29/04/2008 20:50, Report by Ben Hibbs
Report: United 1 Barcelona 0
Before the game the message was to believe. Now you can. United are going to Moscow.
And what sweet irony it is that Paul Scholes, the man who along with Roy Keane missed the Champions League final in 1999, scored the goal to take United there. What a goal it was - a 25-yard scorcher fit to win any match.
This was not a match for the faint-hearted. The excitement and anticipation before it, the jubilant celebrations after Scholes' 14th-minute strike, and the fretting and nail-biting that accompanied the tense final few moments (six minutes of injury-time included). But it was also an excellent semi-final tie, full of attacking endeavour, and no shortage of drama.
The Reds were dealt a real blow before the game when Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney were ruled out. Vidic hadn’t recovered after losing a tooth in a challenge with Didier Drogba against Chelsea on Saturday, while a persistent hip problem denied Rooney his part.
Barcelona, meanwhile, are considered a club in crisis in Catalonia. However, Barca boss Frank Rijkaard was able to rest several key players in their weekend defeat to Deportivo la Coruna, so they arrived at Old Trafford fresh and with the Champions League representing their only chance of silverware this season.
Before kick-off, United’s fans held up cards in the Stretford End and the old schoreboard end. Behind one goal, a picture of the European Cup and the years 68 and 99, at the other end the simple message: Believe.
Old Trafford buzzed with anticipation and the atmosphere was as electric as it has been in recent memory. But hearts were in mouths when, after barely a minute, Lionel Messi went tumbling in the box. Scholes committed the foul, but referee Herbert Fandel judged the offence to have taken place outside the penalty area.