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Arsenal 1 Manchester United 3 (agg 1-4): Ronaldo at the double as Red Devils cruise but Fletcher suf

05 May 2009 22:02:46

Arsenal 1 Manchester United 3 (agg 1-4): Ronaldo at the double as Red Devils cruise but Fletcher suf

After all that talk of penalties at the end of what was supposed to be the ultimate encounter between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, Arsenal lasted about as long as Ricky Hatton. Two blows, 10 minutes, game over and dream, for Wenger anyway, at an end. This is why Manchester United are the champions of England, Europe and the world and why they are now within touching distance of becoming the first team to successfully defend the European Cup in the modern era. They were brilliant in their brutality, crushing the ambition of this young Arsenal side with two quick goals that showed how much work remains for Wenger before he can deliver more silverware. Quick off the mark: Park squeezes home the early opener for United If they were a little unfortunate in the way they conceded thefirst, Kieran Gibbs slipping on Arsenal's perfectly manicured surfaceand so allowing Ji-sung Park to strike, the way they collapsed whenCristiano Ronaldo then unleashed another wonderful free-kick would haveleft their manager deeply disturbed. When it comes to keeping this Arsenal side together beyond the endof this season, the manner of this performance could be every bit assignificant as the result. Wenger might not stand in Emmanuel Adebayor's way after he followedlast week's display at Old Trafford with another abject game, but itwill concern him if players like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie nowquestion whether they might be better off elsewhere. Ronaldo is clearly having much the same thoughts at Old Trafford but he would be insane to consider moving on. He was chief creator and executioner but he owes much to thosearound him for giving him the opportunity to show off his considerabletalent. The nature of United's third - Ronaldo's second of the night - in the 61st minute only underlined the point. How many teams, after all, score goals like that? From deep in his own half, Ronaldo started the move before Park andWayne Rooney combined to deliver the ball back to the Portuguese, whohad run 70 yards to meet the cross and beat Manuel Almunia for a secondtime. Two good: Ronaldo doubled United's advantage just a few minutes later For Park, too, it must have been especially satisfying. He wasdevastated last year when Ferguson omitted him from the squad for thefinal in Moscow but the Korean has to make the cut on this occasion. He may even make the starting XI, particularly as Darren Fletcher,an unused substitute in last year's final, will miss this year's afterbeing sent off, perhaps harshly, for bringing down Fabregas in ascoring position. Van Persie scored from the spot but it it was of far less consequence than Fletcher's red card. Before Park's crushing ninth-minute goal, Wenger must have been so encouraged by what he saw. Firstly, Ferguson had employed a slightly more defensive formation,with Ronaldo deployed as a centre forward and Rooney as a left winger. Then came a shot from Fabregas that struck Nemanja Vidic as well as Rio Ferdinand before trickling wide. Arsenal had started well against a United side who were clearly a little nervous. But those early impressions proved to be totally misleading, twoUnited goals inside those extraordinary first 10-and-a-half minutes allbut ending this Champions League semi-final as a contest. Three and easy: Ronaldo put the game beyond doubt Arsenal suddenly needed to score four and not even the optimist in Wenger would have considered that possible. The first goal was a result of desperate bad luck as Park seized onGibbs' misfortune by first controlling the cross from Ronaldo beforelifting a calmly executed finish over the advancing Almunia. Gibbs, understandably, looked shattered. Would Wenger be complainingabout the state of the Arsenal pitch? No point, because little morethan two minutes later United had struck again, this time thanks to acombination of genius and slow reactions. The free-kick from the world's No 1 player was a peach. But Almunia will curse when he sees the replay. It was well within his reach and he really should have made thesave. Would he not rather pursue the dream of one day playing forSpain? Ferguson forgot himself for a second and danced with delight. Wengersimply sat there, motionless, powerless, and - once again - trophyless. Arsenal seemed every bit as impotent, their minds as shattered as their dreams. Gutted: Fletcher is shown the red card which rules him out of the final Rooney was invited to try his luck from distance unopposed, forcing a fine save from Almunia with a curling right-foot shot. Ronaldo then accelerated between Alex Song and Bacary Sagna before testing Arsenal's goalkeeper for a second time. Ronaldo unleashed another free-kick, this time straight at the Spaniard. Surely now was the time to take off Rooney. They had their ticket toRome and if Ferguson wanted to be sure Rooney would be with them,rather than suspended because of a needless yellow card, it would havemade an awful lot of sense to send Ryan Giggs, or perhaps even CarlosTevez or Dimitar Berbatov, to replace him. Ferguson must trust Rooney more than we do. One can only imagine what Wenger said to his players when they returned to the dressing room for the interval. Perhaps it was their idea to create the situation that seemed todevelop in a section of the ground where spectators were beingprevented from returning to their seats until sniffer dogs hadcompleted an inspection. Perhaps they were hoping to get the game called off. It wasn't asthough they turned up after the break, Ronaldo's second goal and thegradual evacuation of the ground proof that they had long given up. After 10 minutes in fact, when United all but knocked them out cold. Too little too late: Van Persie slams home his penalty  Double denial: United rule out moves for stars Ribery and Kaka this summerReal revolution: Perez promises to sign Ronaldo, Fabregas and AlonsoARSENAL FC


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