Hargreaves: Moscow shootout was mental torture!
On the latest episode of the UTD Podcast, Owen Hargreaves reveals what was going through his mind when he stepped up to take a penalty against Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final shootout.
The former England international walked up to the spot with the pressure firmly on him, after Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty had been saved by Petr Cech.
“Basically, all the Chelsea boys I had played with pretty much my whole life,” he recalled. “Joe Cole, Wayne Bridge, Ashley Cole, John Terry... they were [in] my England Under-21 team. Ballack was with me at Bayern [Munich] for years.
“I remember walking up and thinking: those idiots are going to tell Cech that I’m going top-left.”
Hargreaves explains how he wrestled with conflicting thoughts as he approached Cech in the Chelsea goal.
“As I’m walking up I’m thinking: I’m definitely going top-left. And [then]I think: Cech looks massive in the goal! It’s weird how your brain plays tricks on you.
“So I thought: I’ll just go bottom right. As I got up to put the ball down I thought: this is a terrible time to be experimenting. Just smash it top left and if he saves it, he saves it. He’s in a Champions League final too for a reason.”
Our then no.4 fired his penalty beyond the giant Czech goalkeeper and United went on the win 6-5 in the shootout, following a sublime save from Edwin van der Sar to deny Nicolas Anelka.
Reflecting on his penalty, Hargreaves believes that his experience of previous shootouts stood him in good stead to remain level-headed and deliver when it mattered most.
He said: “My whole career was basically decided on penalty shootouts. The first Champions League with Bayern Munich we won on penalties. With United we won on penalties. And in the three major tournaments I went out [of] with England, one was Brazil where we got knocked out, and the others were penalties against Portugal twice, in ’04 and ’06.
“I had been on two winning sides and two losing sides, and I had been there mentally in those moments, and I understood that.
“You can see [the pressure] on the boys that go up there, and it’s normal to have that because you’re not sure of the outcome. But you’ve got to give yourself the best chance [by thinking] positively.
“After being in those experiences a lot, I was able to control my thoughts and, at 26, I was able to keep positive.”
Listen to the full episode of the Owen Hargreaves UTD Podcast here.