Manchester United reached the Champions League final on Tuesday, beating FC Barcelona 1-0 behind Paul Scholes’ goal to advance by the same aggregate score.
Scholes scored with a 25m shot in the 14th minute at Old Trafford to put the Red Devils into the May 21 final in Moscow after a 0-0 draw at Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-finals.
Scholes had been suspended when Man United beat Bayern Munich in the 1999 final. United have now made it to the European Cup final for a third time, after also winning in 1968.
Man United manager Alex Ferguson, who has been at Old Trafford since 1986 and guided the Red Devils to nine Premier League and five FA Cup titles, has frequently expressed frustration that his team has been unable to win the Champions League title more often. Now, he gets another chance.
With Chelsea hosting Liverpool in the other semi-final yesterday, there will now be a first all-English final of European soccer’s most prestigious competition.
With Wayne Rooney ruled out of the game with a hip injury, United fielded Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo in attack.
After creating few chances in the first leg at the Camp Nou, United set out to test Barcelona’s defense Tuesday and the result was a whirlwind first 30 minutes with lots of misplaced passes and mistakes.
Well out of contention in the Spanish league after a disappointing domestic season, Barcelona could have gone ahead in the opening two minutes, however, when Lionel Messi darted past one defender and was brought down by Scholes near the corner of the area.
But the free kick was blocked and United soon punished the missed opportunity.
Ronaldo’s run through the center was blocked by a tackle from Gianluca Zambrotta, who inexplicably played the ball to Scholes and he shot with the outside of his boot to send the ball swerving into the net.
Messi almost hit back immediately with a bending shot after another weaving run, but goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar palmed the ball away. Then, Deco was just off target from the edge of the area.
Nani went close to adding to United’s lead in the 39th minute when he connected with Patrice Evra’s cross only for his header to flash wide of the far post.
After a lively early spell, Messi had disappeared from the game.
But he produced another run at the United defense in the 55th minute before tamely shooting wide. A minute later, Tevez, swapped passes with Ronaldo and his close-range shot was pushed over the bar by Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes.
With Barcelona only needing one accurate shot to go through to the final on away goals, United had to remain focused when former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry went on as a substitute for Andres Iniesta in the 60th.
Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard brought on the 17-year-old Bojan Krkic for the unimpressive Samuel Eto’o in the 72nd, but it was Henry who went closest with a climbing header from a corner that was directed straight to Van der Sar.
“We needed a fantastic performance and we got one. We kept our concentration at the back, protected the space really well and our play up front was really good. We could have scored three or four goals,” Ferguson said.
“It was a bit of a hang-on job at the end but they did not create many chances, which is down to our defenders,” he said.
Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard, who insisted he would not quit in the wake of the defeat, could not resist a dig about what he sees as a lack of adventure among the English clubs currently dominating the tournament.