Our journey to the final couldn’t have been scripted better. As one joker said, “Carlsberg don’t do revenge but if they did, it would be knocking out Liverpool in extra time in a Champions League semi”. Never has retribution tasted sweeter.
Indeed, if there is one shared value amongst Man United and Chelsea fans it’s our mutual loathing of the ‘bin dippers’ of Merseyside. It’s not just us either. After the Champions League Final 2007, UEFA came clean with exactly what they thought of the Scouse scallywags leaving Director of Communications William Gaillard to deliver the knock-out punch, “the problems in Greece were typical of the behaviour of some Liverpool supporters during the past four years. They are the worst in Europe”.
With UEFA and Moscow breathing a collective sigh of relief and police leave being reinstated, Chelsea now find themselves pitted against another nemesis, Manchester United. Our rivalry, however, is based only on football and this year’s Champions League Final is set to be something special.
When Chelsea fans think of Cup Finals and Man Utd, our minds cast back to 1994, an event otherwise known as the David Elleray Cup. The Harrow Schoolmaster effectively ruined the game when he awarded the Manc’s a diabolical penalty after Kanchelskis’ dive in the 67th minute. Elleray later admitted in his autobiography that it was the worst decision of his career and has haunted him ever since. It’s haunted us too and our rain soaked exit down Wembley Way still remains a potent memory of that era, softened only slightly by our return to European football in the Cup Winners Cup the following season.
Since then, Chelsea have gradually caught up with United as the most powerful team in English football. Our record against them is as good as any club in the world, summed up by our catennaccio display in the 2007 FA Cup Final when United were cancelled out and then hit with a Drogba sucker-punch in extra time.
United’s poor record in Europe, especially given their status, is testimony to Ferguson’s naïve approach of attack at all costs. This swashbuckling style might sit well with the nation’s football scribes who biasedly drool over the teams’ every pass, but Fergie’s single Champions League trophy in 21 years is a poor return, as he himself readily admits. Indeed, if Carsten Jancker hadn’t hit the bar when it was easier to hit the net, Fergie wouldn’t have won it at all.
Jose Mourinho got it spot on when it was put to him that United were a great attacking side. “No they’re not”, he replied, “they’re a great counter-attacking team”. Jose realised what every continental manager before him had concluded – namely, just sit deep and stifle the life out of United before hitting them when they’re tired later in the game. It might not be pretty but it could well bring the Champions League trophy home to the Bridge. Come on you Blues!