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Football: THE GRUDGE FINAL; Ruud double sets up United-Arsenal FA Cup showdown FA CUP SEMI-FINAL: NEWCASTLE 1 MAN UTD 4.

Byline: DAVID McDONNELL

SIR ALEX FERGUSON hailed Ruud van Nistelrooy for scoring the goals that set up a grudge FA Cup final showdown between Manchester United and Arsenal.

Van Nistelrooy ended his recent drought with two goals to set up a meeting with arch-rivals Arsenal at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on May 21.

It was good news after a torrid week for Ferguson, but even this brilliant United performance was tarnished by the revelation that Rio Ferdinand's 'chance' meeting with Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon turned into a long night out. As revealed in today's Mirror, last week's claims that Ferdinand arrived at a restaurant near Chelsea's ground to collect some papers from his agent Pini Zahavi and then left are wide of the mark.

Instead, Ferdinand and Chelsea's chief executive went to another restaurant in London's West End together.

The news will provoke further fury from Ferguson who made a scathing attack on the Chelsea official's conduct last week.

But there was little disguising the relief Fergie felt at seeing van Nistelrooy end a drought that had seen him fail to score for United in six months.

He was back to his best as United returned to form by demolishing Newcastle.

Ferguson said: "We needed to remind everybody what Manchester United are all about and we've done that with this result.

"When Ruud is in that kind of mood he is unstoppable. Everybody in the dressing room is delighted for him, he took them both really well. It was a great game for him, a real centre-forward's display.

"He's like any striker. When they are not scoring they do not think they will ever score again. But when they get on a goal run, they think they are never going to miss.

"Now we hope Ruud gets back to scoring goals on a regular basis.

"We are looking forward to the final now and it should be a great game against Arsenal."

United desperately needed victory following the humiliating 2-0 defeat to bottom-placed Norwich the previous weekend and further off-field unrest.

Fergie added: "We needed a return to form because what happened at Norwich was simply unacceptable."

The defeat was a shattering blow to Newcastle just four days after going out of the UEFA Cup to Sporting Lisbon.

Newcastle boss Graeme Souness said; "We've been bashed up over the last few days."

CAPTION(S):

FERGUSON: Attack; VAN-TASTIC: Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrates after his two goals blasted Manchester United into the FA Cup final
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 18, 2005
Words:413
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