Gulf News

European symphony from United

RED DEVILS DELIVER SHATTERING BLOWS TO ROMA EMPIRE BY SCORING SEVEN GOALS

- BY TIM RICH

Once, as he watched Manchester United score nine times at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson remarked that his player’s performanc­e had been of such quality that you could have set it to music.

That was a rout of an Ipswich side that was doomed to relegation; this was the destructio­n of the second-best team in Serie A.

It was a great European symphony, an ode to joy.

When the Manchester United manager walked out to take his place for the second half, he was given an ovation and responded by waving his arms to demand more noise from the great stadium.

He has beaten better teams than Roma but to oversee this kind of display when his resources appeared so stretched would count among even his finest achievemen­ts.

After the violence that had scarred the first leg in the Olympic Stadium, Ferguson’s comments on the trouble had been restrained. This, however, was the perfect way to support those who had been hospitalis­ed with knife wounds in the Italian capital and condemn the indiscrimi­nate baton charges.

For Roma, who had come to England with the best defensive record of any of the Champions League quarter-finalists, this would have been a shattering blow. Before kick-off their captain, Francesco Totti, had pronounced this game more important than a World Cup final.

Total football

As Alan Smith converted a move made up of five beautifull­y-measured passes — the pick of eight wonderfull­y-worked goals — Totti must have felt he was playing the Hungarians of 1954, the Brazilians of 1970 or the Dutch of 1974. Whatever it was, it was total football.

Not since Anderlecht were routed 10-0 in 1956 had Manchester United produced a result like this one and it would be fanciful to believe Tommy Taylor’s hat-trick or the four put away by Dennis Viollett were of the quality of the goals United scored last night. Along the course of this tie a whole dustbinloa­d of statistics and opinions have been trashed.

The one about Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo being unable to score in the Champions League.

The one about Ferguson never having won a European game after losing the first leg — which was bizarre when you consider Manchester United’s ability to come back in games that are just 90 minutes long.

The one about Manchester United always managing to qualify for the knockout stages of recent Champions Leagues but losing to the first decent side they come across. It was proof, too, of Ferguson’s enduring qualities as a leader. When Paul Scholes had been sent off through his own reck- lessness in Rome, his substituti­ons had helped nurse Manchester United through a match that at times threatened to be a defeat almost as heavy as this one.

He had a quarter of his first-choice defence, half his attack, three-quarters of his midfield. Last night he chose Smith, a player who had last scored at Old Trafford in December 2004 and who had looked a shadow of the striker he once was to partner Rooney.

-Telegraph Group Limited, London, 2007

 ?? AP ?? Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) celebrates his second goal against Roma with Alan Smith.
AP Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) celebrates his second goal against Roma with Alan Smith.

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