Manchester United FC can start preparing for a fascinating-looking UEFA Champions League semi-final meeting with FC Barcelona after Carlos Tévez's second-half header completed the conquest of AS Roma.
De Rossi miss
The Premier League leaders may call Old Trafford the 'Theatre of Dreams' but for Roma it is a place of nightmares. Humiliated here last season and beaten again on their return in this term's group stage, their faint hopes of a comeback from last week's 2-0 loss effectively vanished altogether when Daniele De Rossi sent a 30th-minute penalty high over the crossbar. Tévez's goal merely confirmed the inevitable, leaving United to look forward to their fifth last-four berth under Sir Alex Ferguson, who, given his plethora of forward options, must fancy their prospects of a first final appearance since 1999.
Entering the game with a two-goal cushion Sir Alex took the gamble of leaving Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, his two scorers at the Stadio Olimpico, on the bench. Such is the strength of United's squad that the visitors still faced the attacking threat of Tévez, flanked by Ji-Sung Park and Ryan Giggs. In the sixth minute those last two combined to create the first opening of the night, Giggs slipping a pass through to Park who dragged his shot wide.
Luciano Spalletti had promised that Roma would not throw caution to the wind in the early stages, mindful of events here 365 days earlier. United duly took charge and for the first 25 minutes they created chances as freely as they had done when beating the Giallorossi 7-1. Owen Hargreaves, on only his second start in the competition for United, made an immediate impression with his energy in midfield and he launched a move with Tévez and Giggs that ended with the Welshman playing in Hargreaves only for Doni to palm his strike behind.
The same trio combined again soon after, this time Hargreaves crossing for Giggs yet once more Doni was equal to the attempt. Hargreaves then broke clear of the offside trap but was denied by a superb last-ditch tackle by Juan, before Anderson drew a fingertip save from the keeper with a low effort. At this stage, Edwin van der Sar's goal had come under threat only once, Mirko Vučinić testing the Dutchman with a low shot, but that changed on the half-hour. Moments after Mancini had fired in a rising effort at the keeper, the Brazilian wide man went down under a challenge from Wes Brown to earn a penalty. Roma had an unexpected lifeline yet De Rossi spurned it.
The opening moments of the second half brought a scare for United when Van der Sar failed to hold a strike from Vučinić, but Marco Cassetti was unable to profit. Mikaël Silvestre, making his first appearance since September at left-back, blocked Taddei's shot then Van der Sar stopped Juan's header from the resulting corner. Spalletti's men continued to probe but, missing the injured Francesco Totti, struggled to fashion any clear openings, and the game was up on 70 minutes when Tévez stooped to meet Hargreaves's near-post cross and steered the ball beyond Doni. The icing on the cake followed when Gary Neville came on as a late substitute for his first outing since March last year.