LONDON - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson lauded Cristiano Ronaldo and offered sympathy for old adversary Arsene Wenger after his side ripped Arsenal apart to reach the Champions League final on Tuesday.
Ronaldo scored twice as a rampant United won 3-1 at the Emirates to complete a 4-1 aggregate victory and put them on the verge of becoming the first club to retain the Champions League.
"I thought tonight they couldn't handle him," Ferguson told reporters of Ronaldo. who scored an audacious 40 metre free kick after 11 minutes to put United 2-0 up and finished off a breathtaking counter-attack on the hour.
"Yes, we had a midfield that worked its socks off and had good shape and good cover, but we needed someone to give them real problems and Ronaldo in that form...well he's fantatsic."
The nature of United's victory clearly shook Wenger who faces a fourth consecutive season without a trophy and, on this evidence, a long way from Champions League glory.
"I have sympathy for him," Ferguson said of Wenger who he has regularly clashed with over the years in one of the fiercest rivalries in club football.
"I know exactly how he feels. Prior to Barcelona (in 1999) it was a criticism of me that we hadn't won the Champions League. When you work as hard as he has and been there as long as he has been he deserves the success."
United expected an Arsenal onslaught but the tie was all but over after Park Ji-sung seized on a slip by Kieran Gibbs and then Ronaldo's first goal left the home side, who had never been beaten in Europe at the Emirates, stunned.
United's French defender Patrice Evra summed up the one-sided nature of the contest.
"In the first half, we sometimes had the impression it was we 11 men against 11 children," he told Canal Plus.
Ferguson said the first 10 minutes were vital.
"We got a good start to the game and that made the difference," he said. "I think the two quick goals knocked the wind out of their sails.
"They are a young team and I don't think whatever level you play at teams can recover from two quick goals like. Plus it was already 1-0 from the first game so it was a mountain to climb for them."
In Rome on May 27 United will face either a repeat of last year's final against Chelsea or Barcelona.
"Barca were fantastic on Saturday...they could have scored 10," Ferguson said. "But they have to go to Chelsea and they are minus Puyol and Marquez and that is a big problem for them at Chelsea. It's a very difficult game for them.
"If you ask me who I would like to play in the final, neither of them. I think we should have a bye." NEWS: Unfortunate Fletcher suspended for final NEWS: Ruthless Red Devils reach Rome with ease NEWS: United finish what they started at Old Trafford PHOTOS: Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United UNITED FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: Web Exclusives Wayne Rooney, Peter Schmeichel, Carlos Tevez Q&A Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistlerooy One on One David Beckham, George Best Ask A Silly Question Bryan Robson Boy's A Bit Special Danny Simpson Perfect XI Garth Crooks, Bryan Robson, Sir Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona What Happened Next? David May, Norman Whiteside Sing When You’re Winning Dominic Monaghan, Ian Brown And Another Thing Being a Big Four fan
Plus! Rate United players (and others) on Talentspotter
ARSENAL FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: Web Exclusives Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas Q&A Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas One on One Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry, Ian Wright Boy's A Bit Special Theo Walcott, Armand Traore Perfect XI Ian Wright What Happened Next? Gus Caesar, Peter Marinello And Another Thing Being a Big Four fan
Plus! Rate Arsenal players (and others) on Talentspottercomments