Champions League

United vs Chelsea: The 2008 Champions League Final Revisited

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The 2008 UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester United and Chelsea was a whirlwind. In honor of the 13th anniversary of THAT night in Moscow, allow me to share my childhood experience watching the final.

13 Years on From that Fateful Champions League Final in Moscow

The final took place on Wednesday, May 21st, 2008 and I was a hot-headed 10 year old that LOVED football. My older brother and I came rushing home from school to make sure we didn’t miss the final. By that time, the game had already gone to extra time. I missed most of the action, but I was still thankful to have caught the dying moment of the game.

Here’s the thing; he is a HUGE Chelsea fan, and I support Manchester United– so the game meant so much. We watched it through the smallest TV ever imagined, but were grateful to be able to witness the final live. I remember the penalty shootout and not feeling nervous at all, just lying on the ground, hands in my head, watching everything unfold. It felt as if I was watching a movie, not the biggest game in European club football. 

I understood the magnitude of the match, but I still felt calm. I remember catching the post-game highlight show, seeing all the rain pour down as Cristiano Ronaldo leaped like a salmon to head the ball past Petr Cech and give United the lead. Frank Lampard then equalized for Chelsea, dedicating the goal to his recently-deceased mother. After the match went to extra time, an altercation between Didier Drogba and Carlos Tevez resulted in the Ivorian receiving a sending-off, as the final reached a tipping point with both sides trying their hardest not to bottle the game. It was a tense affair. In fact, you could cut the tension with a knife.

Didier Drogba getting into an altercation with the opposition in the Champions League Final between Manchester United and Chelsea.
MOSCOW – MAY 21: Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United and Didier Drogba of Chelsea are restrained after a scuffle breaks out during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium on May 21, 2008 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Then, came the climax. I remember John Terry stepping up to the penalty spot and thinking, “if he scores this, Chelsea will win the Champions League, and my brother won’t let me hear the end of it.”

Thankfully- as everyone knows- John Terry slipped while taking the penalty, and his spot-kick hit the post. Cristiano Ronaldo- having just missed his penalty also- wore his emotions on his sleeve, going from ecstatic to sorrowful in a matter of seconds. His penalty kick was too predictable. He did a stuttering run-up that did not faze Cech one bit, and the Czech Republic international saved it with ease. 

In a year when the Portuguese had the season of his United career- scoring 42 goals in all competitions and winning the Barclays Premier League- his miss could’ve cost us the final.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates their goal in the Champions League final vs Chelsea.
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – MAY 21: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates his side’s victory through the penalty shootout during the UEFA Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium on May 21, 2008 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

Everyone was shocked by Terry’s slip. That should have been his moment of glory as Chelsea captain, but it wasn’t to be. The likes of Anderson, Ballack, Kalou, Giggs, Carrick, Belletti, etc, scored their penalties, and it got to a point where someone had to miss. Missing a penalty kick is not fun- and I say that from experience. Step forward, Nicolas Anelka. 

In the words of Ray Hudson, Anelka stepped up looking as cool as a cucumber, but he instead became a casualty. The Frenchman directed his penalty to Edwin Van Der Sar’s right, as the Dutchman leaped to save Cristiano Ronaldo’s blushes and help secure a win for the Reds in the 2008 UEFA Champions League final- a third in Manchester United’s illustrious history.

The 2008 UEFA Champions League final was a whirlwind. I witnessed many critical moments and felt a wide array of emotions despite tuning in late. I am just thankful to have seen the win at all because, nowadays, supporting United is match-after-match of Sturm und Drang. There are far too many ups and downs!

Even though 13 years have passed, I still cherish the memory. The feeling of triumph feels sweeter when you overcome so much. I use the term rollercoaster to encapsulate that last hour of the final that we witnessed. That rollercoaster ride has, in turn, carried on even today. United had a chance to finish the Premier League season in second place AND win a Europa League final in about a week, luckily- it has turned out to be the former.

The United side that dominated Europe does not look the same anymore, but that’s just how the dice rolls sometimes. We have had our highs and lows, but ultimately, we learned to enjoy the journey and appreciate a Champions League final win.


Hope you enjoyed this piece on the biggest stories from this weekend’s European football action. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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"I eat, sleep, and breathe football. I'm not mad, I'm just passionate" — Thierry Henry