John Terry will never be allowed to forget the penalty miss that cost Chelsea the European Cup but last night his team-mates pledged their support to the man that Frank Lampard described as "Mr Chelsea". The club's captain left the pitch in tears and may never quite come to terms with what should have been the crowning moment of his career.
Unfortunately for Terry, England duty begins tomorrow when he joins up with the national squad, Manchester United players and all, for the end-of-season friendlies. It will not be the best therapy for a broken heart. "You can see what it means to John, he's Mr Chelsea," Lampard said. "He's Chelsea through and through. He wanted this more than anyone at the club. I just want to say not many centre-halves would have stood up and taken the fifth penalty, a penalty of that importance. That's testament to the man. No one at Chelsea will criticise him at all. John's a man's man."
Avram Grant also paid testament to his captain. The Chelsea manager said: "John Terry in the main reason we are here. We had a difficult time and in this difficult time he was there for us. We are sorry for him but he is part of the team. The team played excellent. I'm very proud of them. John Terry was great. He was great all season, in the semi-final, in this game. He is the reason why they didn't create almost any chances in the game. I'm sorry for him and for the team."
Lampard said that he believed his side had "dominated the game". "Credit to Manchester United. They took control in the first half and maybe could have gone more than one up but once we woke up and started playing I don't know how many shots we had. We hit the bar and the post and we were in the driving seat on the penalties until John missed. It's cruel but we know that's football."
Having been through the death of his mother Pat last month Lampard said he was "emotionally drained". The Chelsea goalscorer said: "It's been very tough. I was trying to prepare for the biggest game of my life but it's become almost not that important. I'm just disappointed for my team-mates who have been fantastic for me throughout these times. I wanted to be a part of them winning the Champions League but it's not to be."
And then the winners. Sir Alex Ferguson made it abundantly clear that this will not be his last act as Manchester United manager. "The euphoria drains very quickly from me," he said. "It is there at the final whistle and then it is gone again, I am looking forward to the next season."
The United manager said that it was the first penalty shootout he had won in a final after six defeats. "When we missed the penalty kick [from Cristiano Ronaldo] we thought we were in trouble but I thought we deserved the win," he said. "We had the best chances. In the second half they had more control but in extra time we were better. It's a fantastic achievement."
Ferguson paid tribute to his goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar whose save from Nicolas Anelka's penalty was – the United manager said – "no accident". The Dutchman said that he had no intentions of retiring, rather he believed there would be more trophies with United. His experience of three penalty shootout defeats with the Netherlands had, he said, helped him to prepare for last night.
"It's one of the benefits of having a long career," he said. "I won a final in 1995 with Ajax, and against Juventus in a penalty series. I knew it was hard. It's all about the quality of the strikes from our players. You just have to hope you save one. We were a bit lucky with the slip from John Terry otherwise it would be all over. I slipped for the goal we conceded as well. The feeling of saving that last penalty was immense. This is great.
"You don't necessarily have to be a striker to take a good penalty. I hadn't seen him take one, but the boys from England have done. Life and football can change on small things. If he hadn't slipped, someone else would have been sitting here. I'd been close with one or two. I touched the one from [Ashley] Cole and should have saved that one. But I felt which way Anelka was going. It's been great. Information has been a lot. To win it here... I don't have the words."
Grant said that it was "not the time" for a discussion about his future. "It was a terrific season. I didn't start the league season," he said. "The team wasn't first or second when I received the team. We made a very good recovery. We almost got close. Chelsea have not been in the Champions League final before, so we did a good job this year. Unfortunately we lost the final, but everybody in Chelsea can be optimistic because the team improved the football. We played better than the team whose manager said it was his 'greatest United team'."