Edwin van der Sar knows better than most how difficult it is to retain the Champions League trophy.
The Dutchman was part of the Ajax side that lifted the cup in 1995 before losing the following season’s final to Juventus on penalties. In fact, since the competition’s inception in 1992, no team has won back-to-back European titles.
Now, however, van der Sar believes United can make history as the Reds gun for glory in Rome.
“I think this side is better equipped than Ajax was in 1996 to retain the trophy,” Edwin said.
“[That year], we had loads of injuries and a lot of young players who had to fill gaps left by older players who had injuries and suspensions.
“I think we have a bigger chance and we’re better equipped to deal with those scenarios.”
If United are to reach this season’s final, the Reds will need to overcome an Arsenal side who have lost just twice in their last 28 games.
But despite the opponents’ familiarity – the two teams have met more than 200 times – van der Sar says there’s no danger of the players treating Wednesday’s tie as “just another league game”.
“When you see the Champions League logo and hear the music before the game you know it’s something special,” he said.
“It’s not just another league game. This is a semi-final. There’s no question that the stakes are high and we want to reach Rome. Both teams will be doing everything they can to be there.”
For United, the Reds’ stopper says that means – preferably – winning at home on Wednesday night without conceding. It’s a task Sir Alex's men are certainly capable of, although Arsenal will arrive at Old Trafford confident of scoring after seeing fellow North Londoners Tottenham Hotspur put two past United last weekend.
“Nobody was happy with the way we conceded on Saturday,” van der Sar revealed.