Champions League Final – 21st May 2008
The width of the post was all it came down to in the end, but you can’t help but feel Man Utd deserved to win the Champions League.
Having no allegiance to either club, for once the Champions League final was a very enjoyable game for us neutrals. Manchester United dominated the first half, outclassing a lackluster Chelsea side who were handed an almighty slice of good luck when the ball somehow found it was to Frank Lampard’s feet with an empty net glaring minutes from the half time whistle.
At that point 1-1 was harsh on a Utd team that looked a class apart and came within whiskers of scoring more, but by the end of 90 minutes, and several close encounters of their own later, a draw seemed fair. Extra time came and very nearly went without incident until undoubtedly the worst piece of sportsmanship from a side since Zidane ended his career headbutting his way out of the World Cup final two years ago.
Chelsea’s behaviour had been disgraceful all game, surrounding the referee on numerous occasions, including one pathetic incident when virtually every player in blue approached Lubos Michel to contest a decision in which replays clearly showed Carvalho to have completely missed the ball and swiped straight through the Utd player’s standing leg.
So when in the last few minutes of extra time Utd decided not to give the ball back to Chelsea after players had been treated for cramp – a response to Avram Grant’s team employing the same tactics at least twice earlier in the game – controversy once again ensued. First Ballack raced to Tevez with arms flying, then as a melee erupted, Didier Drogba, who had been nowhere near the incident at the time, decided to take a swipe at Vidic and promptly received a red card once the trouble had calmed down.
By this point the balance of support for most neutrals must have swung firmly in Utd’s favour, so when the overconfident Chelsea team smugly watched John Terry step up to score what would have been the winning penalty, there was little room for remorse as he – and Chelsea’s golden opportunity – fell flat on the ground.
The simple truth for Chelsea is that they didn’t deserve to win. Although Manchester United’s players are living of the riches of Americans these days, it is still a club with a solid history who have built up their success over many years and the players respect that.
For Roman Abramovich though, who thought he could buy his way to a dream win in Moscow, there is still along way to go. Remember he is the man who in Mourinho sacked potentially one of best managers the Premier League has ever seen. A wise move? You just have to look at the Chelsea trophy cabinet for the answer.