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Arsenal v Man Utd as it happened

Arsenal 1-3 Man Utd (agg 1-4)



To get involved use 606 or text us your views & comments on 81111. (Not all contributions can be used)

By Caroline Cheese

2204: Sheesh, what a night. If you wish to continue debating the rights and wrongs of it all, I recommend you hop on board the train marked 606 - either the BBC 5 Live version with Danny Baker or the web-based version. Your favourite and mine, Jonathan Stevenson, returns tomorrow as Chelsea and Barcelona resume battle, with Manchester United waiting in the final on 27 May. Join the debate on 606

From porkygaz on 606: "Gutted. Gutted. But not angry. The way it went I felt was harsh on Arsenal, but the first leg we were lucky to get away with one down and in the second, much as it pains me, Utd showed why they are the world champs with clinical finishing. Last year against Liverpool I was raging and could not accept it but today I am sad but can swallow this one. Respect to Man U in the end. Go on you Gunners, next season we will be back!"
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2152: A word of warning. Danny the Stat has gone a bit leftfield. Please bear with him. "Edwin van der Sar is the lowest-ranked Man Utd man on Player Rater, with 6.44. Samir Nasri is the highest-ranked Arsenal man with 6.05. There's the story of the match right there, Player Rater fans. Right there. There. Right there. Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo is steaming ahead with 8.67. Get involved, number fans..."
Arsenal v Man Utd Player Rater

2150: An admirably measured response from Fergie there, also admitting that his team got a lucky break when Kieran Gibbs slipped to allow Ji-Sung Park to open the scoring. Still, he can afford to be measured...

Sir Alex Ferguson on Fletcher's red card: "You can see the ball has moved in a different direction. It's terribly unlucky and we can't appeal it. The referee is one of the best in Europe, he may look at it and have a view on it but there's nothing you can do about it. In all the big games, Fletcher has always been a key player for us. I couldn't tell you what our team in the final would be - but you'd think Darren would have featured in it."

2144: Referee Roberto Rosetti manages the rare achievement of being derided by fans of both sides. I've just seen another replay of Darren Fletcher's challenge on Cesc Fabregas and there is absolutely no doubt he gets the ball. None at all.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates: "Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates with his players in front of Manchester United's fans before marching briskly away - you suspect to the referee's room to discuss Darren Fletcher's dismissal.

"To the eternal credit of some Arsenal fans, they stay behind to applaud United's players off, with Cristiano Ronaldo given a rare ovation from visiting supporters. It was a consummate display from the holders, who now have a tilt at becoming the first club to retain the Champions League against Chelsea or Barcelona in Rome later this month."

2138: Arsenal must face up to another trophy-less season, their fourth in a row. They played well for seven minutes - until United scored, and they pretty much rolled over after that.

2135: A devastating performance from Manchester United - and particularly Cristiano Ronaldo - means they are within one match of becoming the first team to defend the Champions League title. They are lapping up the applause of the visiting fans at the Emirates Stadium, while Arsenal's players have long since slunk off down the tunnel.


2133: FULL-TIME Arsenal 1-3 Man Utd (agg 1-4)

From Sir Alex- Trophy Collector on 606: "Feel so bad for Fletcher. Puts a complete downer on the night."
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2130: Three minutes of added time remaining.

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From Kiya, London, via text on 81111: "I'm disgusted with that decision. The ball clearly moved in the direction of Fletcher's boot, right in front of Rosetti, who inexplicably sent him off and I'm an Arsenal fan."

2126: Cristiano Ronaldo fires another ferocious free-kick an inch over the bar. Fergie utters some naughty words - does he realise his team are 4-1 ahead?

2125: Nicklas Bendtner heads a free-kick on for an unmarked Cesc Fabregas at the far post but he prods the shot straight at Edwin van der Sar.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates: "If there is any justice, referee Roberto Rosetti will review that decision and see that he has treated Darren Fletcher desperately harshly there. Fletcher clearly got a touch on the ball and did not deserve a red card. United's officials seem to be seeking reassurances from the fourth official that the referee will indeed look again and they have every right to pose the question. Little bit of late defiance from Arsenal and their fans but this one has long gone for the Gunners."

