All roads lead to Rome in this season's Champions League, for the final will be staged in the Italian capital in two months' time, but the hosts will not be around to welcome visitors, nor any other Italian club after Arsenal and Manchester United dispatched Roma and Internazionale respectively last night. With Chelsea having defeated Juventus on Tuesday night English clubs completed a clean sweep against their Italian counterparts, ending Serie A's interest in the competition. With Liverpool also progressing, the quarter-final draw will feature four Premier League teams.
While Manchester United won in normal time, goals from Nemanja Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo completing a 2-0 aggregate victory over Inter, Arsenal had to endure the agony of penalties. Juan had levelled their tie after nine minutes but a further 111 minutes play produced no further score. Eduardo missed the opening penalty of the shoot-out but Manuel Almunia saved the fourth, from Mirko Vucinic. The next 11 penalties were all scored, then Max Tonnetto shot the 16th kick of the routine over, leaving Udinese, in the Uefa Cup, Italy's last European representatives.
"I am delighted and proud," said Arsene Wenger. "We did something special and showed great mental strength. England can be very proud but we must not be fooled, the matches against the Italian teams were very close. It looks like Italy is coming back."
But not yet and, after his team failed to stop United in their campaign to defend the Champions League they won last season, Jose Mourinho last night said that Sir Alex Ferguson's team could win the three remaining competitions they are in to put alongside the Club World Cup and Carling Cup that are already at Old Trafford.
Mourinho said: "They have basically the same team as the one that won the European Cup last season, there's only [Dimitar] Berbatov who they've added, but they have worked together for four or five years now. They started as a young side and at this moment their average age is 26 to 27 if you forget [Ryan] Giggs and [Paul] Scholes.
"They are at the right moment to be at the top of their careers and reach the maximum level, they have experience and quality, great fitness condition and intensity in their game, and the Champions League is all about that. I think, yes, they can do it."
The Inter manager said that he would have a meeting with club president Massimo Moratti "so I can explain why we got knocked out". He added: "He's the person I'm responsible to and who I need to be talking." Rejecting suggestions that he had taken Inter no further than previous seasons, Mourinho said that his team had been unlucky at crucial moments in the game. "All I can say is that my players did absolutely everything I asked them to do," he said. "They shouldn't be criticised, there should be no doubts about them or questions asked. We played to our full potential and sometimes you have to look at the opposition."
Ferguson said that his team had allowed Inter off the hook after Vidic's goal on four minutes. Their second goal came from a Ronaldo header four minutes into the second half.
The United manager said: "It was one of those long European nights when you're wondering if you're watching a game of football or watching a game of suicide. I thought we started well and after scoring the first goal I thought we could go on and kill them. Once we started putting the icing on the cake we opened the door for Inter and I thought we were lucky to be ahead at half-time. We changed the system and sort of shut the door and we were better in the second half."Reuse content