MANCHESTER, April 13 – Manchester United powered into the semi-finals of the Champions League here Tuesday, downing Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford to clinch a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Goals from Mexican striker Javier Hernandez and South Korean international Park Ji-Sung either side of a lone Chelsea effort from Didier Drogba clinched a deserved victory for United in front of 74,672 fans.
The win put Sir Alex Ferguson’s side into a semi-final against either Schalke 04 or holders Inter Milan, who play each other on Wednesday.
"Overall we were the better side, though, it was I thought as well a competitive game and played in a good spirit but also a great advert for the Premier League," said Ferguson.
"I think we’ve hit our form and the players are relishing the challenge on three fronts."
United, leading 1-0 from last week’s first leg at Stamford Bridge, were worthy victors against a Chelsea side who struggled to match their opponents’ precision in the final third.
Defeat piled the pressure on Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, who in all probability will see his team finish the season without a trophy.
Chelsea’s misery was summed up by Ancelotti’s decision to remove £50 million striker Fernando Torres at half-time after another lacklustre contribution from the Spaniard, still goalless after 11 hours since joining the club.
Ancelotti took defeat graciously.
"We had good control of the game in the opening 25 minutes but didn’t take our chances," said the Italian, who twice guided AC Milan to the trophy.
"Our performance was not so bad but United deserved the win.
"We have to move on from this disappointment and ensure we finish in the top four places (to make the Champions League)."
An open first half saw Chelsea, lining up in their more familiar 4-3-3 formation, enjoy plenty of possession and territory without ever really threatening United’s goal.
Chelsea’s best chance came after 15 minutes, when a surging run from Florent Malouda, operating on the left side of a front three with Torres and Nicolas Anelka, took him deep into United territory.
The Frenchman threaded his pass through to Frank Lampard but the England midfielder was unable to get a clean shot off and his low effort lacked the power to trouble Edwin van der Sar in the United goal.
United had the ball in the net on 26 minutes when an exquisite curling cross from the right from Wayne Rooney was turned in by Hernandez, the young Mexican stooping to head home only to be given marginally off-side.
An increasingly niggly opening spell saw three Chelsea players find their way into referee Olegario Benquerenca’s book, Ramires, Malouda and John Terry all picking up yellow cards against a lone caution for United’s John O’Shea.
Two minutes from half-time United got the goal that their more incisive play merited. A lovely ball from O’Shea saw Ryan Giggs race into the Chelsea area and the veteran’s low cross found Hernandez who buried from point-blank range.
Ancelotti had clearly seen enough of the misfiring Torres for one night, and Chelsea came out for the second half with Drogba at centre-forward.
Drogba did not take long to make more of an impression than Torres, turning his marker and sending a low shot flying just wide on 56 minutes.
Moments later Patrice Evra was booked for wrestling the Ivorian striker to the ground on the edge of the area.
Yet Drogba’s arrival could not alter the fundamental inferiority of Chelsea’s approach work, and again it was United who looked likeliest to score.
Nani forced a smart save from Petr Cech on 68 minutes with a curling shot, and Hernandez should have grabbed a second when he headed a teasing Rooney cross wide a minute later.
Chelsea’s problems deepened on 70 minutes when Ramires followed through on Nani to pick up his second yellow and be sent off.
Yet just as Chelsea looked dead and buried, Drogba gave Chelse a flicker of hope with a fine goal on 77 minutes, latching on to a through ball from Michael Essien, controlling with his chest and drilling in to make it 1-1.
Thoughts of a Chelsea Houdini act were short-lived however, and United made it 2-1 on the night a minute later when Park latched on to a lovely ball from Giggs and swept past Cech.