United Set For Villa Park Visit
Manchester United have reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over a dogged Middlesbrough team.
I really do not want to heap praise on myself but I told you it would happen: tiredness was evident and we won the game 1-0.
Boro and Southgate must be sick of us now as it's the third penalty awarded for us this season against them. The latest sparked controversial scenes on the sidelines though just as the last one, it was a definite penalty.
Alan Smith was in the starting line-up and we all hoped he would deliver a performance that might convince everyone about his usefulness. He failed as he was almost invisible throughout his time on the field. The terrible truth is that we can hardly rely on Smith to provide us another option as we chase trophies on three fronts.
His strike partner, Rooney failed to repeat his clinical performance produced against Bolton. He was put clean through twice by the excellent Giggs but failed to beat Schwarzer both times and should have been sent off at the end.
As I've said, Giggs was good and so was Carrick whose composure and excellent distribution meant a lot for a team obviously tired and out of steam. But to win this game, we needed a little more - and of course it was Ronaldo who provided it. He raced into the box after Heinze's brilliant long ball and did not hesitate to fall to the ground when Woodgate's thigh made contact with his. He coolly fired home the penalty, thus risking the personal safety of Carlos Queiroz who was outraged by the abuse Ronaldo received from the Boro bench and wanted to avenge it.
Their anger is understandable, as Boro made life extremely difficult for us and even had chances to score at the start of the second half though United always looked more dangerous. But they had every reason to hope for an extra-time and a third penalty in as many games against us was too much for them, even though two of these were definite penalties. I'm not worried by the fact that we required a penalty to see them off: we were the better team, deserved the win and two days after such a performance against Bolton, we could not have expected a better display.
This last sentence could be applied to Gaby Heinze who looked like his old self again. I had written off his chnces to claw his way back into the team but I was wrong: he can push Patrice Evra all the way and that's just good for the team. Such competition up front would be welcome...
So, a Manchester United-Chelsea final looms and I'm not delighted by the prospect of facing the Blues in the last game of our season. But let's hope Blackburn will cause an upset. Our own game will be at Villa Park, on April 14 at 17.30. The Reds should dispose of Watford, no question about that and it would be great to play in the first FA Cup final held at the New Wembley.
Man of the Match: Ryan Giggs, for me.