A blistering start from Manchester United stunned Arsenal and sent the Red Devils on the way to a comfortable 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium which sends them through to the Champions League final.
The visitors got off to a dream start as both Ji-Sung Park and Cristiano Ronaldo scored within 11 minutes after errors from ArsenalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Kieran Gibbs and then goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.
They controlled proceedings for the rest of the first half as Arsenal struggled to make any sort of impact going forward and made it 3-0 after the break when Ronaldo capped a tremendous counter-attack.
Robin van Persie did score a late consolation from the penalty spot after Darren Fletcher was harshly sent off and subsequently ruled out of the final after being adjudged to have fouled Cesc Fabregas.
But it is UnitedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fans who can now begin planning their trip to Rome, while followers of the Gunners have to deal with a fourth successive season without any silverware after a desperately disappointing performance.
The big Arsenal team news saw Robin van Persie return to the line-up to partner Emmanuel Adebayor in attack. Johan Djourou got the nod over ex-Red Devil Mikael Silvestre in the centre of defence.
United sprung a surprise with Park named in the starting XI ahead of both Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov, who were on the substitutesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ bench.
The first of the visitorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ two early goals came in the seventh minute. Anderson broke from midfield and found Ronaldo on the left, before the Portugal international flashed the ball across the face of goal. Just as Gunners full-back Gibbs was set to clear the danger for the home side, he slipped, allowing Park to gain possession and score by calmly chipping over the onrushing Almunia.
Four minutes later, the Gunners were completely stunned when United made it 2-0. There didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to be a huge threat when Ronaldo lined up a free-kick from the right around 40 yards from goal. However, the forwardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s powerful, dipping effort avoided the grasp of Almunia and found its way inside the near post, prompting wild celebrations from the away side.
On 18 minutes, a curling effort from Rooney was superbly tipped round the post by Almunia as the visitors threatened to run riot. From the resulting corner, Ronaldo found space to head AndersonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s delivery narrowly wide.
It took half an hour for Arsenal to register their first meaningful attempt on target. Samir Nasri weaved his way into space on the left and crossed for Fabregas, who could only direct his looping header straight at United keeper Edwin van der Sar.
Two minutes later, Ronaldo had the chance to test Almunia with another long-range free-kick. This time, though, the Spaniard saved comfortably.
The World Player of the Year was involved again just prior to half-time, testing Almunia with a left-footed shot after good work from Darren Fletcher.
In the 51st minute he was at it again, cutting past Djourou from the right and forcing Almunia into a sharp stop at his near post.
Arsenal began to exert more pressure leading up to the hour mark, forcing a number of free-kicks and corners, but they soon paid the price as United scored with a ruthless counter-attack.
After United cleared a corner, Ronaldo linked with Park at the edge of UnitedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s area. He carried the ball into ArsenalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s half before finding Rooney on the left, allowing the Englishman to find Ronaldo, who had made a tremendous supporting run, with a square pass. After an impressive night, Ronaldo made no mistake – slamming a shot past Almunia into the roof of the net.
On 64 minutes, van Persie forced van der Sar into a strong parry with a decent attempt from 20 yards. Substitute Nicklas Bendtner struck the side netting in the 71st minute after doing well to beat John OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Shea.
As the tie was drifting towards a quiet conclusion, there was a nasty sting in the tail for United. Inside the final 15 minutes, Fabregas bore down on goal from Nasri’s clever lofted pass, but was halted by a Fletcher challenge, with the Scot making contact with the ball. However, a penalty was awarded and Fletcher sent off, meaning he will be out of the final.
Van Persie took an impressive resulting penalty – finding the top corner Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but it was scant consolation for the second best Gunners or their home supporters.
Chris Myson, Goal.com