Graham Taylor on BBC 5 Live: "It takes something away from the game, that red card. You feel for people like Fletcher. He's a first-class pro."

2121: Emmanuel Adebayor catches Michael Carrick with a nasty challenge, studs on ankle. The Arsenal striker is booked, but that does nothing to calm Sir Alex Ferguson, who is still fuming about that Fletcher sending-off.

2119: Manchester United cannot appeal against that decision apparently, so Darren Fletcher will miss the final.

2115: GOAL Arsenal 1-3 Man Utd (agg 1-4)
Robin van Persie smashes the spot-kick high into the net for a consolation for Arsenal.

2114: RED CARD Man Utd (Darren Fletcher)
Cesc Fabregas charges into the area and Darren Fletcher is with him, putting his leg across the Arsenal skipper's body and getting a touch on the ball before Fabregas also goes down. Roberto Rosetti immediately gives the penalty and waves the red card which rules Fletcher out of the final. Heartbreak for the United midfielder.


2111: As the Gunners fans continue to stream out, Nicklas Bendtner lashes a shot into the side netting.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates: "Manchester United do not automatically inspire affection from rival supporters - but if you love football, you have to love that third goal. One end of the field to the other in a classic sweeping move characterised by superb passing and a stunning run from just outside his own penalty area by Cristiano Ronaldo to start and finish the move. Some Arsenal fans have started to drift away now with a grim acceptance that their team has been completely outclassed."

2109: Samir Nasri picks up a yellow card for a foul on Darren Fletcher and he'll miss Arsenal's next Champions League game - which will be next season.

2108: BBC 5 Live's Alan Green reckons it was 63 minutes before Edwin van der Sar had to make a save, which largely sums up Arsenal's night.

2106: Now Wayne Rooney does come off, to a huge - and deserved - ovation from the visiting fans. Berbatov is on.

2105: Patrice Evra, who is also on a yellow card, now comes off to be replaced by Rafael. He'll play at right-back, with John O'Shea switching to the left. Dimitar Berbatov will be on in a sec.

2103: A change for Man United, but Wayne Rooney - who is a yellow card away from missing the final - stays on. Ryan Giggs replaces Anderson while Nicklas Bendtner comes on in place of Theo Walcott for Arsenal.


2101: GOAL Arsenal 0-3 Man Utd (agg 0-4)
That is an absolutely stunning goal. From Arsenal's corner, Ji-Sung Park passes to Cristiano Ronaldo, who backheels the return pass to Park. He then releases Wayne Rooney down the left and Ronaldo has put in a lung-busting run into the box to apply the finish. Sensational if you don't mind me saying.

2059: Samir Nasri - who has been one of Arsenal's few half-decent performers - twists and turns to create space for the cross from the left, but Nemanja Vidic gets his head to it first.

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From Jon via text on 81111: "Ahhhhhh! This is painful. Let's get some strikers on and try and get a shot at least."

2057: Stunning build-up play from United, accompanied by "oles" from the visiting fans. Ji-Sung Park stays onside to pick up the pass on the right but his cutback eludes everyone.

2054: A free-kick for Arsenal, wide right. Robin van Persie wastes it, firing it straight out of play. Neither a shot nor a cross really.

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From Tony, NI, via text on 81111: "39.6 yards against Porto in the quarters. 41 yards against Arsenal in the semis. By my reckoning, that's a 43-yard stunner from Ronaldo in the final."

2051: That's more like it from Manuel Almunia. Cristiano Ronaldo glides down the right and then suddenly cuts inside before arrowing a low shot towards the bottom corner - but the Gunners keeper pushes it around the post. Nothing from Arsenal yet.

Graham Taylor on BBC 5 Live: "The pace of Ronaldo's free-kick was absolutely fantastic but I think Almunia will look at it and think he should have at least got a hand to it."

2047: Oh look, there's a very cheerful David Beckham shaking hands with a not-so-cheerful Mathieu Flamini. One a former United player, one an ex-Gunner, both now play for AC Milan.

