It has been 12 years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United tore Arsenal to shreds on the counter-attack in a Champions League semi-final showdown at the Emirates.
Bidding for a potential final against Barcelona or Chelsea, United and Arsenal initially went head-to-head in the first leg at Old Trafford, which the hosts edged 1-0 thanks to a goal from John O’Shea.
Ferguson took his men to north London for the decider a week later, and before the crucial outing he had a clear instruction that would eventually prove decisive.
“We didn’t need to win the ball against Arsenal, we needed to intercept it,” the Scot wrote in his autobiography.
“We would say to our players: ‘Stay with the runners, then intercept the pass.’
“Then we counterattacked quickly.”
And Ferguson’s orders worked wonders for United on a night which saw them blitz the Gunners and reach a second successive Champions League final.
They only needed eight minutes to net an away goal in the second leg, with Cristiano Ronaldo first racing onto a through ball from Anderson and pulling it back across goal.
It looked certain to fall straight to the feet of Kieran Gibbs, yet the Arsenal defender lost his footing and allowed Ji-sung Park to slot home past Manuel Almunia.
Three minutes later it got worse for Arsene Wenger’s side, who were left needing four goals to advance to the final when Ronaldo rifled home a bending free-kick from almost 40 yards out.
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United could have been three or four goals to the good by the interval, and after it they sealed the rout with one of the greatest counter-attacking goals scored in Ferguson’s legendary stint as manager.
Nemanja Vidic headed the ball clear on the hour mark and within 10 seconds the visitors had added a third through Ronaldo, who capped a sensational burst downfield by sweeping home from close range.
The Portuguese superstar first flicked the ball to Park, who advanced before picking out a galloping Rooney on the left-hand side.
The England ace then put a well-cushioned cross into the box, teeing up Ronaldo to convert past Almunia for his second goal of the game.
Not for the first or only time in his iconic United career, Ferguson devised the perfect game-plan for his men to execute in devastating fashion.
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