Winners in Their Own Right

Man United are Champions of Europe once again. We’ll quickly talk about the game and then get to the sub-plots. There were so many in this game; each with the potential of becoming a fairytale ending for the parties. But first about the game.

Match verdict

Two well matched sides played their hearts out in a game which was of the highest quality. I have never seen attacking football of such high standards in such a big game. Rather than play safe, Man United and Chelsea went for the jugular. Most games end up in penalties when the teams are overly defensive, but this game went to the shoot-out because Chelsea and United were too closely matched.

It is a pity Chelsea had to lose and I say that as a hard core United fan. For the first time in my life, I felt sorry for a side which had lost to my beloved ManU. In just 3 hours, Chelsea went from enemy number one to a club I began to show some appreciation for. That, I guess is the beauty of this game. A fan can get so mesmerized by its magnificence that he forgets all about enmity and hatred. More glory to football.

Now for the sub-plots.

God and the Busby Babes were with United tonight.

2008 marks 50 years since the Munich air crash. This tragedy is one of the saddest incidents in the history of any sport. The Busby Babes could have gone on to win more than one European Cup. The loss left a huge emotional scar on the clubs psyche. God couldn’t have found a better time and a better way to heal some of United’s wounds. God provided United the slice of luck they needed to edge Chelsea. Fifty years on, the spirits of the Babes must have finally celebrated

Ronaldo the big match player – the good part

Questions have been asked of Ronaldo’s big match temperament. He answered his detractors in the best possible manner – a coolly taken header to give United the lead. Ronaldo continued to create havoc on the left flank and all seemed destined for a perfect finish for the Portuguese and for United, until Frank Lampard equalized throwing the perfect finish out of the window.

Ronaldo the big match player – the bad part

Ronaldo is United‘s regular penalty taker – supposed to be their best. But when his run-stop-run penalty was brilliantly read and saved by Cech, he was on the verge of becoming the villain of the piece. John Terry’s missed penalty ensured that Ronaldo escaped without any deep emotional scars.

Ronaldo and his move to Real Madrid

The chances that Ronaldo moved to Real if United won the title were huge. Having won the biggest club title, he would have had nothing left to prove. Delivering another UCL crown for Fergie would have also liberated Ronaldo of all the obligations he owed the manager for having nurtured him and having stood by him after the controversy of the England- Portugal WC clash.

In the end United won, but chances are that Ronaldo will stay at Old Trafford. The Portuguese experienced great emotional upheaval during the game and was totally overwhelmed when United won. The experience should bind him closer to the club and the manager. Real can wait.

Roman Abramovich and the perfect ending

The Russian oligarch finally had a chance to lay his hands on the trophy he covets most. A victory at home in Moscow would have been almost a dream sequence for him. Roman might end up winning a UCL crown with Chelsea after all, but there is no chance it will happen in Moscow.

What if Andriy Shevechenko had been playing?

Andriy Shevechenko scored Chelsea’s last goal in the premiership. He also happens to have scored a Champions league winning penalty for AC Milan. Therefore, he had the right credentials to be a penalty taker based on historical pedigree and current luck in front of the goal. Sadly for Chelsea the closest thing to a home-town boy in this game wasn’t even on the bench.

A reverse déjà vu for United which almost was

The final was eerily similar to United’s victory in 1999; in the reverse however. In that game United’s opponents Bayern Munich took an early lead and threatened to finish the game with a second goal. United had the world’s best goal keeper Peter Scheimeichel, and the big Dane kept his side in the game with some brilliant saves. These saves proved crucial as United nicked two goals in the end.

This time United took an early lead and threatened to finish the contest with a second goal. Chelsea was kept in the game by their keeper Peter Cech – supposedly the world’s best. As Chelsea pressed for a winner towards the end, the events of 1999 flooded back. A late winner for Chelsea would have created the perfect reverse déjà vu. Luckily for united, Chelsea’s best efforts were kept out the by the woodwork.

The impact of the two managers’ new signings on the game

Fergie brought in Owen Hergreaves, Nani, Anderson and Carlos Tevez this season. All of them scored in the penalty shoot-out to keep United’s hopes alive. Avram Grant brought in Nicolas Anelka, whose missed effort buried Chelsea’s hopes. It’s a freakish coincidence but Fergie’s new pieces seem to have fitted in perfectly to create a Champions League Jigsaw for United.

Michael Ballack and a choice of clubs

Chelsea and United had both vied for the German’s services when he was at Bayern. Ballack chose Chelsea; apparently influenced by the fact that Chelsea stood a better chance of European glory with their heavy pockets and big players. On this day Ballack’s dreams were shattered by the same club he snubbed for Chelsea. Any hints for future players targeted by both clubs?

A fairy tale ending for John Terry that wasn’t

Chelsea has been expensively assembled by Roman’s millions. John Terry is a notable home-grown exception. John Terry miraculously recovered from an arm injury to play the final. He was heroic as usual; making what could have been the defining block of the game in extra time off Ryan Giggs’ effort. A trophy winning penalty by Chelsea’s favourite son would have been the icing on the cake. JT even sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. Unfortunately, he slipped and fluffed the penalty. A horror ending for the brave man. The poor man couldn’t even bear to see the trophy presentation.

The Greatest UEFA Champions League final ever

I saw Roberto Baggio miss a penalty in the World Cup final of 1994. I supported him and the Italians anguish saddened me as well. John Terry was a foe when the game started. He was a bitter enemy when he denied Ryan Giggs. But I felt for him when I saw the brave man cry. Football plays with our lives and binds us with its emotions. The emotions on display in this game made it the greatest Champions League final in living memory.

Avnish Anand

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