2045: Kieran Gibbs - who may as well change his first name to The Unfortunate - is replaced by Emmanuel Eboue for the second half, which is under way now.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates: "There will be no complacency from Sir Alex Ferguson, but it will not be too long before his major dilemma is when to remove Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra to avoid the risk of a yellow card and suspension for the final. Arsenal's stadium announcer has just asked supporters to 'take a look at the highlights of the first 45' on the big screens - an invitation that does not appear to be getting too many takers. What can Wenger possibly say to his players after that?"

2038: I'm looking at replays of Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick - which has been officially measured at a remarkable 41 yards. It's a sensational strike and Manuel Almunia might have been unsighted by the wall - but the keeper still should have done better.

2036: Let's see what Danny the Stat makes of it... "Sometimes I, Danny the Stat, have to take a step back and let my beloved numbers do the talking. Cristiano Ronaldo has 8.61 on the Player Rater. Ji-Sung Park has 8.14. Wayne Rooney has 7.46. Kieran Gibbs has 4.20. Manuel Almunia has 3.93. Thanks numbers, 'nuff said. You lot, get involved."
Arsenal v Man Utd Player Rater

2032: Lordy. Hands up if you were expecting that... I am a bit speechless, or typing-less if you like.

2030: HALF-TIME Arsenal 0-2 Man Utd (agg 0-3)

2029: A sigh of relief from the home fans as Cristiano Ronaldo shoots straight at Manuel Almunia. That's United's sixth shot on target. Arsenal have had one. One.

Graham Taylor on BBC 5 Live: "Rooney is playing wide left and the discipline that boy is showing in that role is absolutely first-class."

2025: Patrice Evra hauls down Theo Walcott to give Arsenal a free-kick on the right - prompting ironic cheers from the disgruntled Gunners fans. Decent deliver from Robin van Persie, but United head clear. Less than five minutes until half-time.

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From Chip it like Vela on 606: "Can someone pls give Rosetti a Utd shirt and a complimentary ticket to Rome?"
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2021: Cristiano Ronaldo is caught in an Alex Song-Cesc Fabregas sandwich, and it's another free-kick for United and Ronaldo. As Phil just noted (see below), Arsenal are getting very frustrated at the amount of times Roberto Rosetti is blowing his whistle.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates: "To say the Emirates is awash with frustration just doesn't cover it - with the scoreline, the officials, Arsenal's failure to lay a glove on Manchester United. No sign of a serious response from Wenger's side while it is United who remain the more serious threat. Those two early goals have knocked the stuffing out of Arsenal and their supporters. The volume of noise in those early moments seems an age away."

BBC Sport's Nick Crowther (an Arsenal fan): "Oh dear. Sat in a Manchester pub feeling a long way from London. Arsenal have to score before half-time to give the majority of people in here something to worry about - at the moment they're all looking far too relaxed and want more goals from their team."

2016: Bacary Sagna wins the ball - but takes out Cristiano Ronaldo as well to concede a free-kick about 40 yards. It's more central than the one he scored but it's straight down Manuel Almunia's throat.

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From Andrew, London, via text on 81111: "Arsenal do a 'Hatton'. I'm shattered."

2013: The game to which Andy (see below) refers was Boro's Uefa Cup semi-final second leg against Steaua Bucharest in which they were in exactly the same position as Arsenal now find themselves in. They scored the first of their four after 33 minutes.

Text in your views on 81111

From Andy, Boro fan, via text on 81111: "I remember a team being two down at home in the second leg of a European semi-final needing four to go through."

2009: Bacary Sagna's free-kick goes straight out of play, and the camera pans to Arsene Wenger, who is rubbing his forehead in the manner of a man carrying the weight of the world.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates: "That, you have to think, is that. Arsene Wenger's talk of a magnificent victory looks hollow now and there is added sadness that two players who excelled in the first leg at Old Trafford, young Kieran Gibbs and goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, have to take responsibility for those goals. Wenger has retreated from his technical area to his seat with his face a mask of total despair."

2003: Cristiano Ronaldo is threatening to tear this Arsenal defence apart - although arguably he has already done that. He sets up Wayne Rooney whose right-foot curling shot is heading for the net before Manuel Almunia pushes it around the post.

