United supporters hit the bar... if only Sir Alex's men had come so close

Ticketless faithful drown their sorrows at home as heroes sink to final defeat
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The Independent Online

Standing at the centre of the pitch last night in Rome, head bowed, arms crossed, face set in quiet disconsolation, Sir Alex Ferguson did not look like the Godfather of football, as some call him. But then, if Parts I and II of his European trilogy, in Barcelona 10 years ago and Moscow just twelve months back were masterpieces in the art of drama, suspense and ultimately triumph, perhaps it's true to form that the eagerly awaited Part III would be a little bit rubbish.

Back in the motherland over a thousand United fans gathered in a giant marquee by the Sam Platts pub in the shadow of Old Trafford to roar on their team. But they soon had the wind knocked out of their sails when Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o poked home after just 10 minutes.

Supporters unable to get their hands on the 20,000 tickets allocated to United fans instead downed shots of sambucca as the game got under way. The marquee was organised by the Manchester United Supporters' Trust, who were determined to create a Roman holiday atmosphere for the unlucky fans not able to travel to the final.

The trust set up eight huge venues all the city, charging fans £5 a ticket to pay for licensing and hiring giant screens. More than 1,000 supporters filled up the famous Palace Theatre, which usually hosts musicals and plays but last night was taken over by raucous supporters. Another 400 filled Copper Face Jacks bar next door.

Trust vice-vhairman Sean Bones said: "This could have been another great chapter in the history of Manchester United but it was not to be. We watched the match in the shadow of our famous club's iconic ground and thank the manager and the players for getting us so close to bringing home more glory."

Kenny Doran, 21, jetted over from Dublin to watch the game at Sam Platts. He said: "This has been a night to remember. I was thinking where to watch it – I could have put my feet up at home but that wouldn't have been the same. I wanted to say I watched the game by Old Trafford."

He stood next to lifelong fan Steve Savage, 44, from Manchester, who showed how much the club means to him by sporting a T-shirt bearing the legend: "And on the sixth day God created Manchester United." On the back it simply read: "Manchester United, Created In Heaven."

Wearing a centurion's helmet, Steve, an IT worker, said: "I started going to games in 1974 and haven't missed a home game since.

This club means so much to me. Barcelona were amazing and it is no disgrace to lose to a side like that."

Pensioner John Wear, 64, from the Wirral, Merseyside, still remembers the 1958 Munich disaster and the tragic loss of the Busby Babes. He said: "Nights like this prove how United have come back from that tragedy and are now the biggest and most loved club in the World. I'm so proud to be a United fan."

Meanwhile United-crazy Pole Anthony Wysniewski, 24, carried an inflatable Champions League trophy with the dates of previous wins – 1968, 1999, and 2008 written in pen on the side. He said: "I had my pen handy to write in 2009 when the time came. Now I will have it ready to write 2010 next summer. This is our competition and it won't be long before we win it again. I thought our lads played fantastically well. They were lions out there but we just had no luck."

Hundreds of fans in United kit spent the afternoon outside Old Trafford, visiting the club shop and waving flags. Cars with pendants hooted their horns as they passed the stadium. After the match, proud supporters still flocked to the ground – and still had the voice to sing their team's name under the bronze statue of Sir Matt Busby.