If you’re reading this today (May 5, 2020), then it’s exactly 11 years since one of Manchester United’s most memorable away performances in the Champions League.
The Red Devils produced a virtuoso display against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium to reach the Champions League final for the second successive year.
The 2008 European champions won 3-1 on the night (and 4-1 on aggregate) thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo (2) and Ji-Sung Park.
Future United striker Robin van Persie pulled a goal back for the home side from the penalty spot with 15 minutes remaining, but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
A red card for Darren Fletcher, who would subsequently miss the final against Barcelona, was the only blot on an otherwise perfect night for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Park broke the deadlock from close range in the eighth minute after capitalising on an unfortunate slip by Kieran Gibbs.
But the game would be remembered for two outstanding goals from Ronaldo.
The Portuguese superstar scored a sensational 40-yard free-kick from a seemingly impossible angle in the 11th minute.
Clive Tyldesley, on duty for ITV, was one of the best commentators in the business at the time – and is still brilliant at what he does today – but he was left red-faced as Ronaldo hammered the ball past Manuel Almunia.
Cristiano clearly fancied his chances of beating Almunia from distance but just as stepped up to strike the ball, Tyldesley said: “Too far for Ronaldo to think about.”
As the ball flew in at Almunia’s near post, all Tyldesley could initially say was: “WOAH!”
Never doubt Ronaldo – he’ll only make you look silly!
He then said: “Absolutely sensational! It went through Almunia, beaten for pace, and Manchester United have scored twice in little more than 10 minutes here!”
Not one of Tyldesley’s proudest moments, but hardly the biggest gaffe that a commentator has ever made.
It’s also worth noting that Tyldesley was the man responsible for some legendary commentary moments from several Man Utd games during the 1998/99 season – including, most memorably, in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Back to the game against Arsenal and Tyldesley also had the privilege of commentating on one of United’s best-ever counter-attacking goals.
The Red Devils killed the tie in the second half with a stunning team goal involving Ronaldo, Park and Wayne Rooney.
Ronaldo provided the finish after sprinting from one box to the other at breakneck speed.
This goal, which was replayed over and over again over the following years, completed a magnificent team performance from United.
They went on to face Barcelona in the 2008-09 Champions League final but were unable to retain the European Cup.
Goals either side of half-time from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi sealed a 2-0 victory for the Catalan giants in Rome.
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