Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand captained the club to their 2008 Champions League final triumph over Chelsea, the last time the club lifted the famous trophy.
It was a moment that made the defender finally feel like he belonged alongside Old Trafford legends like Sir Bobby Charlton, but it also came with a significant regret in the way the club didn’t really celebrate.
United and Chelsea were the two strongest teams in Europe at the time and it was a fitting final.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-half header was cancelled out on the stroke of half-time by Frank Lampard to finish 1-1 in 90 minutes. Lampard hit the bar in extra-time, while Didier Drogba was also sent off in the additional period for slapping Nemanja Vidic.
Ronaldo, having scored 43 goals in all competitions, actually missed in the shootout. That presented John Terry with a chance to win it for Chelsea, but his infamous slip saw him strike the post instead. After Anderson, Salomon Kalou and Ryan Giggs all scored theirs, Edwin van der Sar’s save to deny Nicolas Anelka secured United a 6-5 win and their third European Cup.
Ferdinand was due to be next to take a penalty had Anelka scored. But he has admitted in the latest episode of James Richardson’s Kings of Europe podcast that his legs were ‘gone’ with nerves.
“We hadn’t had a set list of who was taking them and what numbers. We got to penalties and the manager asked who wants to take one. I vividly remember Patrice Evra saying, ‘I don’t want one’,” Ferdinand recalled of the rainy night in Moscow.
“I was after Giggsy. When Giggsy took his penalty and I thought Anelka would go up and score his, the closer it got to me, the more I lost my legs. I really don’t know how I would have got from the halfway line and down to the penalty spot without crawling. How am I going to kick the ball like this?
“I was gone, seriously. It was just crazy what it does to you because of the enormity of the occasion and I allowed it to get to me too much – God knows what would have happened to me if I’d had to go up and take a penalty.”
Ferdinand was the only United player to start more than 50 games in all competitions throughout the season, with the Champions League final his 51st. With club captain Gary Neville also sidelined with injury for most of the campaign, he wore the armband regularly.
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