There were no losers Tuesday night at Old Trafford, writes Richard Williams of the Guardian, as Manchester United and AC Milan contested a UEFA Champions League semifinal "that lived up to the finest traditions of the two clubs and of the tournament on which both have engraved their names." In particular, Williams serves up glowing praise for the spectacular individual performances of United's Cristiano Ronaldo and Milan's Kaka-the two best players in the world at the moment, as per the British consensus. And what spectacular performances they were: in the absence of the cup-tied other Ronaldo (yes, the Brazilian legend is now the other Ronaldo) Kaka literally drove Milan's attack by himself, responding to United's opener by crafting two individual goals of the highest quality out of absolutely nothing. United's Ronaldo, meanwhile, was "perpetually on the verge of doing something extraordinary," Williams says, after forcing in the Red Devils' opener with a powerful header.
Indeed, it was a memorable match for so many reasons, but in the end, it was Wayne Rooney who stole headlines, leaving an indelible stamp of Englishness on the first-leg first by saving and then by winning the match for Manchester United. After all but sleepwalking through the first 45 minutes, Rooney came to life in the second half, tucking away the unlikeliest of passes from Paul Scholes in the 58th minute and then putting the match away with a clinical first-time near-post strike in stoppage time. And for all the praise heaped on Ronaldo for his glorious season, Rooney, too, has returned to top form, tucking away his 19th and 20th goals of the season in all competitions last night-and his 10th goal in 11 total games. Expect more fireworks from the young geniuses in Act II.