Champions League – Scholes sends United into final

Paul Scholes‘s stunning first-half strike earned Manchester United a nervy 1-0 win over Barcelona at Old Trafford that sent them through to the Champions League final.

FOOTBALL 2007-2008 Champions League Manchester United Man United-Barcelona Ferdinand - 0

Scholes put United ahead with a superb long-range effort after a quarter of an hour before Ji-sung Park, Nani and Carlos Tevez all went close.

Lionel Messi proved a constant threat with his daring running from deep, but as in the goalless first leg he was unable to provide the spark Barcelona needed.

Instead United held firm in a frantic last 10 minutes of constant Barcelona attacks to secure a place in the final in Moscow on May 21 and ensure that the winner of the 2007-2008 Champions League will definitely be an English side.

United had been dealt a sizeable blow prior to kick-off when it emerged that Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney would not be able to feature due to the injuries they sustained in the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea at the weekend, so Wes Brown continued to deputise for the Serbian at centre-half, with Owen Hargreaves starting at right-back and Nani coming into the side in place of Rooney.

The home side got off to a nervy start, with Scholes conceding a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area for a trip on Messi inside the first minute and Samuel Eto’o having a low cross cleared after Edwin van der Sar had sliced a clearance straight to him.

Barcelona settled quickly by comparison and looked typically comfortable in possession until a loose pass from Gianluca Zambrotta gave Scholes the chance to test his shooting boots from 25 yards, and he made no mistake with an unstoppable right-footed effot that soared into the top-right corner.

Visiting keeper Victor Valdes then spilled a free-kick from Nani as the home side, emboldened by the roars of the crowd, threatened to over-run them, before Messi reminded them of the unique danger he poses with a run and shot that forced van der Sar into a save.

The shackles of the first leg cast off, chances were exchanged by both sides, with Park slotting narrowly wide from Cristiano Ronaldo‘s lay-off and Deco twice going close from the edge of the United penalty area.

As the first half drew to a close United found themselves increasingly penned back, and they were lucky to escape when van der Sar dropped Messi’s cross right in front of Eto’o, only for Patrice Evra to intervene at the vital moment.

Nani flashed a header wide of Valdes’s left-hand post minutes before the break and United went close again just before the hour when Tevez stang the Barca keeper’s palms with a rising left-footed effort after a lovely exchange of passes with Ronaldo.

Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard responded to the growing need for a goal by introducing Thierry Henry with half an hour to go, and the Frenchman put a header straight at van der Sar with just over 10 minutes remaining.

United’s defenders came to the fore in the game’s dramatic closing stages, with Brown first tackling substitute Bojan Krkic as he prepared to shoot before sliding in to cut out Carles Puyol‘s centre from the left.

A head injury to Evra – who had to be replaced by Mikael Silvestre – prompted six minutes of added time, but with Ferguson anxiously checking his watch referee Herbert Fandel blew his whistle to send United through to the first all-English final in the competition’s history.

Tom Williams / Eurosport