“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
Marilyn Monroe said that, although it may well have been Sir Alex Ferguson after last night’s see-sawing battle at San Siro.
The Reds went behind via a deflection, then levelled courtesy of a gigantico slice of fortune before the break (not since Giggsy's contribution late in the 1999 Champions League final has a United mis-kick been quite so effective). Then Wayne Rooney scored two headers – the second of which he could have brought down and taken three touches before backheeling into the net, such was the lax Milan marking – and United, in the manager’s words, were “coasting”.
Five minutes from time, however, the Reds allowed Clarence Seedorf to steal in and pull a goal back with an outrageous flick. Milan were back in the tie. Oh yes, and there was still time for Michael Carrick to be sent off for the most petty of crimes.
Exciting? Sure. Football at its finest? Yes… and no. The match ebbed and flowed, the pendulum of power swinging from Milan to Manchester and back again more times than Ronaldinho (who, admittedly, orchestrated Milan like a prize puppeteer) went to ground looking for a free-kick. But the excitement – the nail-biting drama and tension football fans only feel a few times a season – was only possible thanks to football’s imperfections.
The 3-2 victory means the Reds are now in the box seat. But make no mistake, Sir Alex would have blasted his players in the dressing room last night for letting Milan back into the tie. Even after Paul Scholes levelled at 1-1 and the Reds were running back to the halfway line, the boss let rip at Jonny Evans. You didn’t need a diploma in lip-reading to work out he wasn’t pleased with the defender over a scuffed clearance moments earlier.
Leonardo, too, will have been apoplectic. After Milan’s early goal, the Italians had United for the taking: nobody could have argued had the Serie A side gone into the break three of four goals to the good. Those wasted chances came back to