forward down the right and, after holding off the attentions of Ronaldo, cut inside and hit a powerful left foot drive. Van der Sar slipped, as he had done for the goal (dodgy pitch, anyone?) but thankfully for United the shot flew over the bar.
United’s back line were on red alert thereafter - Vidic brilliantly headed Ashley Cole’s cross away from danger as Drogba lay in wait, before Ferdinand twice did the same as the Blues’ attacking barrage continued. Michael Carrick then hooked Florent Malouda’s inviting free-kick away from danger. The Reds breathed another sigh of relief 12 minutes from time when Drogba arced a left-foot shot against van der Sar’s left-hand post with the Dutchman well beaten.
The half chances were all falling to Chelsea, who had dominated the second period. Drogba went very close to steering Joe Cole’s low centre home three minutes from time, but blasted wide.
Ryan Giggs entered the fray just before extra-time, thus breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time appearance record in his 759th match for the Reds. But the occasion was almost spoiled when Lampard spun to clip a shot against the crossbar.
Giggs himself almost scored when Evra burst into the area, before pulling the ball back. The record-breaking Welshman was set to net the winner until John Terry somehow headed his flicked shot off the line.
The second half of extra-time was marred by ugly scenes which saw Drogba receive a red card for slapping Vidic while Tevez and Ballack were shown yellows during the same melee by the referee Michel Lubos.
A further yellow card, for a foul by Essien, was to be the last noteworthy event before the game headed for penalties. There United were to have their glory but not before Ronaldo had his