Manchester United’s treble dream is over after they lost a pulsating FA Cup semi-final to bitter rivals Manchester City at Wembley.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were made to pay for not taking two early chances as Yaya Toure took advantage of some sloppy play by Michael Carrick to score the only goal 10 minutes into the second half.
And United’s misery was complete when Paul Scholes was sent off for a tackle on Pablo Zabaleta, ending their chances of getting back into the contest.
But for City and their manager, Roberto Mancini, victory will be particularly sweet as it has taken them a huge step towards ending their 35-year trophy drought, and they will start as favourites in the May 14 final, against either Stoke or Bolton, who play on Sunday.
It will also be a tangible reward for the investment since the club were bought by the Adu Dhabi United Group, with Toure, one of their big-name signings last summer, making the difference.
Both managers made surprising choices in their starting line-ups, with Mario Balotelli coming in for Carlos Tevez on City’s side, rather than the expected choice of Edin Dzeko, while Javier Hernandez was dropped to the bench by Ferguson, with Nani and Antonio Valencia deployed behind Dimitar Berbatov.
And after a lacklustre opening 10 minutes, it was the Bulgarian that should have made the breakthrough as he was presented with two wonderful chances within 30 seconds.
The first came when Joleon Lescott gave the ball away after a poor pass by Gareth Barry, with smart interplay between Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Park Ji-Sung giving Berbatov a clean run at Joe Hart, yet with the goal gaping the striker could only fire the ball straight at the onrushing England goalkeeper.
Seconds later Nani escaped down the left and played the ball across the face of goal, with Berbatov somehow managing to fire over the bar on the stretch from four yards.
City had barely got going, and after a woeful first half hour they finally began to play, with Gareth Barry hitting the side netting and Mario Balotelli testing Edwin Van der Sar before the break.
City’s improvement continued after half-time as they were rewarded with the opening goal.
In truth, it was a self-inflicted wound from United’s point of view as Michael Carrick gave the ball to Toure under no pressure, and the Ivorian stormed past Nemanja Vidic before firing the ball through Van der Sar’s legs.
It was all City at this point and Lescott should have made it two just after the hour but his header from David Silva’s cross was well wide.
They were nearly made to pay almost immediately as Hart did well to tip Nani’s free-kick onto the bar.
United’s day then went from bad to worse as Scholes, their most experienced player, was rightly given his marching orders by referee Mike Dean for a high tackle on Zabaleta that saw the midfielder plant his studs into the Argentinean’s thigh.
United pressed forward after that but never looked like really testing Joe Hart, and the final whistle brought delirium in the blue half of Wembley.
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