Roma confidently carried a 2-1 lead to Old Trafford for the second leg of their 2006/07 UEFA Champions League quarter-final. Francesco Totti was enjoying an annus mirabilis, while I Giallorossi’s away form that season had been outstanding, with victories at AC Milan, Inter Milan and Lyon. Moreover, Manchester United hadn’t overturned a first-leg deficit in Europe since 1984, had lost their last two matches and were without half of their ten first-choice outfield players.
Even Sir Alex Ferguson refused to back his team to go through, instead insisting merely that “we will score.” On a remarkable night, United did that not once but seven times to waltz through to the semi-finals - and what a conveyer belt of wonder goals they were.
Michael Carrick broke the deadlock with a truly sumptuous curler. Alan Smith’s first goal in nearly 18 months, a volley following a delightful series of passes, made it 2-0. Wayne Rooney got United’s third with a move they began in their own penalty area. Cristiano Ronaldo netted the next two, the first following a patented dribble and strike and the second following a magically inventive cross from Ryan Giggs. Carrick rocketed the ball into the top corner to make it 6-0. And though Roma then got their solitary consolation, through Daniele De Rossi’s wonderful volley on the turn, the six-goal cushion was then restored when Patrice Evra’s 20-yard curler went in off the post.
The debate over which was the best goal witnessed that Tuesday night at at the Theatre of Dreams is very much open for debate. What isn’t is that Manchester United produced one of the competiton’s greatest exhibitions five years ago to this day.
"I've never seen a performance like that in my life," said United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar afterwards. "It wasn't that Roma played badly – we were just very, very good."