BLACKBURN: Paul Scholes scored twice as ruthless Manchester United outclassed holders Blackburn Rovers 3-1 at Ewood Park on Wednesday to set up a League Cup final date with Liverpool.
United’s victory gave them a 4-2 aggregate semi-final triumph and sealed a heavyweight meeting with their fierce north-west rivals at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on March 2.
In-form midfielder Scholes took his tally to seven goals in his last six games with strikes on 30 and 42 minutes after ex-United striker Andy Cole had given Blackburn a 12th-minute lead against the run of play.
United’s Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, having been tripped by Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel, rammed in their third from the penalty spot 13 minutes from time.
The comfortable victory secured United a place in the League Cup final for the first time since 1994, when they lost 3-1 to Aston Villa.
Liverpool, the 2001 League Cup winners, beat first division Sheffield United 2-0 after extra time on Tuesday to progress to the final for the ninth time with a 3-2 aggregate victory.
United’s only League Cup triumph was in 1992, when they beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 and this year’s showdown with Liverpool will be a repeat of the 1983 final, when Liverpool won 2-1 after extra time.
The last time the two sides met in a major cup final was in the 1996 FA Cup final. United won 1-0.
“It should be a great game,” United manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports television.
“Liverpool-Manchester United games are fantastic, you can’t dismiss the magnitude of a game like that.
“It doesn’t matter if we are playing tiddlywinks.
“They are our greatest rivals and it should be a great final.”
Blackburn took the lead against the run of play after 12 minutes when Turkish midfielder Tugay chipped the ball into the path of Cole and he expertly lifted it over goalkeeper Fabien Barthez and into the visitors’ net.
The lead flattered Rovers and it did not last long. Eighteen minutes later Scholes mishit a David Beckham cross but the ball bounced down off his arm and he whacked it low into the bottom corner of the Rovers net.
If there was a hint of handball in his first goal, Scholes’ second was indisputable. Gary Neville made a great run down the right and cut the ball back for his England team mate who sidefooted past Friedel to make it 2-1.
Friedel denied Ryan Giggs at the start of the second half as United continued to dominate against a strangely lifeless Blackburn side.
They did threaten on the hour when Barthez reacted smartly to parry away a point-blank Cole header but United were in almost total control.
It was no surprise when Van Nistelrooy streaked down the centre after 76 minutes and was felled by Friedel, who was lucky to escape a red card.
The American was helpless to prevent Van Nistelrooy arrowing his penalty into the far corner, though, to kill the tie. – Reuters