Wayne Rooney's fragile temperament came to the fore once again in Cape Town as the Manchester United striker was taken off by manager Sir Alex Ferguson to prevent a possible sending off against Kaizer Chiefs in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Newlands.
A second-half header by midfielder Chris Eagles cancelled out Jonathan Quartey's first-half penalty for Chiefs in this opening game of the South Africa-based Vodacom Challenge.
But although the inability to claim victory may concern Ferguson, his biggest worry could be Rooney, who was booked in the second-half after avoiding a first-half caution for kicking out at Chiefs defender Onismor Bhasera. The England forward is likely to face similar rough treatment from the hands of Orlando Pirates in Durban on Tuesday and he must learn quickly to keep his temper to avoid more disciplinary problems.
Having landed in South Africa just 30 hours earlier, United could perhaps point to jet lag as an excuse for their sluggish start at Newlands. The Chiefs dominated the European champions in the early stages and carved out three clear chances to score before Rooney sent a free-kick over the crossbar on ten minutes.
Rooney's near miss sparked United into life, though, and veteran midfielder Paul Scholes began to take control as they pressed forward in search of an opener. Eagles was unlucky not to score when his chest-trap and volley was blocked by defender Tinashe Nengomashe and the United midfielder then saw his corner headed wide by Argentinian forward Carlos Tevez moments later. Tevez, playing alongside Rooney in a two-pronged attack, went close again on 26 minutes with another header that flashed wide at the near post from Gary Neville's cross.
Troubles for Neville and Rooney
By that stage, Neville had looked impressive down the right flank, showing little sign of the injury problems that have blighted his career for the past 18 months. But the 33-year-old, who has admitted that he faces a battle to save his United career in the new season, showed real signs of ring-rust when he hacked down Siphiwe Tshabalala to concede a penalty nine minutes before half-time.
It was a clumsy challenge by the former England defender and Ghanaian defender Quartey scored from the spot to put the South African team ahead.
As United's frustrations grew, Rooney appeared to kick out at Bhasera following a challenge by the Zimbabwean. The half-time break worked in Rooney's favour, though, by allowing the 22-year-old to cool down and remember the pointless three-match ban he picked up as a result of a costly red card in the Amsterdam Tournament in 2006.
But the disciplinary lesson never seems to sink in for Rooney and, after Eagles had levelled the scores with a far post header from Tevez's 59th minute cross, he was booked for a late challenge on Nengomashe. Ferguson had seen enough by that stage and he replaced the forward with Northern Irish youngster Darron Gibson to avoid any further flashpoints.