2000: With 15 minutes gone, Arsenal need four goals to go through. They made such a positive start but Manchester United have sucked the life out of them with not one, but two, bolts from the blue.

BBC Sport's David Garrido at the Emirates: "The Emirates was deafening for precisely seven minutes. And now there's one corner of the stadium making all the noise, chanting 'Viva Ronaldo' - the home fans are stunned, simply gobsmacked."


1955: GOAL Arsenal 0-2 Man Utd (agg 0-3)
Oh my goodness gracious me. What on earth is going on here? Cristiano Ronaldo is fouled by Robin van Persie. It's about 35 yards out, far right. No chance... but Ronaldo steps up and belts an absolute screamer past Manuel Almunia at his near post. Fergie can't believe it. Neither can I. Almunia should have had it covered.


1952: GOAL Arsenal 0-1 Man Utd (agg 0-2)
That's some sucker punch. Anderson plays in Cristiano Ronaldo on the left and Kieran Gibbs slips catastrophically as he tries to clear the winger's cut-back. That leaves Ji-Sung Park to take a touch before beating Manuel Almunia to the ball and finishing into the far corner.

1950: Alex Song concedes a free-kick in midfield, giving Manchester United a welcome breather. Cristiano Ronaldo holds the ball up well before laying it off for Wayne Rooney, whose low cross is cut out before it reaches Ji-Sung Park.

1948: Cesc Fabregas's shot hits Nemanja Vidic and then Rio Ferdinand before trickling wide of Edwin van der Sar's left-hand post. Promising start for the Gunners.

1947: Massive roar from the home fans as Theo Walcott gets on the ball and scampers down the right. Bacary Sagna is on the overlap but his cross is headed out.

1946: Cristiano Ronaldo is up front for Manchester United, with Wayne Rooney on the left and Ji-Sung Park on the right.

1945: Roberto Rosetti is the man in the middle and he gets us off and running...

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From Pam in Thornton via text on 81111: I'm behind the sofa with crisps, chocs and beer - won't be out anytime soon, can't bear to look! Please Man Utd, for once don't do it the hard way!"

1943: But the anthem is drowned out by the crowd noise at the Emirates. Crikey. The BBC 5 Live commentator compares the atmosphere to the Last Night of the Proms. That's not a good thing though is it?!

1942: Stand by your beds, the players are out. Only three more Champions League anthems until the end of the season - why, God, why?

1939: Can I just say thanks for all your contributions so far? 1,000 comments on 606 already, plus who knows how many texts on 81111. So thank you. I almost don't want the action to start... haha, not really.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates: "Arsenal's fans around me are elated that Robin van Persie is fit to return - and by what they see as an openly positive approach from boss Arsene Wenger, who has rarely been more confident in the build-up to any game.

"Sir Alex Ferguson clearly believes power and energy works best for Manchester United against Arsenal, and this is reflected in his team selection, although the visiting fans who gave Carlos Tevez a rousing ovation in the warm-up will be sorely disappointed at his exclusion.

"And those flags I mentioned earlier - they are currently being put to good use by thousands of expectant Arsenal fans. Words of wisdom from Wenger are currently being beamed to the crowd from giant screens inside The Emirates."

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From Joel via text on 81111: "Drinking beer on the Eurostar. GUTTED. Was working in Paris and will miss the whole match under the tunnel! GUTTED!! Come on Arsenal. Carriage 5 is gunning for you!"

1931: Less than 15 minutes until kick-off and there are plenty of those aforementioned flags waving at the Emirates. I feel a bit sick - and it's nothing to do with the BBC canteen - so I can only imagine how fans of the two teams are feeling.

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Jonny Mck, normally in Manchester, via text on 81111: "I am currently on honeymoon in California and am on a boat whale-watching. Come on Rooney, I reckon tonight's your night."

From Danny via text on 81111: "It's all about the new PFA Player of the Year coming off the bench, scoring late on and treating us to his 'rug' and his shirt flailing round his head like a lunatic - what odds can I get on that!?"

