Seventh Heaven

Manchester United produced arguably their best ever European performance under Alex Ferguson last night. Trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Rome, but with an important away goal, Ferguson said that if they scored he felt they would go on to win. Score they did as they put 7 past a hapless Roma defense. Who looked nothing like the ruthless defensive unit that Italian teams are famed for. The contest was virtually over within the opening 20 minutes, as United struck through Carrick, Smith and Rooney, as Giggs ran riot playing in the whole behind the front men. Smith’s goal was his first for 17 months and his joy and ecstasy was matched by his team mates, the staff and the home fans. On previous European nights this would have been the cue to tighten up the defense, pull everyone behind the ball and to effectively shut up shop and kill the game off – the rest of the game is generally a bore under these circumstances. This wasn’t the route the United players choose, as the continued to attack and play the sublime football that was the hallmark of the 99 treble winning side. The goals continued to flow as one almost felt embarrassed for a Roma side that talked big during the buildup and were made to look anything but challengers on this night. Ronaldo added a fourth before half time, his first European goal. The second half saw further goals by Ronaldo, Carrick and Evra and a solitary reply by De Rossi for Roma, a goal that was celebrated with muted and down played pleasure of a side well beaten and praying for the final whistle. United would have wished that the game could go on forever, but when the final whistle blew the score line of 7-1, and 8-3 on aggregate, represented one of the most polished and exceptional showcase of attacking play that a European game has ever seen. Roma aren’t a bad side, they are in fact a very decent team with an attacking mindset of their own, as was shown when the beat United in the first leg, and more impressively, when they got passed a Lyon side that was many pundits favorites for the title, in the previous round. United were at their best tonight and would be many people’s favorites to win the Champions League after this performance. By contrast Chelsea needed a last minute goal from Essien to get through their tie with Valencia. Worryingly for United Chelsea seem to keep getting last minute, and undeserved wins, in both Europe and in England. There is a strong feeling that their luck has to wear out at some stage, but another view is that a feeling may creep into the Chelsea camp that their name is on the Cups, the same feeling United had in 99. For now United will still move forward hoping results reward their play, but at the same time looking over their shoulders at the dark form of Chelsea. The winners of the Champions League, The Premier League, and the FA Cup, will most probably come from these two sides. On the basis of this result you wouldn’t bet against United having their name etached on two of those trophies – perhaps even all three.

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