Slick United make light work of Milan
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Manchester United FC 4-0 AC Milan (agg: 7-2)
Wayne Rooney was again Milan's undoing, scoring at the start of each half as United advanced to the last eight.
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Manchester United FC marched into the last eight of the UEFA Champions League in emphatic fashion with a 4-0 victory against AC Milan.
Leading 3-2 after the first leg, Sir Alex Ferguson's side tightened their grip on the tie with Wayne Rooney's 13th-minute header before extinguishing Milan's hopes altogether after the restart. Rooney again and then Park Ji-Sung and Darren Fletcher scored to round off a 7-2 aggregate triumph.
The Rossoneri had beaten United in the clubs' four previous two-legged European contests, most recently in 2007 when they overturned a 3-2 first-leg deficit with a handsome 3-0 win at San Siro. Yet a similar comeback at Old Trafford always looked a mountainous task and so it proved, Milan having no answer to the pace, power and purpose of the home side.
Sir Alex had called for "an early goal" in his programme notes and his players wasted no time looking for one. Rooney and Nani both threatened with low shots though it was not all one-way traffic in a lively opening period. Klaas Jan Huntelaar's first touch let him down after Thiago Silva's long pass freed him in front of goal but ultimately the first half was a tale of two headers – one scored, the other missed.
First Ronaldinho skimmed the post after Nani unwittingly flicked a Pirlo free-kick into his path. Five minutes later, Rooney was less profligate as he nodded Gary Neville's pinpoint cross into the far corner. That was his seventh successive headed strike, his first-leg double at San Siro included, extending a remarkable sequence from a player who, prior to 2010, had scored only four with his head in his entire club career.
With their early goal United could sit back and absorb Milan's pressure, which they did effectively, the visitors struggling to penetrate a back line featuring Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić together for the first time in the UEFA Champions League since October. Though Milan had the greater first-half possession United looked just as likely to score. Edwin van der Sar needed two takes to smother an Andrea Pirlo shot but Darren Fletcher was even closer with a shot that missed by a whisker just before the break.
Leonardo sent on Clarence Seedorf at the start of the second half but within 60 seconds, United had their second. Nani's fine pass with the outside of his right foot sent Rooney clear and he beat the advancing Christian Abbiati with the confidence you would expect from a man netting his 30th United goal this season. United made it three on 59 minutes, Paul Scholes's pass picking out Park in space on the right and the winger arrowed a low finish into the far corner.
There were chances for Milan – Huntelaar had missed a free header before Park's goal, while Mathieu Flamini and David Beckham, another substitute, forced saves from Van der Sar. The huge cheer that greeted old favourite Beckham's arrival showed Old Trafford was in party mood, and Fletcher's late header from Rafael's cross was the icing on the cake as Milan slumped to a record-equalling UEFA Champions League defeat. For United, a fourth consecutive quarter-final beckons.