Glasgow - Sir Alex Ferguson praised the "courage" of Wayne Rooney after the striker scored from the penalty spot late on to seal Manchester United's 1-0 win over Rangers in the Champions League at Ibrox.
The England international was restored to the United starting line-up for the first time since September on Wednesday but it didn't look like being his night when he rattled the bar with a first-half header and missed a host of other chances against the Scottish champions.
However, after Steven Naismith was penalised for a high challenge on Fabio da Silva, Rooney stepped up to score only his second goal of the season three minutes from time.
The result secured the Old Trafford side's place in the last 16 of the Champions League and they will battle it out with Valencia to see who tops Group C in the final match in two weeks' time.
Rooney has had his troubles this season, with various off-field problems and contract wrangling coinciding with a dip in form.
However, his goal went some way to reconciling himself with the United fans and Ferguson praised him for having the nerve to take the spot-kick.
"It took courage for Wayne Rooney to take the penalty, but I don't think he's ever been short of that anyway," the United manager said. "It wasn't the easiest night for him having missed a couple of chances."
But Ferguson added: "It was a fantastic penalty. He needs the games and the only way we're going to do that is by keeping him on the pitch for 90 minutes.
"That will continue now to try and get him to his level. He is rusty and is needing games, that is obvious, but it is a start for him."
Rangers boss Walter Smith said his side would need reinforcements in January if they were to make any impression on the Europa League.
The Glasgow giants were demoted into European club football's second-tier tournament on Wednesday after Valencia's 6-1 thrashing of Bursaspor ended their slim Champions League hopes.
Rangers were without a host of first team players against United due to injury and Smith was forced to hand youngster Kyle Hutton a Champions League debut and play midfielder Steven Davis at right-back.
Meanwhile striker James Beattie found himself on the bench despite having only just returned to training after weeks on the sidelines.
The Old Firm side's fans will be hoping for a long run in the Europa League after making it to the final of the UEFA Cup in 2008 but Smith said: "We need a hand. We are in a situation where we basically only have teenagers left.
"James Beattie has only had two or three days training but we had to put him in there otherwise you are a little bit embarrassed by a lack of numbers.
"If we don't get any help in the January transfer window then we could have a struggle again because we are right down to the bare bones in terms of what we have got.
"It will always be difficult to try and judge how we can do because we are in a situation where injury and suspension could affect us quite badly."
After a disappointing time in Europe last season, when they lost all their home matches and picked up just two points from their Champions League campaign, Smith said he was pleased with the consolation of having European football after Christmas.
"It is something that is an improvement on our performance last year in the Champions League and we're delighted that's the case," said Smith.
"It was a poor Champions League campaign for us last year so we've improved on that and the players deserve that.
"Whatever we lack, we don't lack a determination to win a game or try and do as well as we possibly can in a match.
"From our own point of view we are delighted we have got an opportunity to continue to play in Europe after Christmas."