| Martin Taylor of Blackburn Rovers (left) in a tussle with Manchester United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy in a League Cup semi-final, second-leg match at Ewood Park, Blackburn, Wednesday
Blackburn: Paul Scholes scored twice as ruthless Manchester United outclassed holders Blackburn Rovers 3-1 at Ewood Park on Wednesday to set up a League Cup final date with Liverpool.
United’s victory gave them a 4-2 aggregate semi-final triumph and sealed a heavyweight meeting with their fierce north-west rivals at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on March 2.
In-form midfielder Scholes took his tally to seven goals in his last six games with strikes on the 30th and 42nd minutes after ex-United striker Andy Cole had given Blackburn a 12th-minute lead against the run of play.
United’s Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, having been tripped by Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel, rammed in their third from the penalty spot 13 minutes from time.
The comfortable victory secured United a place in the League Cup final for the first time since 1994, when they lost 1-3 to Aston Villa.
Liverpool, the 2001 League Cup winners, beat first division Sheffield United 2-0 after extra time on Tuesday to progress to the final for the ninth time with a 3-2 aggregate victory.
United’s only League Cup triumph was in 1992, when they beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 and this year’s showdown with Liverpool will be a repeat of the 1983 final, when Liverpool won 2-1 after extra time.
The last time the two sides met in a major cup final was in the 1996 FA Cup final that United won 1-0.
“It should be a great game,” United manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports. “Liverpool-Manchester United games are fantastic, you can’t dismiss the magnitude of a game like that.
“It doesn’t matter if we are playing tiddlywinks. They are our greatest rivals and it should be a great final.”
Blackburn took the lead against the run of play after 12 minutes when Tugay chipped the ball into the path of Cole and he expertly lifted it over goalkeeper Fabien Barthez and into the visitors’ net.
The lead flattered Rovers and it did not last long. Eighteen minutes later Scholes mis-hit a David Beckham cross but the ball bounced down off his arm and he whacked it low into the bottom corner of the Rovers net.
If there was a hint of handball in his first goal, Scholes’ second was indisputable. Gary Neville made a great run down the right and cut the ball back for Scholes to side-foot past Friedel and make it 2-1.
It was no surprise when Van Nistelrooy streaked down the centre after 76 minutes and was felled by Friedel, who was lucky to escape a red card.
The American was helpless to prevent Van Nistelrooy arrowing his penalty into the far corner, though, to kill the tie.
Meanwhile, Newcastle United tightened their grip on third place in the English Premier League with a 1-0 home win over Bolton Wanderers on Wednesday.
In the night’s other game, West Ham United remained rooted to the bottom after a 2-4 defeat at fellow London club Charlton Athletic.
Newcastle, who took their home run to 11 league wins in a row, are on 45 points, seven behind leaders Arsenal and two short of Manchester United after 24 games. Newcastle are four points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Teenager Jermaine Jenas struck for Newcastle from close range in the 18th minute, turning in a cross from fellow-striker Craig Bellamy.
At Charlton, French midfielder Edouard Cisse scored his first goal for West Ham, a right-footed lob from the middle of the box in the 19th minute.
But Charlton then scored three goals in 10 minutes spanning half-time through Dane Claus Jensen and a brace from midfielder Scott Parker.
England winger Trevor Sinclair pulled another back for the visitors in the 62nd minute before Bulgarian defender Radostin Kishishev hit Charlton’s fourth with his first goal for the south London club in the final minute.