Manchester United won the Champions League final against Chelsea this week in 2008 – the 40th anniversary of their first European triumph.
The 2008 UEFA Champions League Final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium was a unique mixture of milestones and firsts for Manchester United.
It was 40 years since the Red Devils became the first English club to win the European Cup and the 100th anniversary of their first ever league championship.
More poignantly, it was 50 years since the Munich air crash that claimed the lives of eight of the legendary Busby Babes.
It was also the first European Cup final to be played in Russia and the first all-English club final in the history of the competition.
The final against Chelsea in front of 67,310 fans on a wet Wednesday night in Moscow certainly had a lot to live up to!
And it didn’t disappoint. The game went to the knife-edge of penalties after the teams were locked at 1-1 at the end of extra time.
No-one will ever forget the drama of John Terry hitting the post when he had the chance to win the game for Chelsea – or the sheer relief of Edwin van der Sar making the winning save from Nicolas Anelka.
Little wonder that the Manchester players – and the thousands of travelling fans – erupted in joy as United finally won 6-5 on penalties in the pouring rain.
More than 17.5 million TV viewers in the UK and Republic of Ireland were delirious too.
Hundreds had packed into Manchester pubs and clubs to take in the match. They included Coronation Street stars Steve Arnold, who played Ashley Peacock in the popular soap, and Alan Halsall (Tyrone Dobbs).
Back in Moscow, United fans unfurled Red Army banners in Red Square before making their way to the Champions’ Festival before the big match.
An estimated 25,000 fans flew to Moscow from the UK. The Russian tourist office said many may have been put off by the cost of travel and accommodation.
It didn’t help that most of Moscow’s hotels were full on the night of the game.
There were problems with the pitch too as the Luzhniki Stadium used artificial turf to cope with the cold Russian winter.
UEFA decreed that the final had to be played on natural grass – so the authorities were forced to ship in turf from Slovenia.
The new turf was laid over the existing surface so the pitch ended up being 35 cms higher than normal. It had to be relaid twice as patches had died in transit.
The match kicked off at 22.45 Moscow Time to allow for European TV schedules. Extra time meant it became the first Champions League final to start on one day and finish the next!
The first goal came in the 26th minute when Ronaldo headed in a Wes Brown cross. United pressed for a second, but it was Chelsea who scored next on the stroke of half time.
A long-range shot from Michael Essien was deflected off Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand into the path of Frank Lampard. The England midfielder made no mistake with the simple finish.
Chelsea were reduced to 10 men in extra time when striker Didier Drogba was sent off for slapping Vidic in the face.
With the score tied at 1-1 after extra time, the game moved to penalties. First up for United was Carlos Tevez who sent Chelsea ‘keeper Petr Cech the wrong way.
Michael Ballack scored for Chelsea then Michael Carrick netted for United with his first kick of the game. Juliano Belleti levelled for the Blues.
The first miss came from United scorer Ronaldo. He stuttered on his run-up and Cech saved.
After that, penalties were converted by Lampard and Ashley Cole for Chelsea and Owen Hargreaves and Nani for United.
It was all down to skipper John Terry to score the winning penalty for Chelsea. Drogba should have taken the kick – but he’d been sent off.
The central defender measured his run-up but his foot seemed to slip just as the ball was struck. It was all square – and time for sudden death.
Anderson converted the first penalty for United and Salomon Kalou scored for Chelsea. Ryan Giggs scored too and then came Van der Sar’s save from Anelka. It was all over.
United had won the European Cup for the third time in their history.
It must have brought back wonderful memories of the 1968 European triumph at Wembley for Bobby Charlton and his team-mates.
Just like 2008, United were level at 1-1 with Benfica at the end of normal time. But no penalties were needed as the Red Devils scored three in extra time to win 4-1.
Charlton scored two on the night in the 53rd and 99th minute, with the other goals coming from George Best and Brian Kidd.
The victory marked the culmination of a decade of rebuilding after Munich – and the players’ thoughts that night were firmly with their team-mates and colleagues who lost their lives.
They would never be forgotten.