Manchester United, take a bow. Out gunned and out classed, but not beaten. 3 games more to go and how things swing from one direction to the other.
There really should be a full match report here, but you’ll have to wait for it tomorrow on Red Rants. I will touch upon a few key points and leave you guys to discuss the rest.
First – Moscow baby! United are through to their first final in 9 years, and while everyone (even Nani) deserves credit for their performance today, a few deserve it more than most.
Ferdinand – simply immense. He has played his heart out for the club over the last 3 games, 3 of the most grueling games of United’s season, and he’s been United’s best player over this period of time.
Brown – second only to Ferdinand in the respect stakes – he made us forget that Vidic was absent from the United line-up, and few defenders can live up to such praise. To all his critics, today’s performance is proof that this boy, when given the chance and his manager’s confidence, can mix it with the big boys at the top level.
Scholes – for having the quickness of mind to take the chance when it presented itself, and for having the sheer quality to score from the slimmest of half-chances. Better chances fell for both sides later in the game, but Scholes took his shot, unstoppable, back of the net, and you knew then that United had their agent on the line to book their tickets to Moscow.
Tevez – a great striker in the making and a world-class team player. He’s got bags of skill and drive, and he was better than Ronaldo on the day, which says a lot about his composure and ability. Plus he wants to stay at United, and hopefully they will keep him.
Evra – an unfortunate injury which could keep him out of United’s last 2 games of the league (here’s hoping that he’s back for Moscow – enough time anyway) but a great performance that has been his trademark this season. He couldn’t completely neutralise Messi and probably did less of a number on him than Zambrotta did on Ronaldo but he did enough and facing such talent, that’s all you can ask for.
Edwin van der Sar – sir, you have been amazing. Regardless of what Kahn, Lehmann, Seaman and even James might think, you’re too old to play this game but you’ve done yourself and your club proud. We can excuse the jittery moments (and there have been a few) as long as you can keep making those timely saves and keep risking head and limb to catch the ball. Your spirit gives the team strength. Rock on.
Ferguson – for sticking to the game plan and playing the best possible team under the circumstances. For backing his players against better opponents in 3 consecutive games and having the strength to hold off on the substitutions until late in the game. For completing almost a full season with only 2 strikers who have been fit for more than a week (and even then Rooney has been injured on and off) and yet producing attacking football day in and day out so that when crunch time came, people expected gods to strut out on the pitch. They were merely mortal, but what a grand number they’ve done.
Fans – the scarf-waving in the last 20 minutes or so of the game was simply amazing. The fans knew they were witnessing something special and kudos to them, they rose to the occasion (like everyone wearing a red shirt tonight) and drove their team on.
It’s a strange feeling being in the Champions League final – it’s like you’re finally coming to where you belong (for opposition fans who threw up in their mouths at reading that bit – think of how you felt when your team made it to the final). It’s surreal and with a stronger side than last season and against weaker opponents than what they’ve faced in the semi-finals this season and last season, United have a great chance of being crowned European champions come 21st May.
But first, there’s the small matter of finishing off the league, and United have a few days of rest to get ourselves ready for West Ham. Knowing Ferguson, the celebrations will be on hold for now until West Ham and Wigan are taken care off.
Moscow, we’re going to Moscow!