Scholes’ effort gave United victory they just about deserved.
Afterwards United manager Alex Ferguson confirmed local police had to step in after a fan with a laser targeted his players.
“It was in the first half, although thankfully the police did something about it,” said the United boss.
“They managed to get the culprit, which is good because I noticed it particularly on Jonny Evans. It seemed to be on him all the time.”
United managed to overcome that handicap, with Scholes making the headlines for all the right reasons after his red card at Tottenham on Saturday.
The veteran midfielder responded quickest after Nani saw his blistering shot saved by Hakan Arikan.
“Nani was a bit unlucky not to score himself but Paul Scholes did what he does best. It was a typical Scholes goal,” said Ferguson.
The United manager was delighted with his team’s overall display, particularly Antonio Valencia, who was making his Champions League debut following his £17million summer arrival from Wigan.
“Antonio was always a threat,” said Ferguson.
“He got to the byline so many times and really we should have done better.
“He has got the potential to be areally good player. He is powerful and strong, with a lot of enthusiasm.
“He is very quick, with goodbalance and in a year’s time he will have developed more parts of his game.”
One player who did not look best pleased to have his evening curtailed was Wayne Rooney.
Despite ploughing a lone furrow up front on his own for an hour, Rooney trudged unhappily off the field and then threw his boots down in disgust as he made way for the joint arrival of Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov.
“It was always part of our thoughts to bring Wayne off,” confirmed Ferguson.
“He had been playing as the lone striker for an hour, which is why he was always going to come off.
“He is never pleased to come off. He has so much energy he wants to play all the time.”
Having predicted his team would provide United with a stern test, Besiktas coach Mustafa Denizli was disappointed to miss out after coming so close to snatching a point.
“I am sad about the result,” he said.
“To concede so late after putting in so much effort is quite demoralising.”
It was just the right way for United to start atoning for that dismal performance against Barcelona in Rome last May, and it might have been even more only for Owen to toe-poke a close-range chance just wide. Not that United had it all their own way as Ben Foster had to survive one major scare. It was one of those moments goal-keepers dread. Foster set himself to save Serdar Ozkan’s shot, only for the ball to flick off Jonny Evans and cannon skywards.
The United keeper could only turn and hope, knowing he was powerless to do anything about it.
Thankfully, the ball dropped just the wrong side of the crossbar for Besiktas’ fans, who cranked up the volume to maximum just before kick-off and kept it there until half-time.
After the break a brilliant cross from Nani caused havoc in the Besiktas area and when Matteo Ferrari failed to clear, Carrick only needed a good bounce to threaten. Unfortunately for the England man, he didn’t get it and instead could only knee the ball goalwards, where it was scooped up by Hakan Arikan.
As the home side, Besiktas had an obvious incentive to keep pressing forward and if Scholes had not stepped in to make one of his well-timed tackles, Ozkan might have been presented with a clear sight of goal.
The United winner finally came on 77 minutes. Nani deserved all the credit for a blistering shot that Arikan saved but could not hold. Not for the first time in his long career, Scholes was on hand to finish off the rebound.
BESIKTAS: Arikan, Kas, Sivok, Ferrari, Uzulmez, Dag, Ernst, Holosko (Nihat 83), Rodrigo Tabata (Tello 69), Ozkan (Yusuf Simsek 59), Nobre.
MAN UTD: Foster, Neville, Jonathan Evans, Vidic, Evra, Valencia (Park 83), Carrick (Berbatov 63), Scholes, Anderson, Nani, Rooney (Owen 64).
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy).
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