1921: At Porto, Cristiano Ronaldo played up front alongside Dimitar Berbatov, with Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs on the wings. Ronaldo, of course, scored an absolute screamer in that match - so no wonder Fergie is hoping that will happen again.

Sir Alex Ferguson on his team selection: "Cristiano did a great job against Porto away from home and we hope that'll happen again. Park gives us good energy and balance in midfield."

1913: So Fergie's answer to the big Berbatov or Tevez question is... Ji-Sung Park. We'll have to wait and see whether Wayne Rooney or Cristiano Ronaldo play up top. As for Arsenal, Mikael Silvestre is only fit enough for the bench so Johan Djourou plays in defence, while Robin van Persie partners Emmanuel Adebayor up front.

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From GOONER4EVA on 606: "Hooray! 4-4-2. The team at Old Trafford was the wrong personnel and the wrong formation. Cesc, our most influential player is in his best position and Adebayor has the support up front that he so desperately needs."
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From Matt, Belfast, via text on 81111: "Very negative from Fergie picking Park over another striker. I hope I am wrong but I think it sends the wrong message to Arsenal."

Graham Taylor on BBC 5 Live: "It's not the first time Ji-Sung Park has been brought in for a very important game. He has a role to play: he has the legs, the work-rate."

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium: "Arsenal have done their bit to create an extra layer of atmosphere by putting flags on seats around The Emirates. Never sure about that - do fans actually need a free flag to fire them up for a Champions League semi-final?

"On the pitch Arsenal's Manuel Almunia - England's future number one? - and his Manchester United counterpart Edwin van der Sar are out getting a feel of the surface, which looks picture perfect. This has got the feel of a special night already."

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From ericleroi on 606: "Five-man midfield with Ronaldo up top. Perfect. We will slaughter them on the break. In Fergie we do trust..."
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1900: TEAMS Arsenal v Man Utd
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Djourou, Gibbs, Walcott, Fabregas, Song Billong, Nasri, Van Persie, Adebayor. Subs: Fabianski, Eboue, Silvestre, Diaby, Denilson, Vela, Bendtner.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson, Park, Ronaldo, Rooney. Subs: Kuszczak, Rafael Da Silva, Evans, Giggs, Scholes, Berbatov, Tevez.

1857 BREAKING TEAM NEWS: Robin van Persie starts for Arsenal. Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov are BOTH on the bench for Man United, Ji-Sung Park starts.

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From anon via text on 81111: "I've just arrived at ground after a 13-hour drive from working in Paris. Got to go for 2-1 to Arsenal even though I'm a Manc fan. Van Persie, Tevez and Walcott. Come on the Red Devils. Chelsea-United final."

1850:Vic texts in claiming that the Manchester United bus is stuck in traffic outside the Emirates Stadium. Probably not true...

1847: One hour (minus two minutes) to go. Team news should be here shortly. Will Robin van Persie return for Arsenal? Will Dimitar Berbatov get the nod for Manchester United?

Text in your views on 81111

From Goonerdom via text on 81111: "In an Arsenal pub near the ground listening to the banter. You would think Arsenal were already 3-0 up. Hopefully this good karma will transfer to the players later on the pitch. Just heard some fans say they will leave the game early if Man U score first. Fighting talk. Not!"

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From A_A bend it like bruno? on 606: "United will win this tie for me. Actually I think they will be comfortable. Arsenal's defence is simply nowhere near good enough, and they don't have Arshavin, who has undoubtedly been responsible for their rebirth as a force in the league."
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1841: You can't leave that boy for five minutes without him sneaking a 'predo' in. Tsk.

By Jonathan Stevenson

1837: Hearing from the great Graham Taylor on BBC Radio 5 Live that Dimitar Berbatov might be starting from the bench tonight, with Park Ji-Sung in the team. More to follow from Cheesy on that one. Enjoy your evening, a lot.

1833: It's a bit cheeky is this like, but I'm going to massively cash in on my 15 minutes of fame to deliver a Stevo Predo on tonight proceedings. And if I accidentally curse the evening in the process, I won't even be here for the inevitable slaughtering. Haha.
Arsenal 1-2 Man Utd.

