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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Reds: Bumped, brusied, through

United’s 1-0 win over AS Roma sealed the Reds’ passage to the Champions League semi-final, but Sir Alex’s men picked up a few bumps and bruises along the way.

Rio Ferdinand, a surprise starter after leaving the Riverside Stadium on Sunday in a protective boot, required treatment on a foot injury at half-time, while Michael Carrick was taken off in the 74th minute.

“We’re very pleased to be through,” Sir Alex told Sky Sports after the final whistle.

“We were carrying a few injuries tonight. Rio had three stitches in his foot at half-time and Michael Carrick hurt his calf and we had to have a look at that as well.”

There was better injuries news, however, for Mikael Silvestre and Gary Neville, who both made their first United appearances after lengthy spells on the sideline.

Silvestre played the full 90 minutes, while club captain Neville made a nine-minute cameo as a central midfielder in the game’s dying stages.

Manchester United Vs. AS Roma Result Report

Carlos Tevez ensured United’s progression to the Champions League semi-finals and a mouth-watering meeting with Barcelona as the Reds ran out 3-0 aggregate winners over AS Roma at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s already held a 2-0 advantage going into the quarter-final second leg tie and Tevez’s second half goal confirmed their place in the last four where they will face Frank Rijkaard's side.

The pre-match talk had been all about whether or not Rio Ferdinand would be fit to face the Italians. After passing a late fitness test, the defender was given the all-clear to play, but Sir Alex’s team selection was still the main talking point before kick-off with Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes all named on the bench. Owen Hargreaves, Ji-sung Park, Anderson, Ryan Giggs and Carlos Tevez made up United'a attacking quintet, with Michael Carrick sitting just in front of the back four.

With Nemanja Vidic still suffering with a knee injury, Gerard Pique was called in to partner Ferdinand at the heart of the defence. The left-back spot went to Mikael Silvestre, starting his first game for the Reds since injuring knee ligaments in September, and there was also a place on the bench for skipper Gary Neville, over a year after his last first team outing.

The team selection may have seemed rather cautious from Sir Alex, but United did not start in such a manner, forcing a corner after just three minutes thanks to a good run and cross from Owen Hargreaves on the right. Park’s subsequent set-piece came to nothing however.

Buoyed by the luxury of having a 2-0 cushion, the Reds continued to press forward and they very nearly added to their aggregate tally through a host of opportunities in the opening ten minutes.

Six minutes in, the lively Ji-sung Park was put clear by Giggs, but the Korean could only fire across the face of goal from a tight angle.

A minute later Tevez fed Park wide on the right. The Korean sent an early centre back towards the Argentine who should have done better with his header which drifted wide. The same could be said for Wes Brown who headed Giggs’ 9th minute corner over the bar despite being afforded a free header.

Sixty seconds later Hargreaves found himself through on goal thanks to a fine pass from Giggs. But Doni stood up well and parried the midfielder’s effort out for a corner.

Roma seemed more than a little shell-shocked by United’s high tempo opening, but they fashioned a good chance of their own on 14 minutes. Daniele De Rossi slotted a fine ball into Mirko Vucinic, whose effort, from a tight angle, was well saved by Edwin van der Sar low low to his left. Mancini’s follow-up shot from the edge of the box was then taken well by the big Dutchman.

The Reds continued their attacking onslaught and went close again two minutes later. Tevez took Brown’s lofted pass brilliantly on the chest, before turning and feeding Hargreaves, again bombing forward on the right. His cross was met by the onrushing Giggs, but his low drive was beaten away by Doni.

Giggs and Hargreaves combined again on 23 minutes with the Welshman floating a ball over the top to the England man, fast becoming United’s newest attacking sensation, who found himself through on goal. However, a combination of Cassetti and Juan contrived to knock him off balance and clear the danger.

Seconds later Hargreaves, once again marauding down the right, fired over a cross which missed everyone. It did, however, drop to Anderson on the edge of the box who hit it first time. But Doni claimed well just as Tevez and Giggs were about to pounce on any kind of spillage from the keeper.

The main talking point of the opening half arrived on 29 minutes when Roma were awarded a spot-kick. Van der Sar punched Vucinic’s initial effort clear, but the ball dropped to Mancini who burst into the area, only to be tripped by Wes Brown. The referee had no qualms in pointing to the spot and although Brown appeared to get a minor touch on the ball, he also clipped Mancini’s back leg.

As De Rossi stepped up to take the penalty, a chorus of boos reverberated around Old Trafford. That quickly turned to hysterical cheers as the Italian blasted over. De Rossi’s immediate reaction was to pull his jersey over his head as he attempted to hide from 76,000 now raucous United fans who breathed a sigh a relief at seeing the Italians miss their big chance to get themselves back into the tie.

United tightened things up towards the end of the first period, content with maintaining their advantage, whilst ensuring the back four were given ample protection, especially as Rio Ferdinand appeared to be struggling with an injury. Thankfully, the defender reappeared after the break despite having needed three stitches to a foot injury.

