MANCHESTER, September 15 – Sir Alex Ferguson made sweeping changes to his Manchester United side and paid the price in a 0-0 draw with Glasgow Rangers in their Champions League opener at Old Trafford.To add to the possible cost of the result, United winger Antonio Valencia was stretchered off with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury after twisting the joint as he ran down the touchline early in the second half.
The reaction of Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot, who looked away in anguish, suggested Valenica’s injury may have been extremely damaging.
Ferguson created a stir even before kick-off, making 10 changes to the United line-up that drew at Everton on Saturday, although two of those alterations saw the return of Wayne Rooney, controversially rested at the weekend, and injury-prone defender Rio Ferdinand.
Still, the fact that the United manager was clearly choosing a team with one eye upon the weekend Premier League fixture with Liverpool was always likely to be perceived as a calculated gamble and little that occurred over the opening 45 minutes at least, altered that view.
The first half offered little in the way of entertainment or goal threat and, indeed, the most noteworthy incident came late in the period and involved Rooney, who appeared to twist his ankle painfully as he ran to close down Steven Davis.
Fortunately for United, after a few minutes of gingerly testing his ankle, Rooney was fit to continue.
But his impact on the first period was negligible.
On one of the few occasions when the visiting defence allowed him a sliver of space, Rooney opted to pass to team mate Javier Hernandez when the better option would have appeared to have been to shoot.
The effort was blocked and a rare United foray came to nothing.
Darron Gibson, called into the centre of United’s midfield, unleashed two characteristic long-range efforts, the first of which from 25 yards whistled narrowly past the right-hand Rangers post.
The fact that Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor was booked as half-time approached, after being warned a number of times for time-wasting, summed up the Scottish team’s approach which had proved far too dogged for a frustrated United to break down.
The second half opened with Gibson launching another speculative long-range attempt which cleared McGregor’s goal by some margin and Rangers, playing with Kenny Miller as a lone forward, were clearly in equally dogged mood.
Indeed, the Scots even responded with a rare, promising attack of their own as the busy Steven Naismith chipped in a cross from the left with which Sasa Papac almost made contact before it was gathered easily by United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
The injury to Valencia brought Ryan Giggs into the fray and, following the lengthy delay, finally seemed to breathe some life into United.
Giggs made a couple of threatening bursts, one of which in the 70th minute resulted in a cross which Rooney headed disappointingly wide.
The England centre-forward was clearly growing frustrated by events and he petulantly grabbed the shirt of Maurice Edu then bundled into goalkeeper McGregor.
An attempted chip, after 77 minutes, at least demonstrated Rooney was still trying and thinking of ways to break down the massed Rangers ranks but the effort offered no problem for McGregor.