Thursday, 30 April 2009

Regrets, I've had a few…

Sir Alex Ferguson's football prediction that a 1-0 first-leg win may be enough to secure Manchester United a place in the Champions League final in Rome on May 27 could yet prove prophetic.

But given the profligacy shown by his players in the first half at Old Trafford, when it appeared Arsenal were there for the taking, he may just question whether the door is still ajar for Arsene Wenger's men to reverse the deficit and consider an end-of-season trip to the Eternal City.

Odd-job man John O'Shea finally returned some confidence and authority to his game to become the unlikely hero with an early goal in an opening period in which the visitors seemed content to retreat behind the half-way line.

United sizzled with enterprise and endeavour but passed up countless opportunities to further embarrass the north Londoners. Cristiano Ronaldo saw Manuel Almunia make a potentially-decisive save from his close-range header when it appeared easier to score, while fans' favourite Carlos Tevez was also denied by the inspired goalkeeper.

Tevez, whose future at Old Trafford remains a thorny subject, would later blot his copybook with a show of petulance when he got the hook in favour of Dimitar Berbatov.

Cries of 'Fergie, sign him up' reverberated around the stadium and it will be interesting to see which of the pair the Scot goes with in the return at the Emirates.

Ronaldo went close in the second half with a stunning long-range effort and Ryan Giggs, making his 800th club appearance, was denied a goal to remember when he was controversially adjudged offside.

It could have been a lot worse for the Gunners and Wenger promised we would see "a different Arsenal team" next week, while Ferguson insisted United would not be fazed by their slender lead.

"We played at a good high tempo and maybe we should have scored four goals but before the game I wanted to win without losing a goal," he said.

"We know we can go there and score and that is the big problem Arsenal have."

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Ferdinand (Evans 87), Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson (Giggs 66), Ronaldo, Tevez (Berbatov 66), Rooney.

Subs Not Used: Foster, Park, Scholes, Rafael Da Silva.

Booked: Tevez.

Goals: O'Shea 18.

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Song, Diaby, Walcott (Bendtner 70), Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor (Eduardo 82).

Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Denilson, Ramsey, Djourou, Eboue.

Att: 74,733

Ref: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark).

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