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13/01/2010 12:08


Chris Conlan on Real Madrid 2003

North Stand regular Chris Conlan recalls a seven-goal thriller in Europe...

Champions League games against the top European sides are always special but this was something else. It had everything: great goals, the world’s best ref [Pierluigi Collina] and an electrifying atmosphere - United fans at our best.

I watched from my usual seat in North Stand Tier 1 and despite us being 3-1 down from the first leg, everyone around me believed we could win the overall tie. A 2-0 win or a victory by three clear goals would do it - easy! My optimism quickly began to evaporate though when Ronaldo (the other one) put Real ahead on 12 minutes.

Ruud [van Nistelrooy] gave us hope just before half-time as did Ivan Helguera when he put through his own net after the restart. But either side of that Ronaldo completed a stunning hat-trick and Old Trafford rose as one to applaud him when he was substituted. That was a moment of real class from the United fans.

A frustrated David Beckham came off the bench to make a point to Sir Alex Ferguson with two goals, but in the end it was a mountain too high to climb. Real Madrid, and Ronaldo in particular, were just too good for us.

The dream of reaching the 2003 final on home soil had gone, but I still felt a strange sense of elation at having witnessed a match that encompassed absolutely everything.


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