x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Bouquets for Giggs, Brickbats for Ancelotti over Torres

While the 37-year-old deserved praise for his key role in United's win, the Chelsea manager is suffering the blues over his striker's woeful lack of goals.

The focus was on two players on either side of the field at Old Trafford after Manchester United reached the Champions League semi-finals for the fourth time in five years and effectively ended a miserable season for for their English rivals Chelsea.

The 2-1 loss increased the heat on the Blues's manager Carlo Ancelotti who was left defending his decision to play the Fernando Torres after the out-of-form striker disappointed yet again in a goal drought that he had to be taken out at half time.

It allowed the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to speculate that it was the huge money that his counterpart had paid for the Spaniard that forced his hand to play him. "Having signed Torres for the money (Dh300m approx) they did, they had to play him," Ferguson said. "I wasn't 100 percent sure but I couldn't see how they could leave Torres out."

But Ferguson was only praise for Ryan Giggs who proved his enduring value to United at age 37 by setting up Javier Hernandez and Park Ji-Sung for the goals, having teed up Wayne Rooney for the only goal in last week's first leg.

"He's incredible, a unique person and player," Ferguson said. "It's a great contribution and his experience and composure were vital.

"He's lucky with his physique, he's never carried weight and has got fantastic balance. He looks after himself. He has to... to play at 37, it must be a great sacrifice to do that."

It was Giggs' 870th appearance for the three-time European champions.

"It's easier as you get older because you pick your moments," the Welsh midfielder said.

But life is getting no easier for Torres as his replacement, Didier Drogba, scored Chelsea's only goal of the night - canceling out Hernandez's first-half strike - as the London club, which had Ramires sent off just before equaliser, went out 3-1 on aggregate.

Asked if it was a mistake starting Torres instead of Drogba, Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti replied: "Maybe - could be."

Torres only once came close to scoring at Old Trafford: flicking a header wide from Nicolas Anelka's cross. A later attempt to hook the ball from the edge of the penalty area reached no further than United defender John O'Shea.

"We have to believe and have patience in Torres and have faith that he will improve," said Ancelotti, whose own future remains under constant scrutiny.

"When we had good control of the game we were unable to score," Ancelotti said.

That control went off to later with the exit of Ramires who had been Chelsea's most dangerous player. He was sent off as tensions rose in the fixture. Having already been cautioned for tripping Nani in the first half, the Brazil midfielder was booked for another clumsy tackle on him in the 70th.

"He should have stayed more calm to avoid this," Ancelotti said.

Still, seven minutes later, Drogba latched onto Michael Essien's deep ball and resisted pressure from O'Shea before scoring.

Any hope that it would rouse Chelsea into a dramatic comeback evaporated when Giggs set up another goal, this time finding a wide-open Park, who drove a shot past Cech into the net.

Now United look set to meet Schalke in the semi-finals, with the German side leading Inter Milan 5-2 going into today's second leg of their quarter-final.

Barcelona also advanced after beating Shakhtar Donetsk 6-1 on aggregate, and will likely face Real Madrid, who lead Tottenham 4-0 going into the second leg.