Cristiano Ronaldo fired Manchester United FC into the last four of the UEFA Champions League as his breathtaking early goal broke the resistance of his compatriots from FC Porto.
United's Portuguese forward may have had a mixed season but his world-class talent has never been in doubt and he underlined it here with the 35-metre strike that secured a 3-2 aggregate victory for Sir Alex Ferguson's side who – in the process – became the first English team to win at Porto. History has never been an impediment to Sir Alex Ferguson, who has rewritten the record books in over two decades at Old Trafford, and his quintuple-chasing team can now look forward to a semi-final against Arsenal FC with renewed heart having rediscovered their defensive solidity here with a first clean sheet in six matches.
Just as Porto shot out of the starting blocks at Old Trafford so United seized the early initiative here. There seemed no danger when Ronaldo collected a short pass from Anderson – a surprise starter but effective against his old team. However, the United No7 looked up and, before Aly Cissokho could get close, let fly from 35 metres, sending the ball on a trajectory into the top right corner of Helton's goal.
The Estádio do Dragão, so vibrant before kick-off, was briefly silenced although it was the home side who took longer to respond, the attacking fluency Porto had displayed in Manchester largely absent as United enjoyed the lion's share of possession. Bruno Alves threatened twice from set-pieces, first with a long-range strike then a header from Raul Meireles's ball into the box, but with Rio Ferdinand back to bolster United's defence, in open play the home team got no closer than Lisandro's speculative turn and volley at Edwin van der Sar. And things took a definite turn for the worse for the hosts on the half-hour with playmaker Lucho departing the action on a stretcher with an apparent knee injury, winger Mariano taking his place.
If Porto were unfortunate to lose Lucho, they could consider themselves lucky not to have reached the interval goals two down as Nemanja Vidić somehow turned the ball over the crossbar when it looked easier to score after John O'Shea had flicked on a Ryan Giggs corner. The heavens opened as the game restarted and there were chances at both ends, Dimitar Berbatov drawing a save from Helton before Meireles shot narrowly over from distance. With the noisy backing of the home crowd, Porto were seeing more of the ball but United's counterattacks carried the greater threat. With Giggs excelling, it took a fine block by Fernando to thwart Rooney and Helton then had to race out of his goal to beat Ronaldo to the Welshman's through ball.
Home and dry
For Porto, set-pieces appeared the best hope and Rolando almost profited from Van der Sar's failure to reach a Meireles corner, heading wide of the far post with 12 minutes remaining. Lisandro then steered Mariano's cross straight at the Dutch goalkeeper but there would be no late twist to match Costinha's goal when the sides met five years ago. Despite the teeming rain, United were home and dry.