Fletcher's Rome hopes rest on Uefa leniency

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The Independent Online

Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher will only play in the Champions League final if Uefa break with tradition and overturn the red card he harshly received in their semi-final win over Arsenal on Tuesday.

Fletcher, the 25-year-old Scottish international, had had a superb game as United demolished Arsenal 3-1 in the second leg of their semi-final at the Emirates Stadium, but was sent off for a 75th minute challenge on Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas.

Television replays showed Fletcher had his eyes focused on the ball, which he played before colliding with Fabregas.

However, Italian referee Roberto Rosetti adjudged Fletcher had denied Fabregas a goal-scoring opportunity and that he had no alternative but to award Arsenal a penalty and send the Manchester United man off.

Uefa does not allow clubs to appeal, apart from cases of mistaken identity, and the only way the red card can be rescinded is if Rosetti says he made a mistake.

Even then it would be up to Uefa to overturn the red card and European soccer's governing body, in line with the tough stance taken by world governing body Fifa, have no history of showing such leniency.

Fletcher was an unused substitute when Manchester United beat Chelsea in last year's final in Moscow but United manager Alex Ferguson said after Tuesday's match he would probably have featured in the final in Rome on 27 May.

"You can see from his performance tonight, he's been a key player for us in all of our big games this season. I couldn't tell you whether he would have definitely played in the final but you would have thought that Darren would have figured largely."

Ferguson said he had not spoken to the referee after the match.

"He may look at himself without anyone asking, but I don't think we should ask him. He's competent and fair enough to look at it himself," he added.

"Apparently we cannot appeal and if that's the case that's really disappointing."

Fletcher's sending off aside, United enjoyed a glorious night at the Emirates, sweeping into a 2-0 lead with goals from Park Ji-sung and Cristiano Ronaldo after 11 minutes to all-but kill off Arsenal, who at that stage were trailing 3-0 on aggregate and needed four goals to advance.

United made it 3-0 with a sweeping counter-attacking goal converted by Ronaldo midway through the second half and while Robin Van Persie converted the penalty after Fletcher's dismissal to make it 3-1, the night belonged to United.

The Manchester side now have the chance to become the first club since the Champions League started in 1992-93 to retain the title.

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