It’s finally arrived, the day of the first all-English final the UEFA Champions League has seen and tonight, all eyes will be on the Premier League’s top two teams – albeit in Moscow where neither side has the home advantage – unless you count the Abramovich connection.
Grant’s future is still rumoured to be hanging in the balance so he can only count himself lucky he inherited a pretty strong squad. Our midfield has to be one of the most formidable in Europe, with Essien once again showing his strength with exceptional timing. And where Lampard might well be below par at times, Ballack has shown us exactly why he was brought into an already impressive midfield (thanks for that one Roman). He really is a big game player and they don’t come much bigger than his. Defensively, we’re still pretty solid on a good day, although with Ashley Cole now looking a doubt, Ferreira still not fancied as first-choice right-back and both Terry and Carvalho recovering from injury, we’ve definitely had better days. Cech, may have had the odd weak moment himself here and there, but even when he’s been out injured, he’s moved proverbial mountains – and the odd boot from his jaw – to get back in goal for us. Whilst at the other end of the scale, Drogba’s had a fairly lacklustre season although seems to have fancied turning it on in the big games – funny how a bit of exposure in the world’s press can motivate a player. I’m sure his dodgy knee won’t trouble him too much unless we’re getting battered!
Whilst Grant ponders which desk he’ll be sat behind come Thursday morning, poor old SAF has dilemma’s of his own – which 18 players to name out of the 24 he’s taken to Russia with him. Well, Scholes has been promised a start, Neville still ain’t quite up to a game like this, Rooney’s recovered just in time and Giggs is in line to overtake the watching Sir Bobby Charlton’s record 758 appearances, so if you’re reading this Fergie, that should help your selection out a bit. I tell you what, while you’re at it, Tevez ain’t all that, and I’d drop that Ronaldo bloke, he couldn’t hit a barn door – but that’s as many clues as I’m prepared to give you.
Whoever plays, I’ve no doubt Utd will just totally show off by doing something ridiculous like playing football. I guess we could always listen to one of Grant’s team talks for a change, then at least we’d have an excuse for not turning up. Seriously though, I hope it doesn’t turn into a tactical bore with both sides so intent on not losing that they forget where the goals are. Having said that, I really don’t want us getting battered either! We know they can play a bit and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of pacy counter attacks from Ronaldo, with Rooney and Tevez only too happy to finish anything he doesn’t. For us, we can hope to see Drogba’s physical presence causing Vidic and Ferdinand as many problems as possible, with Joe Cole providing a bit of pace coming in and Ballack and Lampard carving themselves out some chances as well. Sadly, Essien’s influence will probably be removed from our midfield, with him likely to take up the right-back position yet again.
Players and game plans aside though, the one thing bound to make many a supporter edgy is good old fate. Remember Jose’s first title for us? – for me that was about more than just the millions – I just knew we were going to win because fate had a hand in it. So for those of us that are a tad obsessional, the fact that it’s 40 years since the European Cup and 50 years since Munich could see us downing a few extra units well before kick-off, just to soften any blows coming our way.
Anyway, onto Moscow it is and the pitch is rubbish, we’re playing as far away from home as they could possibly hope to send us and from all the press I’ve seen lately, Grant’s starting to look like a rabbit caught in headlights again.
Bring it on!