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Inter, out with their heads high
After Nemanja Vidic had headed the Reds into an early lead, the Italian champions provided several nervy moments until Cristiano Ronaldo netted the all-important second goal five minutes after the restart.

It was a cushion United never looked like relinquishing and most of the 75,000 fans in attendance went home satisfied after another thrilling European night at Old Trafford.

So, the defence of the trophy continues and we’ll wait with baited breath to see who the Reds face next when the draw for the last eight is made on March 20.

As so often on the big occasions, Sir Alex Ferguson had looked to his experienced men to guide his side through, naming Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs in midfield – the latter starting in his old-fashioned left-wing role.

There was the boost, too, of Rio Ferdinand in the starting XI; the defender was declared fit on Tuesday after recovering from the ankle knock he picked up against Fulham.

A deafening roar greeted the players as they took to the field, while Jose Mourinho received a cacophony of boos from the Stretford End as he made his way down the touchline. Thankfully, there was to be no repeat of the Portuguese dancing down it later.

Two early corners set the tone. From the second one, taken by Giggs, Vidic escaped Patrick Vieira to head home powerfully from eight yards.

It was the perfect way for United to dispel any early nerves and the holders set about inflicting further damage on the Serie A leaders.

In the 19th minute, Patrice Evra sent Giggs scampering away down the left and his cross led to two strong penalty appeals. Both Walter Samuel and Dejan Stankovic seemed to handle the ball but referee Wolfgang Stark waved play on.

For half an hour, Inter were laborious in possession and short of ideas going forward. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was given short shrift when he went down too easily in a Ferdinand-John O’Shea sandwich on the edge of the box.

But the giant Swede reminded United of the precariousness of the single-goal lead when his header from Maicon’s free-kick bounced up and off Edwin van der Sar’s bar.

The Reds keeper made a superb fingertip save from a speculative Stankovic volley eight minutes before the break, and soon after United squandered an excellent chance.

Giggs squared for Wayne Rooney to dink first-time into the path of O’Shea, who found himself one-on-one with Julio Cesar but saw his shot smothered by the Inter keeper.

Inter were gradually warming to their task and, with United's midfield uncharacteristically sloppy in possession, the Italians missed two good chances in quick succession.

Firstly, Ibrahomovic curled in an enticing cross which Stankovic just failed to keep down, then the Inter striker fired just wide of van der Sar’s far post after running onto Mario Balotelli’s through-ball.

When Balotelli flashed just wide immediately after the interval, it seemed United were set for another nervy 45 minutes. But then came Ronaldo’s goal – and, with it, breathing space for Sir Alex’s men.

Giggs jinked his way across field and eventually found Rooney on the left. The striker sent over a teasing cross and Ronaldo met it powerfully for his 16th goal of the season.

The goal set Old Trafford alight but Inter continued to threaten, with van der Sar called upon to parry Esteban Cambiasso’s dipping shot.

Adriano then replaced Stankovic and the striker almost made an instant impression when his scuffed volley from Cambiasso’s cross hit van der Sar’s upright.

By now the game was becoming stretched and United nearly had a third when Cesar blocked Dimitar Berbatov from close range after initially stopping an 18-yard drive Rooney, who had swapped positions with Giggs.

Ibrahimovic bundled into the side netting from close range, but Inter were running out of time as United looked increasingly secure, bolstered by the appearance of Anderson in place of Scholes.

Ronaldo almost bagged a second with five minutes left but Cesar got in the way of his trademark long-range free-kick.

That was the last meaningful chance as United held on comfortably to keep alive hopes of winning a historic five trophies this season.
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