Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand admits 2009 Champions League final still haunts

11 May 2011 03:58
ShareRio Ferdinand has never watched the 2009 Champions League final but images in his mind remain as vivid today as they were when he was going through the whole shattering experience.

No-one, from Sir Alex Ferguson down, remembers the Rome showpiece with any fondness. Going into the match as favourites, Manchester United were ambushed by a Barcelona side that has gone on to be hailed as one of the best ever.

It is not something Ferdinand has ever felt like revisiting. But he realises it is unavoidable in the build-up to a Champions League final rematch on May 28.

United we stand: Rio Ferdinand admits the hurt of the 2009 Champions League final hasn't left the squad

'I have never watched 2009 again,' he said. 'But matches like that are hard to forget. It is clear in your head. If you want to sit and think about games like that they come up quite easily. It is like bringing something up on the internet.

'I have rerun it in my head a few times and we just never played. We weren't Manchester United. On the way back we were sitting there thinking "if only we had gone out and been the real Manchester United, it would have been different".

'They always say you don't want to come off the pitch with any regrets. There were regrets that night. 'This time we will give a better account of ourselves.'

The pledge is earnestly made and delivered with the conviction that some kind of plan can be worked out to deny Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi the space they revelled in at the Stadio Olimpico.

Formidable: Barcelona's Lionel Messi is likely to play the role of tormentor-in-chief once again

If he can recover from the virus that ruled him out for five weeks, the solution may revolve around the midfield industry of Darren Fletcher, who was missing in Rome through suspension.

Sir Alex Ferguson has already declared an intention to use all the remaining time to get Fletcher fully fit. And Ferdinand understands exactly why.

'Darren can run ridiculous amounts during games,' said the 32-year-old. 'Park Ji-sung is the only person who could rival him running-wise. That says a lot. He covers a lot of ground, gets at people and can score important goals. He gets the crowd going and is an integral member of the squad. It will be great to have him back.'

Missing man: Darren Fletcher was sent off in the 2009 semi-final and couldn't play in the showpiece

Fletcher is certainly not the type to stand off in admiration. He has succeeded in getting under Arsenal's skin often enough in the past to believe he can do the same to Barcelona and destroy the 'aura' Ferdinand accepts has grown around them.

Redemption: Ferdinand hopes to finally put the painful memories behind him at Wembley

'We had that,' he said. 'You would stand in the tunnel before the match and feel the game was already won. But that won't happen with us. We have experienced players who have played against a lot of great teams. When we look around our own changing room, it instils you with confidence.'

Before taking on that task, United have their 19th Premier League title to wrap up, which they aim to do at Blackburn on Saturday.

Given there are two weeks before their European engagement, it would seem unlikely Ferguson will start resting players just yet and even in their final game against Blackpool, United have enough players within their first-team fold to put out a very strong line-up.

Certainly, the chances of Ferguson filling his team with youngsters is reduced considering the Blackpool encounter falls between both legs of the FA Youth Cup final, which United are aiming to win for a record 10th time.

Tangerinesboss Ian Holloway will not be expecting any favours, even though Ferguson has already declared the charismatic Holloway to be a success.

'Theyhave been a breath of fresh air,' Ferguson told Inside United. 'In the first half of the season they were often scoring two and three goals away from home and really attacking teams. Their manager has a great philosophy and they have done well.'

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Source: Daily_Mail