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From Mr Punyverse/Giesen on 81111: "I love the Arsenal arrogance - one goal and they think they've won. Wenger's put big pressure on his boys with his fighting talk, let's wait and see! Up the United."

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates: "This may be an all-Premier League encounter, but a stroll around the Emirates and the media area confirms the world-wide interest in a potentially momentous meeting between Arsenal and Manchester United.

"Supporters were milling around the stadium and packing the underground stations hours before kick-off - and there seems to be a growing sense of optimism among regular Arsenal observers.

"Will Sir Alex Ferguson attempt to outmuscle Arsenal again in midfield, as he did with Darren Fletcher, Anderson and Michael Carrick last week? It worked well, so he will be sorely tempted again."

Get involved on 606

From Adzer2 on 606: "Caroline, I have a stat for you - Man Utd have scored on every visit to the Emirates since it opened and have not lost away to Arsenal without scoring since 2000/01 (which wasn't a bad year for us if I remember rightly)."
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1820: I hope Caroline is giving this one the build-up it deserves. Crikey, I've half a mind (stop it) to start the live text for tomorrow already I'm so utterly excited by the prospect. I won't though, not yet anyway.

1817: You what Cheesy? No-one told me there was a game this evening...

By Caroline Cheese

1814: A brief word from Jonathan Stevenson while I search out some food worthy of a Champions League semi-final second leg...

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From Brian in Manchester via text on 81111: "Re 1752: Talking of Roy Keane, he relaxed before the big game by taking his wife and kids to see the Hannah Montana movie yesterday afternoon."

1807: And another... Manchester United have won all but five of the 21 European ties in which they have won the first leg. Arsenal have lost all four of the ties in which they lost the first leg 1-0 away from home.

1802: I'm ready for a stat... Arsenal have not lost at home in 24 games in the Champions League proper. Chelsea were the last side to triumph away to the Gunners, 2-1 in the 2004 quarter-final second leg.

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From Seb in London via text on 81111: "Re 1740: My undergrad exams started the day after the day after the 2006 final, my Masters finals start tomorrow. I fear exams will be forever synonymous with Champions League disappointment."

1752: Lots of you wanting to know who's walking the Paul Scholes/Roy Keane Commemorative Disciplinary Tightrope tonight. A booking will rule the following players out of the final: Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Alex Song and Abou Diaby (Arsenal). Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Patrice Evra. That's quite a few, you know.

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From TorontoChelseaFan on 606: "Re 1740: 'Schools usher the favoured few up the ladder to professional success and relegate the others to a permanent underclass.' A line from my history textbook, for which my exam is in two hours."
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Eh? You what? Can we get back to football now?

BBC Radio 5 Live

Nigel Winterburn on BBC 5 Live: "Man United were fantastic at Old Trafford. They could have won by three or four but they didn't take their chances. Arsenal now back at the Emirates believe that they have got a fantastic chance of getting through and they are still in the tie. I just hope the game is a fantastic advert for football. We want lots of entertainment. The Arsenal supporters and myself will be hoping Arsenal can pull it off tonight."

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From Lastman on 606: "Avoid defeat, that's all that matters... defend from the front, Tevez must start."
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1740: I'm getting a lot of messages from people worrying about exams, dissertations etc. I feel for you all, but I can tell you now that in the years to come, you are not going to look back on 5 May 2009 and think 'well, if only I'd spent a couple of hours studying instead of watching that momentous Champions League match, my whole life would be so much better'. So do yourself a favour and give yourself a break.

1737: Not only have you got more than three hours of build-up here, you'll also be able to tune into BBC 5 Live for 606 (the speaking version) straight after tonight's game. Danny Baker is at the helm - and he wants... no, needs you to get involved.
Danny Baker's 606 post

BBC Sport's Nick Crowther (an Arsenal fan): "Spotted the Manchester United squad having a stroll through Regents Park this morning and said to an elderly gentleman I was passing: 'You don't see that every day'. He replied: 'Well I don't know who they are, but they look very miserable.' 'No,' I said. 'They're just nervous'."

