With just six weeks left in a season that hasn’t seen Manchester United firing on all cylinders, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are currently staring down the barrel of potentially another historic treble. The Old Trafford side dispatched a lacklustre Chelsea with a clinical performance in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, controlled in the middle of the park by the evergreen Ryan Giggs.
Defending a single goal lead from last week’s first leg, Manchester United’s starting line-up was largely predictable. Giggs and Michael Carrick were bolstered in midfield by the always eager Park Ji-Sung on the left flank and Nani on the right. Javier Hernandez lead the line and Wayne Rooney tucked into the space created by the Mexican’s constant running. The home side were happy to surrender possession to their hosts, protect the backline and try to hit Chelsea on the break with their wide-range of passing.
The big story as the game began was Carlo Ancelotti’s selection of Fernando Torres ahead of Didier Drogba up front. The Spaniard once again looked unable to recapture his form of 18 months ago and he was hauled off at half-time in favour of the Ivorian. Torres failed to torment Nemanja Vidic like he has done in the past and the United centre-back pairing of Vidic and Rio Ferdinand enjoyed a rather pleasant first half before Drogba put himself about in the second period.
The Ivorian was much more of a threat to the United defence and it was he who gave Chelsea hope. Two down on aggregate and down to ten men after Ramires was sent off for two bookable offences, Drogba exposed a high offside line to fire past Edwin van der Sar with just thirteen minutes remaining.
However, the ‘comeback’ lasted less than a minute.
Man United went straight down the other end of the pitch and Giggs, provider of all United three goals across the two legs, laid on a smart pass for Park to finish coolly. Earlier, Giggs had lost his marker out on the right wing and passed across the face of the goal for Hernandez to slide the ball home, but on this occasion, Park took his time to control the ball and then booked Manchester United’s place in the semi-finals with a composed finish.
After the game, Giggs told Sky Sports:
United must now prepare for either Schalke or Inter Milan in the semi-finals. The German side won the first leg 5-2 in Italy and are overwhelming favourites to reach their first Champions League semi-final. Chelsea, on the other hand, are left to pick up the pieces of a disappointing season following their double win last year and the pressure continues to mount around Carlo Ancelotti.