With the quarter-final tie entering it’s last quarter, Roma knew they didn’t just have United to contend with, they had the clock to worry about too. They enjoyed the lionshare of the possession for the first 15 minutes of the second period and Mikael Silvestre was forced to make a vital block on 57 minutes when the ball dropped to Taddei in the area. Thankfully, the Frenchman threw himself at the shot and averted the danger. Juan’s strong header from the subsequent corner was well held by van der Sar.

The tie was made all but safe on 70 minutes when United scored the goal they duly deserved. Tevez collected the ball in midfield, before slotting it into Hargreaves’ path on the right wing. The midfielder sent in a peach of a cross which the Argentine dived to meet and send Old Trafford wild.

The Reds played out the remainder of the game with ease and went close to a second two minutes from time when Ji-sung Park saw his effort saved by Doni. Aside from the goal, the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the return of skipper Gary Neville, who was given a 10-minute run-out…in midfield!

In truth, United had done the hard work in Rome, but a professional performance at Old Trafford ensured their place in the last four once again. The Reds may have fallen short last season against AC Milan, but this time they mean business.

Team Line-ups
United: Van der Sar; Brown, Pique,
Ferdinand, Silvestre; Park, Carrick (O'Shea 74), Hargreaves, Anderson (Neville 81), Giggs (Rooney 74); Tevez.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Ronaldo, Scholes, Welbeck.

Roma: Doni; Panucci, Mexes, Juan, Cassetti (Tonetto 56); De Rossi, Pizarro (Giuly 69), Taddei (Esposito 81), Perrotta; Mancini, Vucinic.
Subs not used: Curci, Cicinho, Aquilani, Brighi.

Booked: Perrotta.

Attendance: 74,423

Manchester United Vs. AS Roma Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United. [1 - 0] AS Roma
70' [1 - 0] C.A. Tevez


We’ll kick you out of it, Ron

Angry Roma will target Cristiano Ronaldo tonight for his first-leg showboating. The Italian club want revenge after Ronaldo helped Manchester United to a 2-0 win in Rome last week. Striker Mirko Vucinic rapped: “He can obviously dribble but he takes it too far and we have told him that.” Ronaldo put United in the driving seat for tonight’s Champions League quarter-final return at Old Trafford. But Vucinic said: “We have to be angry after what happened last week. If we didn’t come here feeling angry it would be a waste of time.”
Sports Reporter, The Sun

Roma issue Ronaldo apology

AS Roma coach Luciano Spalletti says disparaging comments made about Cristiano Ronaldo by midfielder David Pizarro were inspired by the "bitter taste of defeat".

Chilean midfielder Pizarro accused Ronaldo of being "arrogant" and a "bighead". The Roma no.7 believes his opposite number at United used needless trickery.

Ronaldo insisted that he never disrespects opponents, while Spalletti was contrite when asked about his player's comments.

"Some of the things that were said after the game were perhaps said in the heat of the moment because we had the bitter taste of defeat in our mouths," he conceded at his press conference on Tuesday night.

"Our comments had the bitterness of defeat in them. We were disappointed after the game and sometimes in those situations you say things you normally would not. That is what happened here."

Spalletti admitted he is an admirer of Ronaldo's skill and said there is nothing questionable about the intent of his showmanship.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is an excellent player," he added. "He is a very exuberant player and a very fair player and has shown that many times."

Maturing Rooney so unselfish

Wayne Rooney’s unselfishness and commitment to United’s cause has not gone unnoticed by Sir Alex Ferguson, who believes the Reds forward has proved what a great player he is in recent weeks.

Rooney played wide on the left against AS Roma in the 2-0 first leg win at the Stadio Olimpico, before reverting to his customary striker role in the second half.

He duly scored United’s second away goal, but Sir Alex was equally impressed with the 22-year-old’s first-half performance.

The forward has displayed a broad range of qualities lately, most recently in helping to haul United level against Middlesbrough on Sunday.

To Sir Alex, it’s a sign of his still-blossoming potential. “He’s only 22,” said the Reds boss. “At that age you are still waiting for the completion and fulfilment of potential. That will happen in the next two or three years.

“What his performance in Rome demonstrated was the sacrifice he makes for the team.

“He forfeited his normal position in the side to work for the team. That was an indication of a great player. Sacrifice is an important factor in any good team.”

Rooney has also rediscovered his goalscoring form. He has scored four goals in his last three games which, added to his tireless effort, determination, vision, passing and superb link-up play, make his performances very nearly complete.

Scholes to join 100-club

Paul Scholes could make his 100th Champions League appearance against AS Roma at Old Trafford tonight - but the Salford-born schemer won't be donning the captain's armband in recognition of his service.

The 33-year-old won't even be considered for the role, according to Sir Alex Ferguson. Not out of disrespect, but because the quiet man of United’s team would not welcome the task.

“I won’t be making Scholes captain,” said Sir Alex at his pre-match press conference. “I think he would regard it as a form of punishment!”

He may not take the responsibility of the armband, but there can be no denying the midfielder’s influence on the pitch when it comes to his performances.

Scholes returned in January from a three-month lay-off after suffering a knee injury in training back in October. It took a few games to get up to full speed, but some outstanding performances of late have seen Scholes return to his imperious best.

“I said when he came back from injury that it was like having a new player,” added the boss. “It did take him a few weeks to get back on form. But now he has got his rhythm back, he has been in absolutely fantastic form for us.”