Rooney finds the old magic to reduce Chelsea dream to ruins
Manchester United 2 Chelsea 1 (United win 3-1 on aggregate)
From his seat in the Old Trafford directors' box last night Roman Abramovich did not need his coterie of advisers and hangers-on to tell him the cold, hard truth that the best part of £750m still does not buy you what Sir Alex Ferguson has got.
And what is that? The simple answer would be a team in the semi-finals of the Champions League for the fourth time in five years but the reality is even harder for Chelsea to take. What Ferguson had last night was a team, from Javier Hernandez at 22 to Ryan Giggs at 37, that – there really is no other way of saying it – just looked better than their opponents in every department.
In Wayne Rooney, United had the game's most effective player. By the end of the game he had grown in confidence to the extent that he attempted a lob of Petr Cech from virtually the halfway line. He was not quite taking the rise out of Chelsea but it was not far off. Rooney was not the only one who sealed United's domination, there were many others too.
As John Terry trailed down the tunnel behind his team-mates, we were reminded that this was not a Chelsea team going out of the Champions League with a snarl and an angry finger jabbed in the direction of another controversy. This was a team outplayed and out-thought for the second successive year and, like every failure in Europe for this club, it is hard to believe that it will not have consequences for Carlo Ancelotti.
This was not a disastrous Chelsea performance – Didier Drogba's second-half goal gave them brief hope – but they were never really close to rescuing this tie from the 1-0 deficit of the first leg. They had their moments, but that was never going to be enough against a United team that looked from the very start like they were not to be shaken from their destiny of a place in the semi-finals against, in all likelihood, Schalke.
The big decision from Ancelotti was dropping Drogba in favour of Fernando Torres, a decision he unpicked at half-time when he substituted Torres for Drogba. There was a clear message in that decision and the message seemed to be that Ancelotti had got this one wrong. Maybe playing Drogba from the start would not have changed the outcome, but it surely would have been a better option.
Ferguson said after the game that any manager would have taken a player of Torres's calibre in January. The problem for Torres was that he walked straight on to the set of Abramovich's serial Champions League obsession and has, if anything, made things worse. It is also worth bearing in mind that when Ferguson is as generous with an opposing manager as he was with Ancelotti last night it is because he has written him off.
Either side of that Drogba goal on 77 minutes, United scored the goals that decided this tie. The first from Hernandez on 43 minutes was just reward for a dominant first half, particularly in the 30 minutes leading up to the break. The second from Park Ji-sung came 21 seconds after the re-start following Drogba's goal. It was the tap on the shoulder from United that, whatever ideas Chelsea might have, this was not to be their night.
The dismissal of Ramires with 20 minutes left came before the last two goals of the game. The second booking, for a tackle on Luis Nani from behind looked harsh. But then Terry's trip on the same player four minutes later looked more justifiably like a yellow card for the Chelsea captain, who was already on a booking.
Ramires had to take his first booking on 32 minutes to stop Nani and a United counter-attack that had swept from one box to the other. Earlier, Rooney had hit a superb cross around Michael Essien from the right side which Hernandez headed in at the near post. The Portuguese linesman called him offside, fractionally.
In the first half especially, United found generous space down Chelsea's left side. That is nominally Frank Lampard's territory but in the 4-3-3 formation that Ancelotti picked last night, Lampard gets drawn inside.
The first United goal came from that side. Rooney struck a half-cleared corner out there to Giggs who, with one touch, played the ball back to John O'Shea. He responded with a beautiful ball inside Nicolas Anelka that allowed Giggs to run at goal. Giggs picked out Hernandez with a fine ball to the back post and, from two yards, the Mexican never misses.
Logic dictates that Giggs should, at his age, have been overrun by a midfield including such athletes as Essien and Ramires but the veteran was superb, creating both United goals. Michael Carrick was again very solid. Park was bright all evening. Rio Ferdinand played through a thigh strain when it looked as if he would have to go off.
Ferdinand never had to chase Torres last night like he has in the past. In defence of the £50m man's performance, he did not have much created for him. The best chances of the first half for Chelsea came around the 15-minute mark and fell to Anelka and Lampard. Neither did much with them.
Drogba gave Chelsea purpose after the break but by then the momentum was already in one direction. At one point in the second half, not only did Rooney win a header on the halfway line against Terry but he won the sprint to the loose ball and crossed to Giggs, who should have scored with his header.
After Ramires' dismissal Chelsea hobbled on, stretched at the back but still only needing one goal to open the tie up again. It came on 77 minutes. Essien's throughball put in Drogba who scored under the body of Edwin Van der Sar. Suddenly Chelsea's 10 men needed just one more goal to win the tie. United's response was quick.
Antonio Valencia, on for Nani, started the move on the right and from Rooney the ball went to Giggs who, for the second time in the game, made the telling pass to Park. In the left channel inside the area, he scored United's second. It was a swift put-down to Chelsea's 10 men and it was a conclusion entirely in keeping with the mood of this game.
Man of the match Rooney.
Match rating 7/10.
Referee O Benquerenca (Portugal).
Shakhtar 0 Barcelona 1
The Ukrainians of Donetsk could not be faulted for either effort or passion last night but it was inevitable that a Lionel Messi goal should ease Barcelona into a prospective semi-final with Real Madrid after a 1-0 win for Barça yielded a 6-1 aggregate victory. It was the Argentine's 48th of the season – a Spanish record.
After 43 minutes of an absorbing first half in which Shevchuk and Luiz Adriano had both taken on the Spanish defence, Messi collected a sharp Dani Alves pass, wrongfooted two defenders and coolly slotted the ball home from 10 yards.
Barcelona's coach, Pep Guardiola, had refused to rest either Xavi or Gerard Pique, but when both were substituted after the hour Shakhtar went closest to scoring when Henrik Mkhitaryan's shot was saved by Victor Valdes.
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