I was fortunate enough to get hold of a spare ticket to the Milan game after all. 🙂
Every time United get through to the knockout stages of the Champions League I eagerly watch the draw, hoping we’ll draw one of the big teams – Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or AC Milan. I’ve seen all of these at Old Trafford over the past few years, except for AC Milan who we somehow always avoid. I’ve wanted to see AC Milan since watching their great team of the 80s: Maldini, Rijkaard, Baresi, Desailly, Gullit and of course Van Basten.
Unfortunately I never saw that particular line-up, but there were still some impressive names in tonight’s squad: Cafu, Nesta, Maldini (still doing the business at age 36), Costacurta, Nesta, Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa, Kaka, Crespo. The only absentees of note were ex-United legend Jaap Stam, who injured himself in the warm-up, and Shevchenko. 🙄
There was another huge anti-takeover protest before tonight’s game and I arrived just as they were crossing Chester Road. They were in fine form, setting off flares and shouting anti-Glazer chants as they slowly marched down Sir Matt Busby Way. I don’t know how many fans were involved but it took a good ten minutes for them to cross Chester Road. As I watched from outside Quick’s Ford I found myself being shoved into the crowd by mounted police and suddenly I was part of the protest! 😯
I thought Greater Manchester Police handled it badly by trying to contain and break up the demonstration before it reached the forecourt. Dozens of mounted police – and even a van – were used at the rear to keep the crowd moving forwards. Meanwhile, at the front of the protest, people were being stopped by a wall of police and channelled through small gaps as they tried to confiscate large banners. The resultant crush in the middle of the crowd could easily have ended up like Hillsbourough – when will they learn? 👿
Anyway, on to the game. I thought it was a great contest: Milan’s calm, passing style and the way they were so comfortable in possession was offset by United’s direct counter-attacking style whenever we won the ball. It really could have gone either way. United had several good chances, with Paul Scholes and Quinton Fortune closest to opening the scoring.
As the game went on it looked like it was going to end goalless, which would have been a fair result and would set things up nicely for the return leg. Unfortunately Roy Carroll made a hash of a straightforward save midway through the second half, allowing Crespo to pounce on the rebound and give Milan an important away lead in the tie. I think that could be the last we see of Roy Carroll for a while. 🙁
We can take a lot of credit from the performance though. I thought Fortune, Keane, Brown and Ferdinand all had outstanding games tonight but I have to question Fergie’s tactics again for taking Ronaldo off when we needed an equaliser. 🙄