MANCHESTER, England, April 10, 2007 (AFP) - Manchester United booked their place in the Champions League semi-finals with a breathtaking display of attacking football that destroyed AS Roma 7-1 in the last eight, second leg on Tuesday. Sir Alex Ferguson's side hit three goals in just seven minutes early in the first half through Michael Carrick, Alan Smith and Wayne Rooney in a stunning opening to what must go down as one of the greatest European performances ever seen at Old Trafford.
Cristiano Ronaldo was in unstoppable form, scoring a goal either side of half-time, and Carrick and Patrice Evra were also on target after the break as Roma completely capitulated in the face of the sustained United onslaught, going out 8-3 on aggregate.
Ferguson agreed that it was one of United's best performances in Europe under his charge.
"Absolutely. The scoreline tells you that. It was a fantastic performance from every one of them," he told ITV.
"There was speed, penetration, the confidence to believe in themselves. We've had a couple of bad results in the last week but great teams get over mishaps, you're always going to lose games."
Ferguson reserved special praise for Smith.
"He was fantastic and deserves it more than anyone else.
"Two years ago we played AC Milan and Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were young boys but they've showed their maturity. We can't wait for the semi-finals now. There is every chance of an all-English final."
United had trailed 2-1 from the first leg a week ago and much had been made of their five past failures to overturn a first leg deficit in the Champions League.
That defeat in Rome had been followed by another loss against Portsmouth on Saturday, prompting suggestions that United were losing their nerve with the finish line in sight.
But the Premiership leaders gave the perfect response with their biggest win of the season and will face either AC Milan or Bayern Munich in their first Champions League semi-final since 2002.
The treble remains a distinct possibility for Ferguson's team if they continue to produce performances of this quality.
With so much at stake there was never any danger of the atmosphere being anything less than red hot, but pre-match skirmishes outside the stadium as police tried to keep rival fans apart raised the temperature even higher.
Although Roma only needed a draw to go through they weren't content to sit on their lead and Francesco Totti fired just wide after six minutes.
But the Italians' attacking intent was naive as it gave United spaces to exploit and Carrick took advantage in the 12th minute.
He collected Ronaldo's pass and strode forward, and with Roma's defenders backing off, had time to look up and drive in a shot that wrong-footed Doni as it looped into the top corner.
That goal sparked wild celebrations around Old Trafford but it was nothing compared to the roar that greeted their second just five minutes later.
Ryan Giggs's astute pass picked out Smith and the United striker kept his nerve to delicatley lift a shot over Doni for his first goal since November 2005.
Roma were shellshocked by United's blistering start and it was no surprise when the hosts got a third goal in the 19th minute.
Giggs surged down the right wing and whipped a low cross into the penalty area for Rooney to flick home from close range.
United were now firmly in control of the tie and Ronaldo was narrowly off target with a fierce 25-yard strike.
Carrick went close when his header was parried by Doni, but United had no cause for concern as they got a fourth moments later.
This time it was all down to the genius of Ronaldo. The Portuguese winger is odds on to be voted player of the year in England and he underlined exactly why in the 44th minute when he surged into the area and drove a perfectly placed shot beyond Doni.
Combining slick passing with finely honed movement off the ball, United were running rings around the visitors and were determined to rub it in after half-time.
Rooney tried an audacious chip from the halfway line that drifted just wide before Ronaldo turned in a Giggs cross from close range in the 49th minute to pile on the misery for Roma.
But United weren't finished there. Carrick had hardly been a regular scorer since his pre-season move from Tottenham but he scored his second fine goal of the night in the 60th minute with a long range strike that gave Doni no chance.
Daniele De Rossi volleyed in Totti's cross after 69 minutes but it was no consolation for a totally demoralised Roma.
Their humiliation was completed by Evra in the 81st minute when he drove home from the edge of the area.
The defeat was Roma's heaviest in 23 appearances in Europe, and worst since they fell 4-0 at East German side Carl Zeiss Jena in 1980.
It was also the biggest loss for an Italian club since Juventus fell 7-0 in the European Cup at Vienna in 1958.
Roma coach Luciano Spalletti was stunned.
"It's difficult to explain what happened, especially because the team played well in the first 10 minutes," said Spalletti.
"Then the first time they attacked, they scored. We failed to respond to their enthusiasm and our inexperience cost us dearly against their counter-attacks."
Wednesday, April 11, 2007 [DeathTeaM]†BlaNc† Sprayed.