What we learnt: the five key factors on a night of glory for Ferguson
Fergie feels history calling, Torres nightmare continues, Hernandez a bargin, Carrick is back to his best and Van der Sar is also a right-back
1. Sir Alex Ferguson feels history calling
There was a telling aside as the United manager gave his pre-match press conference when he asked his press secretary would the Barcelona v Real Madrid semi final be on the same night as "ours". It passed detection but Ferguson foresaw last night's win, it seemed. His programme notes last night also made a very rare allusion to the notion of overhauling Liverpool's 19 titles, too.
"It's clear that these players realise that every fixture is key to their hopes of making championship history by winning a 19th league title," he said. There was also talk of Saturday's FA Cup semi final with Manchester City in those notes. Ferguson claims that belief in a treble is a media fabrication but he is looking beyond the next game. He suddenly feels it is in his grasp.
2. Fernando Torres is living the Liverpool nightmare all over again
The problem at Anfield was so often the supply line – when Steven Gerrard was not alongside him at least – and it was the absence of delivery last night, rather than his own timidity, which left him the Spaniard an isolated individual. The quality of crossing from either flank was poor, Branislav Ivanovich's desperately so, while Ramires' wastefulness when he had opportunities to supply Torres had a criminality about it at times. Frank Lampard couldn't deliver when the moment came. Nor, too, Nicolas Anelka. Torres' team-mates' failures must have made his half-time substitution all the harder to bear. Yes, 693 minutes without a goal but the 45 he chalked up last night were not his fault
3. Javier Hernandez is Ferguson's best-value signing in 15 years
In today's market, the going rate for a striker who scores 18 goals after only 20 starts in his first English season is something around £30m. The £6m Ferguson paid for Hernandez last summer represents stunning value – the best of any club in the past two transfer windows by a distance. The Mexican's offside goal alone last night had already revealed his extraordinary athleticism before an awareness with hallmarks of Michael Owen delivered the goal. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cost £1.5m in 1996 – more than Hernandez in today's money. Hernandez may eclipse that.
4. A single pass has restored Michael Carrick to the player he once was
His wretched Champions League quarter final second leg against Bayern Munich a year ago spelt the beginning of a period in which he drifted out of the manager's thoughts. This season has not been comfortable either but the 30-yard cross-field ball which set up Wayne Rooney's goal at Stamford Bridge last Wednesday seemed to bring Carrick alive. His domination of the midfield that night set up United's progress.
5. Edwin van der Sar is also a right-back
The moment Nicolas Anelka chased down a clearance, won it and hared towards United's goal like a rugby full-back, with the goal in his sights and the home goalkeeper stranded, was one on which the course of the night could have turned. Van der Sar raced out and when it seemed that he had committed hara-kari decided that an old-fashioned defender's tackle must do. It was the cleanest tackle of the night and though the shouts of "one more year" rang up, Ferguson knows that he has a huge hole to fill this summer. United's greatest keeper? The debate will soon start
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