Moments that made 2008: Champions League final

Manchester United v Chelsea, 21 May, Moscow: Abramovich endured the mother of all wedgies from the football gods and there was nothing he could do about it

It is the lesser details of the great games that begin to elude you as the months and years go by, the little things that give the big occasions their character, and in Moscow on 21 May 2008 there were so many of them. The Champions League final was a hell of a lot more than John Terry's penalty miss or Didier Drogba's red card – it was an epic of blood and rain and a Russian billionaire with his head in his hands. It was a bloody great game.

The things that come back to me from that match are not always the obvious moments. Like Rio Ferdinand's karate-kick style challenge on Joe Cole with four minutes to go that should really have been a penalty had Cole not been too honest to go down. Cole stayed on his feet and this great tumultuous piece of theatre just kept on going into extra time, into the next day in fact. They started on 21 May, they finished on 22 May.

Remember Ryan Giggs' shot headed over the bar by Terry in extra time? In that split second, as Giggs took aim, it seemed obvious – this was how this game was supposed to finish, decided by a goal from the most successful footballer in the history of English football. Then Terry somehow got it away and the narrative ploughed on. To the point when Terry had a penalty to win it and at last you thought some kind of pattern had been imposed on events. Except it hadn't, so there was another twist, the ending elusive right up to Nicolas Anelka's penalty being saved.

No one would try to argue it was a beautiful game, but it was a brilliant game. A rapturous celebration of English football in the rain, given a gritty edge by the fact that Moscow had felt like a pretty dangerous place to be all week: hotel lobbies full of cigarette smoke and the guests getting frisked for weapons. Then Roman Abramovich, who must get practically whatever he wants in his home town, had to watch while the football gods gave him the mother of all wedgies – and there was nothing he could do about it.

Another great moment? When Paul Scholes got a bloody nose from Claude Makelele, dabbed at it with a tissue and came back on. Or when Terry pretended to wipe his mouth on his sleeve so the referee could not see him giving Carlos Tevez a mouthful of abuse. Manchester United dominated the first half, Chelsea came roaring back after the break.

It is not often that you see a game like that because it is not often that two teams have the character to keep picking themselves off the canvas to have another go.

After United had won and were lining up to receive the trophy you could see Sir Alex Ferguson talking to Edwin van der Sar, making a point about something, jabbing the air with his finger. He seemed to be saying, "I told you such and such would happen," and watching him, I thought to myself: "Does this bloke ever stop?" It was Ferguson's triumph, above all: five years after Abramovich arrived in England with his billions and he had seen the Russian off in his own backyard.

I came home on a United club flight with Fergie's sons and grandchildren – a charming bunch – who sang United songs all the way home. You could see then that Fergie's natural energy is obviously written in the genetic code of his family. The rest of us piled out of the aeroplane at Manchester airport shattered but asking the big questions. Will we ever see a match like it again? What was Peter Kenyon doing collecting a medal? Can we do it all over again next May?

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
Sport
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker