Glory Days: The 2008 Champions League final
On 21 May 2008, Manchester United became kings of Europe for the third time, overcoming Chelsea in the first-ever all-English Champions League final, in Moscow.
The Reds prevailed 6-5 on penalties after Frank Lampard had responded to Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener in normal time, with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar proving to be the hero in the shoot-out, saving Nicolas Anelka’s penalty.
Two of the Reds who featured in Russia have shared their recollections of that dramatic night in Moscow, starting with Nani, who struck home United’s fifth penalty, with his side trailing 4-3 after Ronaldo had seen his effort parried away by Petr Cech.
“I just thought: let’s not invent anything,” remembered the Portuguese – who had to score to keep Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the contest – when asked about his feelings on the walk from the centre circle.
“Let me choose one corner and hit it strong, and normally players can hit [it more strongly] when it’s across [the goalkeeper], but he nearly caught the ball! So I was lucky.
“It looks very relaxed but it's not like that! It's a lot of pressure. But if you ask me, 'Did you have confidence?' Yeah, I was confident to score that penalty.
“Obviously, one part of your body will shake a little bit, you are a little bit nervous, and Cech was so big in the goal that it made you a little bit more nervous. But, thank God, everything at the end went okay.”
Despite Nani successfully withstanding the intolerable pressure and converting from 12 yards, Ronaldo’s earlier miss meant Blues captain John Terry had the chance to clinch a first-ever European Cup for his side.
Famously, the centre-back slipped in his run-up – it was a sodden night at the Luzhniki Stadium – and his effort grazed the outside of the post, sending the shoot-out to sudden death.
For Wes Brown, sat on the United bench, that signalled a turning of the tide and a ‘name on the trophy’ moment, similar to the one Teddy Sheringham’s goal had provided in Barcelona nine years earlier.
“It was horrible. We all know John Terry was going into take that penalty,” Wes told MUTV Group Chat.
“I was probably thinking the worst, but after that, a little bit like ’99 when we scored, the adrenaline just changes and I thought: 'We’ve got this now, Edwin is going to save one.' But yeah, it was nerve-racking.
“It was hard to watch. I was so nervous and I wasn’t even on the pitch by then, so I don’t know what it was like for the lads.
“It must have been horrendous, especially with Ronaldo missing. You must think 'this is it', to be fair. They have got good penalty takers. But you always believe, don’t you? And we eventually got there.”
Memories of MoscowGallery
Ahead of tonight's Match Rewind stream, relive our glorious 2008 Champions League triumph via 17 ace pics.
Substitutes Anderson and Salomon Kalou hit the back of the net to make it 5-5 before Ryan Giggs – making his 759th appearance for the club, a new record – restored our advantage.
Within four strikes of the ball, the contest had completely flipped – from Terry trying to win it, Anelka now had to score just to keep the Blues alive.
Thankfully, for millions of Reds across the globe, he didn’t – cue maniacal celebrations from all involved, including Wes.
“Yeah, [it was] mayhem,” Brown added. “I remember my knee was swollen straight after because I smacked into the [advertising] boards.
“Oh my God, it was crazy. It was a very late game if I remember. The party probably didn’t start until late if I’m being honest, well from the bits I can remember anyway, but it was very good.
“It was different than in Barcelona. There wasn’t as many fans about, as in around the hotel and stuff, but still it was a fantastic achievement.”
While our homegrown defender may have been able to celebrate getting his hands on the famous old trophy for a second time, Moscow capped off a fine debut season for Nani, who unsurprisingly counts it as his crowning moment for the Reds.
“To win the Champions League in my first season was amazing because it was all new for me.
“I started winning trophies so easy. Not easy, with all due respect to other teams, but it looks easy, because every competition we won!
“It was like six or seven trophies [actually three – Community Shield, Premier League, Champions League], I don’t remember. And the second season we continued to win.
“The best moment was the Champions League with Man United. We knew the importance of that competition and it was [better because of] who we won against too.”
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