In one of the most exhilarating, affirmative and historic performances the European Cup has seen, Manchester United last night majestically swept into the competition's semi-finals by destroying Roma with a 7-1, yes, 7-1 victory, at Old Trafford.
They were joined there by Jose Mourinho's Chelsea who managed to overturn a 1-0 half-time deficit to defeat Valencia 2-1 (3-2 on aggregate) at the cauldron that is the Mestalla Stadium. Michael Essien - returning from injury but suspended from the next round after being booked - scored a late winning goal.
There was added drama with Mourinho later declaring that he did not know where his future lies. "What I want is to remain in England and remain withChelsea but sometimes you don't get what you wish for," he said. Indeed, the abrasive Chelsea manager, who is expected to be sacked by Roman Abramovich in the summer, could have been out of a job even sooner if Valencia had held on to their advantage. Instead Chelsea will now go on to face Liverpool unless, somehow, Rafael Benitez's team contrive to squander a 3-0 first-leg lead over PSV Eindhoven at Anfield tonight.
United, who won the their tie 8-3 on aggregate, will face either Bayern Munich or Milan in what will be their first semi-final for five years. Last night was their biggest win in the competition since 1968 - when they first lifted the trophy. Again it was the performance of a winger, this time Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored twice, rather than George Best, that was utterly mesmerising.
The only blight for United was a recurrence of the violence that affected the tie's first-leg. Eighteen arrests were made outside the stadium before kick-off as fights broke out. Later, Roma fans hurled a firework into a crowd of United supporters as police attempted to form a cordon between the supporters.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said: "In the European sense this is the greatest night of my time at Old Trafford. I never expected 7-1, but the quality of the game was so high that once we scored two or three you could feel there was going to be something big. It was a very special night and hopefully it will not be a one-off. The quality of every goal was so high, and you don't see that often.
"I am not worried about anyone else in the competition, I'm only worried about my players. We had a disappointing experience playing Milan a couple of years ago when we knew we could play better and the likes of Rooney and Ronaldo found it very difficult. They were young and inexperienced at the time, but tonight they looked like men to me.
"It was a fantastic performance. I noticed a change in the team against Blackburn and if we can maintain that form, and I think they will, then this team will have every chance this season."
Ferguson had special praise for Alan Smith, saying: "Everyone is pleased for Alan. His enthusiasm spreads throughout the team. His great quality in the last year has been his patience and the perseverance to keep going. He got his reward tonight."
Ferguson also said he was delighted how his men had bounced back from defeats in Italy and at Portsmouth: "We've shown the quality to respond time and time again. Losing two games is always difficult here and we have to recover. It is a measure of a good side.
"The team has to win something to prove itself and hopefully they can do that this season. The way they are playing, they deserve it, but now we are coming to the part of the season when every match is a test. Hopefully we can come through them all."Reuse content