Michael Carrick celebrates with the Champions League trophy in 2008.

Carrick's memories of a magical Moscow night

Wednesday 01 April 2020 12:41

It’s 12 years since one of the greatest nights in Manchester United’s history: our Champions League triumph over Chelsea.

After a season-long battle for top spot in the Premier League, the Reds and Blues faced off in Russia to decide the outcome of another trophy.

Much like the title race, it was Sir Alex Ferguson’s men who ultimately overcame the Londoners that night in Moscow, and, speaking exactly a decade on, Michael Carrick reflected on the most memorable match of his career.

"The build-up for Moscow almost began a year earlier,” he said in 2018. “We’d won the Premier League in 2006/07 and if you'd asked me beforehand, I'd have expected to have the best summer ever after that.

“Instead, we lost the FA Cup final to Chelsea and that taught me a lesson: it doesn't matter what you've done, it's the next thing that counts. All summer, I just couldn't get it out of my head that we'd lost a cup final.

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"I forgot about winning the league. So when we reached the 2008 Champions League final and we were facing Chelsea, after we'd just won the league, it was a similar scenario. I knew the feeling it left after the FA Cup final and, in some ways, that was my biggest motivation.

“I was not going to let that happen again. We took the occasion in our stride and played the first half of the game perfectly. It went as well as it possibly could and, after Cristiano [Ronaldo] scored a brilliant header, we should have been two or three up before Petr Cech made a good save from me. If I'd put it either side of him, then it was in, but it was too straight.

“Chelsea then scored right before half-time and that changed the course of the game. It was galling but looking back, the way we won it, perhaps makes it more memorable.
"Chelsea had the better of the second half and extra-time was very even so, at that point, you start to think about penalties. I started trying to get my head around taking one. Knowing how important it was and everything it meant, it was just a case of trying to simplify it. When extra-time finished and it came to it, I thought: 'This is the time.' I was almost testing myself. 'What have you got?' If I shied away from it and said no, I'd regret it. I knew I had to step up. Now or never.

"I went second, after Carlos [Tevez]. I jogged from the halfway line because the walk would have taken too long! I knew what I was going to do, where I was going to put it and, thankfully, Cech dived the wrong way. That was it. I was just flooded with sheer relief, overcome by that sheer release of emotion after knowing that it's gone in.

"After that, we were in trouble. Cech saved from Cristiano. I watched every penalty until JT [John Terry] stepped up for his. If he scored, then we'd lost. I don't know why, I just thought: 'I've got to do something different here,' and I started looking at the floor. It worked!

"I didn't see another penalty after that. I just relied on the reactions of the lads. I had Rio [Ferdinand] and Vida [Nemanja Vidic] next to me, their arms draped on my shoulders, virtually silent. You might get the odd word or two spoken, but there's just so much tension, so much emotion, so many nerves. I'll be honest, it's a horrible, horrible feeling. The whole penalty scenario, until you win, is a disgusting feeling.
Head down, Michael couldn't watch the penalty shootout in 2008.

"I was the last to know we'd won. In my house, I've got a sequence of pictures of all the lads reacting to Edwin [van der Sar]'s save from [Nicolas] Anelka, and as Rio and Vida and the lads are tearing off, gone, I'm stood there with my arms in the air and my head still down. I hadn't seen it, didn't know what had happened, but I just knew that we'd won. Didn't even think about it. We were European champions.

"Quite a lot of the celebrations are a blur. That's not because of how much I drank, more down to being drained. The initial celebration when we sprinted from the halfway line, seeing everyone going absolutely mental, lads in their suits going as crazy as the lads who had played, the staff… it was just one of those moments that you can never forget. It was something special.

"But I remember after about a minute or two of going mad, screaming, shouting, jumping around, I just hit the biggest brick wall. I remember seeing my family in the crowd and saying to them: 'I need to sit down or lie down, I'm finished.' It lasted maybe 10, 20 seconds, but that's the only time I've ever felt like crying on a pitch. I didn't know whether to laugh, shout, scream, run around again or just to cry. It was a unique feeling.

"Being us, we celebrated that night, flew back the next day and that was it, onto the next challenge. We won the league again the next year, won the Club World Cup, won the League Cup, almost won the Champions League again. We should have beaten Barcelona in Rome – that's the one that got away, for me – but that doesn't change what a special group of players that we had. We were absolutely relentless.”

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