Text in your views on 81111

From Gooner via text on 81111: "I had a horrible dream last night that Wenger played Stepanov at the back with Cygan. Thank God for our current defence!"

From anon via text on 81111: "I had a dream that I was watching the BBC updates and Arsenal won 8-1. Unfortunately Henry scored five of them."

1724: One big decision for Fergie tonight, providing Rio Ferdinand is fit, and that's Tevez or Berbatov. Here's what I reckon: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Anderson, Fletcher, Ronaldo, Berbatov, Rooney.

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From Nick, Exeter, via text on 81111: "If the players are even half as nervous as me they'd do well to kick the ball, let alone produce a world class football match! Come on the Arsenal!"

1715: As you may know, I don't do scoreline predictions, but I'm going to have a go at predicting the teams. Here's my Arsenal team: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Song, Walcott, Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie, Adebayor.

1712:W (see 1658) has now confirmed he/she made that Van Persie text up purely because he/she is bored at work. Honestly, I despair.

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From WestCountryGooner on 606: "I think the key for Arsenal tonight will be how much support the strikers get from midfield. Man Utd's strength is in the strong forward runs from their deeper players. Adebayor and Walcott were isolated in the first leg."
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From Tom via text on 81111: "Re 1652: Cheesy, if I were you, I'd let Stevo claim that one for himself. Too nervous to make a prediction. Come on United!"

1703: According to Arsene Wenger, who ought to know about these things, Robin van Persie has recovered from his groin injury. The Dutchman is expected to start alongside Emmanuel Adebayor up front as Arsenal switch back to 4-4-2, after the ill-fated experiment of playing Cesc Fabregas in behind lone striker Adebayor.

1658: First bit of gossip-that's-bound-to-be-complete-nonsense has arrived via text. W claims to be a match steward and has overheard the Arsenal physio saying Robin van Persie won't play tonight.

1652: Old Trafford, meanwhile, is abuzz with the gossip - which appears in one of the grown-up newspapers today - that Fergie will bid £62.5m for Franck Ribery in the summer, providing Cristiano Ronaldo shoves off to Real Madrid. Don't get me wrong, I like Ribery, he's a very, very good player. But £62.5m? If that's the price Bayern Munich are asking, that's daylight Ribery*.
Tuesday's gossip column

* BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson claims to have invented this pun. I think that's highly unlikely, but just in case his lawyers are reading…

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From Dave J via text on 81111: "Off to the game later but sitting with my mate who's a Gooner in the home end. I'm a Man U fan... If it goes to pens it will be interesting."

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From Steveo77 on 606: "Just leaving work now, the nerves are kicking in, the anticipation is building, come on the Gunners!"
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1648:Arsene Wenger has taken on an air of absolute, unshakeable confidence ever since his side escaped from Old Trafford with a 1-0 defeat. On Monday, he stated: "I am very confident the team will produce a magnificent performance and that we will manage it." Shortly after that, he apparently burst into a rendition of Yesterday by the Beatles. I'm not even joking.

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From MJF via text on 81111: "Blimey Cheese, you're kicking off the live text early. Is that down to boredom or excitement?"

Some days, it's like my entire life is a live text commentary... not that that's a bad thing.

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From StretfordEnderMUFC on 606: "Its gonna be 2-1 Man United... Anderson to get his first goal for the club and you can print that."
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Thanks very much. I just have.

1637: It may not have escaped your notice that this game doesn't kick off for another three hours and eight minutes - so don't leave me hanging. You can get involved via the magic of 606 or in the form of a text via 81111.
Join the debate on 606

1630: You don't need me to tell you how big tonight's game is. How about Sir Alex Ferguson gives it a go instead? "The challenges and clashes we have had with Arsenal in the past don't reach the proportion of this one... We're only one kick away from Rome." Or Cesc Fabregas? "For most of the players, it could be the most important game of their career and it's probably the biggest game that has ever been played at the Emirates. We want to make history."

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see also
Arsenal 1-3 Man Utd (agg 1-4)
05 May 09 |  Europe
Man Utd 1-0 Arsenal
29 Apr 09 |  Europe

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