If the 2019 and 2021 UEFA Champions League finals, the last between two English clubs were something of a let down, it may have something to do with just how good the previous one was!
John Terry slipped, Edwin Van Der Sar saved and Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated on a dramatic night in Moscow as Manchester United overcame Chelsea to become kings of Europe for the third time in the UCL final of 2008.
After defeating Benfica 4-1 in 1968, it took the most amazing of comebacks to defeat Bayern Munich 2-1 in 1999, when Ferguson raised the Champions League for the first time.
Similar drama ensued when United won their third European Cup against Chelsea in 2008, with the first all-English final going down to football’s version of Russian roulette.
The first 25 minutes at the Luzhniki Stadium did not live up to the pre-match anticipation, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s header – his 42nd goal of the season – brought the game back to life.
United had more chances, but the Blues came back courtesy to a huge piece of luck shortly before the break, with Frank Lampard tucking home after Michael Essien’s 25-yard drive deflected twice.
Avram Grant’s men came out firing in the second half, with Didier Drogba hitting the crossbar, but the game went into extra time, and the goal frame was shaken once again as Lampard scored immediately after the restart.
Terry cleared a goalbound effort from Ryan Giggs off the line before Drogba was sensationally sent off for slapping Nemanja Vidic as tempers frayed in the closing stages. The match ended in the tensest of shootouts.
After the first four spot-kicks were scored, star turn Ronaldo saw his stuttered attempt saved by Petr Cech.
With the match-deciding spot-kick at 4-4, Blues skipper Terry stumbled and fired the ball onto the outside of the post in the Russian downpour, the Portugal international’s anguish transformed to enormous relief.
Van Der Sar was the hero in sudden death, save Nicolas Anelka’s kick as United won 6-5 on penalties, triggering wild jubilation from everybody in red.
Ferguson stated that the thought of winning the European Cup 50 years after the Munich air disaster galvanised the team, which was led up to receive it by Sir Bobby Charlton.
“We had a cause which was very important,” he said. “People with causes are difficult to battle against and I think fate was playing its part today. I feel very, very proud.
“The slip by Terry gave us an opening and I thought we would win it then.
“We were fantastic in the first half but the goal gave them an impetus and they were the better team in the second half. But in extra-time I think we were the better team.
“It was tight and there were some fantastic moments.”