Starting XIs, 10 March

UNITED: van der Sar (39); Neville (35), Ferdinand (31), Vidic (28), Evra (28); Valencia (24), Fletcher (26), Park (29), Scholes (35), Nani (23); Rooney (24)

Average age: 29.27

AC MILAN: Abbiatti (32); Abate (23), Bonera (28), Silva (27), Jankulovski (32); Flamini (26), Pirlo (30), Ambrosini (32); Huntelaar (26), Borriello (27), Ronaldinho (29)

Average age: 28.36

11/03/2010 15:25, Report by Nick Coppack

A famous win, fully deserved

Don’t believe everything you hear.

Some opposition fans and media outlets have tried to pour scorn on United’s victory on Wednesday night by claiming it wasn’t really that big an achievement. Their reasoning? Milan are a side in transition. Or, as David Pleat in The Guardian so scythingly put it, a team of “ageing pedestrians”.

Hang on a minute: this is AC Milan we’re talking about, a perennial European superpower boasting some of the most talented players on the planet (Ronaldinho, Pirlo, Seedorf, Ambrosini, Beckham). And yet United progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals with a 7-2 aggregate win, embarrassing the Italians in their own backyard before thumping four past them at Old Trafford. That’s no small feat.

As for the “ageing” accusation, United’s starting XI on Wednesday night boasted a higher average age (29) than Milan’s (28). The following morning, though, you’ll no doubt have heard how Milan’s stars were “over the hill” or “past their best”. Meanwhile, United's veterans drew on “valuable experience” and a “winning pedigree”. That's the fickle nature of the press for you.

When it comes down to it, the Reds played better over the two legs and thoroughly deserved the victory. Wayne Rooney took his chances in front of goal, Ji-sung Park nullified Andrea Pirlo (“Park was the key,” Sir Alex said) and United's back four ensured Edwin van der Sar barely had a save to make.

Even so, there’s still room for improvement… which augurs well for the Reds as United now wait to find out who lies in the way of a fourth successive semi-final berth. Whoever it is, the message is the same: bring it on!


Premier League