Holders Manchester United cruise into final againMay 6th, 2009 - 4:08 pm ICT by IANS
London, May 6 (DPA) Holders Manchester United sauntered into the final of the Champions League with a convincing 3-1 victory at Arsenal to head 4-1 in the aggregate triumph.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and Ji-Sung Park got the other goal as United dominated Arsenal to set up a final against either Chelsea or Barcelona, who meet Wednesday, having drawn the first leg in Spain.
The only disappointment for United was the sending-off of Darren Fletcher in the 75th minute which means the midfielder will miss the final.
Fletcher was sent off for the challenge - Robin van Persie converted the penalty - and though television replays showed Fletcher had got the ball, the rules do not allow an appeal.
“It’s terribly unlucky,” Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said.
“You can see the ball moved in a different direction from Cesc Fabregas. I think the referee (Roberto Rosetti) is one of the best in Europe and he had a view, but there is nothing we can do.
“In all the big games over the past few years, Darren’s been a big player for us.”
Arsenal had spoken in the build-up about taking the game to United and they did begin brightly but the tie was over as a contest inside 11 minutes and it was two mistakes from the Gunners that cost them any chance.
In front of a David Beckham, who won the Champions League with United in 1999, United took the lead in the eighth minute when Kieran Gibbs slipped in the penalty box and allowed Ronaldo’s pull-back to find Park, who dinked the ball over Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal goal.
Three minutes later, Almunia was the guilty party as he allowed a fiercely struck free kick from Ronaldo to beat him at his near post to make it 2-0.
Wayne Rooney forced a good save from Almunia, but the rest of the first half was relatively uneventful as Arsenal could not overcome their early mistakes.
And in the 61st minute, the match was well and truly over. Ronaldo set United on the counter-attack with a neat flick, Park fed Rooney, who found Ronaldo bursting into the area and the Portugal forward lashed the ball into the roof of the net to make it 3-0.
That was the signal for many Arsenal fans to head home, but they missed Fletcher’s controversial dismissal as he hooked a foot around Cesc Fabregas to toe the ball away, but referee Rosetti ruled it was a penalty and showed Fletcher the red card.
Ronaldo said he was playing his best football at the right time of the season.
“This period is crucial,” Ronaldo said. “In the last few games I have felt very good, very fit. I try to play my best in every game, but sometimes it’s not possible.”
The victory means United are now one win away from becoming the first team to successfully defend the title since AC Milan followed up their 1989 triumph with victory in 1990.
Tags: alex ferguson, big games, darren fletcher, david beckham, eighth minute, fabregas, free kick, guilty party, gunners, ji sung, ji sung park, kieran gibbs, manchester united, manuel almunia, penalty box, replays, roberto rosetti, ronaldo, sir alex ferguson, wayne rooney