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Fletcher to miss final after harsh red card

DARREN Fletcher was the only Manchester United player not celebrating the club's progress to the Champions League final after being sent off against Arsenal.

While his teammates departed Emirates Stadium with wide smiles, Fletcher left the semifinal in tears after his red card ruled him out of the May 27 final in Rome.

The Scotland midfielder, who was an unused substitute in last year's showpiece, will be suspended for conceding a late penalty with a challenge on Cesc Fabregas.

But Fletcher had appeared to get his boot to the ball before bringing down the Arsenal captain, prompting his manager and teammates to express their sympathy for an unheralded player who nonetheless has started 10 of United's 12 Champions League matches this season.

"He's disappointed and he should be disappointed," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "He's one of the most honest players in the game."

Fletcher had been one of the key players in the 3-1 win and 4-1 on aggregate against United's fierce English rival. His shielding of the defense allowed Park Ji-sung and Cristiano Ronaldo to break effectively into attack and score.

United was so effective defensively that Arsenal managed just five shots on target to the visitors' 10.

"It is very disappointing," Ronaldo said. "He deserves to be in the final because he is a fantastic player, he runs a lot and is a team player. He deserves to play in the final but this is football."

Ferguson opined that referee Roberto Rosetti erred in sending off Fletcher with the score already at 3-0 to United. Robin van Persie hit the resulting penalty high past goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar for Arsenal's only goal.

"You can see the ball moved in a different direction. It moves away from Cesc Fabregas," Ferguson said. "I think it's terribly unlucky. There is nothing you can do about it."

Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the red card was "very harsh," with Fletcher likely to have started the final in central midfield alongside Michael Carrick. But his suspension means South Korea midfielder Park looks set to start the final after the disappointment of missing out on the squad last year.


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