So, the draw for the Champions League has thrown up Manchester United for the quarter-finals and if I’m honest, my immediate reaction to that was ‘fuck it’. Not because I’d rather we’d drawn Real Madrid or Barcelona obviously (I’d have preferred Schalke to be honest) but because I still have nightmares from the last time we played United in the Champions League.
The image of a sobbing wreck on the turf that the opposition still piss themselves over, still pains me and I’m not wholly convinced our captain is ready for a re-run of 2008 yet. In fact mentally, this has been one of our worst seasons for a long time and with United already having the upper hand on the psychological front, I’m just not sure we’ll overcome that.
It goes without saying our players will come out in the press full of all that ‘revenge’ stuff but talking a game and actually playing it are two very different things. If ever we had the chance to win the Champions League, it was that night in Moscow – when John Terry stepped up to take his penalty after Ronaldo missed his – and we all know what happened there.
Of course, the fact that it was Nicolas Anelka’s incredibly lame penalty that ultimately saw us lose out to United, has always been forgotten – seemingly even by the Chelsea captain himself, which is all the more reason to worry really. I just have a horrible feeling this will be a game of personal grudges rather than the focus being on a team performance and the minute we lose our heads, the game is theirs.
United, on the other hand, go into this game knowing they came away with the trophy last time round – a position they’re not unfamiliar with anyway – so this won’t be a performance borne out of desperation from them. Of course, they don’t have Ronaldo or that horrible Argie midget this time but that hasn’t stopped them getting themselves in a position to take the Premier League title off us this season, so I’m sure they’re not too worried about that.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have let a few players go – experienced Champions League players – and with David Luiz ineligible and Fernando Torres yet to find the net for us, we just don’t feel as strong as we were 3 years ago.
I suppose the one thing we have in our favour that was missing in Moscow was a decent manager. Yes, we got to the final with Avram Grant but for me, that was in spite of him rather than because of anything he actually did (I’ve still never worked out his exact role during his spell in the job if I’m honest). This time though, we have Carlo Ancelotti, a man with experience of winning the Champions League on his CV – but whether or not that experience will influence what will be a very personal battle, remains to be seen.