THE OT 100 NEWS

29/01/2010 09:00, Report by Steve Bartram
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OT100 #79: Little Italy

United bowed out of the 2002/03 Champions League at the quarter-final stage, but Old Trafford retained involvement in the competition - staging the Final on 29 May 2003...

The Background:

A barometer of Old Trafford's status as the pinnacle of English club football stadia came in December 2001, when UEFA decided that the Theatre of Dreams would host the 2002/03 Champions League final, seeing off strong challenges from Madrid's Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and Paris' Stade de France. England would stage its sixth final - the first away from Wembley Stadium - but United's quarter-final exit to Real Madrid meant no English presence. Instead it was an all-Italian affair between AC Milan and Juventus.

The Occasion: The Champions League's first ever final between two Italian sides promised much, but ultimately delivered little more than a masterclass in the art of defending. The two star-studded sides were too wary of each other's abilities, and tactics suffocated talent throughout 120 lacklustre minutes of normal and extra time. Rossoneri striker Andriy Shevchenko rightly felt hard done by to see his goal incorrectly chalked off for offside, but the Ukrainian had the last laugh. When a penalty shootout finally provided some drama - and

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What The Papers Said

"The staging of this all-Italian final enhanced the old cotton town's standing as a great sporting city. Getting on for a year after the Commonwealth Games worked as a kind of Viagra for the northern soul, Piccadilly Gardens, in the centre of the city, mutated into a Little Italy of competing passions."
Paul Hayward, The Daily Telegraph

"The build-up had been one of great anticipation. Manchester this week has once again been a centre of celebration and atmosphere. Football bringing together locals and Italians with one thing in common, enjoyment. If only it had been Manchester United walking out. The frustration is that United know that they can beat both of these sides when it matters most."
Brian Woolnough, Daily Star

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