Cristiano Ronaldo’s sixth-minute strike saw holders Manchester United become the first English team to win in Porto, reaching the semifinals of the Champions League 3-2 on aggregate in the process.
The European Player of the Year fired a spectacular 35-yard strike into the top corner as United remained on course to become the first team to retain the Champions League — and will now face Premier League rivals Arsenal for a place in the final in Rome. The stunning goal was Ronaldo’s 20th of the season but only his second in the Champions League since scoring the opener in last year’s final in Moscow. After drawing the first leg 2-2 at Old Trafford, Porto only needed a low-scoring draw to reach the last four, but in truth they never looked threatening against a United defense superbly marshalled by Nemanja Vidic and the returning Rio Ferdinand. In fact, had Vidic been able to keep his close-range effort under the crossbar after John O’Shea had got the faintest of touches to a Ryan Giggs corner just before the interval, United would surely have completed their task in the first 45 minutes. “We were very solid at the back tonight and that stability helped us,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports.
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“The return of Rio Ferdinand alongside Vidic was a major boost and scoring an early goal helped settle us. It was a great strike by Cristiano and although we didn’t score a second goal, I thought we never looked in danger of conceding,” he added. The result puts Ferguson head-to-head with his old foe, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, for a place in the final against either Chelsea or Barcelona. It also keeps alive United’s dreams of claiming an astonishing five trophies this season after also winning the English League Cup and the Club World Cup.