Listen to this article
For Wayne Rooney expectation is merely the prelude to accomplishment. Mortals would be fazed by making their Manchester United debut and their Champions League debut on the same night; Rooney scored the first hat-trick of his professional career. It is hard to think of a better debut, hard to think of a footballer with a more acute sense of occasion.
Sir Alex Ferguson had said he was considering starting Rooney on the bench because he thought that was the "fairest thing to do". Fairest for Fenerbahce, perhaps, but not for Rooney, for whom a 96-day injury lay-off in which he completed an acrimonious transfer and saw details of his private life splashed across the tabloids, appear to have had absolutely no effect. So bristling with intent was he that he had ripped the collar of his shirt even before leaving the tunnel.
Suddenly it seems irrelevant that by buying Rooney, Ferguson has blown United's transfer budget until 2006. If he continues in this form, Rooney will win matches virtually on his own. In fact given that United started with David Bellion, Kleberson and Eric Djemba-Djemba - an indication, surely, that Ferguson's priority at the moment is not to allow any more slip-ups in the league - he pretty much did that on Tuesday night.
It was the fourth member of United's midfield quartet that set them on their way on Tuesday night, Ryan Giggs exchanging passes with Kleberson before directing his header beyond the dive of Rustu Recber after seven minutes. That, though, was merely the amuse bouche before Rooney's sumptuous banquet.
It as if the stage inspires him, as if he responds to playing at the highest level by upping his own level. This was the frighteningly direct Rooney who plays for England, not the more subdued figure who turned out for Everton last season. Crucially, he seems to have an instinctive connection with Ruud van Nistelrooy.
There was evidence of their rapport as early as the 14th-minute as Rooney ran on to Van Nistelrooy's through-ball and rounded Recber, only to shoot over from a narrow angle. Three minutes later, though, the two combined again and Rooney, with a fearless, thumping finish, had his first.
Eleven minutes later he had his second, sidestepping Umit Ozat before lashing a skimming 25-yard drive into the bottom corner. From then the hat-trick seemed inevitable, and it arrived nine minutes after half-time, with a casual, deft free-kick over the wall and inside Recber's right-hand post. Three wonderful goals, all demonstrating a remarkable combination of power and accuracy and all scored from outside the box, a feat Van Nistelrooy has not achieved in 114 goals for the club.
Dazzling as Rooney was, though, there must be a concern about United's inability to defend dead-balls. Marcio Nobre had had the ball in the net a minute before United's third only for the referee to rule that Alex's corner had drifted out of play before arriving in the goalmouth, but the Brazilian was untended again following another corner a minute after half-time as he made it 3-1. It was then after another corner was only partially cleared that Tuncay Sanli again reduced the deficit to two just before the hour.
United at that stage looked sufficiently porous that there was just a thought that Fenerbahce might force their way back into the game, but it was put beyond all doubt 12 minutes from time when Van Nistelrooy took down Darren Fletcher's long ball, calmly stepped inside Deniz Baris and crashed his finish in at the near post. Bellion's late sixth simply added a flattering touch to the scoreline.
Whatever the niggles in the sub-plots, though, this was Rooney's night.
Get alerts on News when a new story is published