Nemanja Vidic says Manchester United must focus on Barcelona
Nemanja Vidic is certain the tear-stained memories of Rome will ensure Manchester United enjoy the briefest of title celebrations.
United were officially crowned champions for a record 19th time at Old Trafford yesterday.
It was the fourth time in five full seasons with the Red Devils that Vidic had finished number one, his personal contribution marked before the game when he was named Premier League player-of-the-year.
But before the Serbian considers the accolade, or revels too much in getting to collect his first major trophy as United skipper, his focus immediately turned to this weekend's Champions League final, and a burning desire to atone for a disastrous performance in Rome two years ago.
"We are celebrating but everyone is thinking about the next game," he said.
"It is the biggest game of the whole year. We have to prepare as best as we can for Barcelona.
"We know what it feels like to go to the final and lose.
"That match was one of the saddest moments of my career. I am sure all the players will not forget it."
Sir Alex Ferguson has always claimed to know what went wrong at the Stadio Olimpico when, after a bright start, United slumped after Samuel Eto'o had scored against the run of play.
They were well out of the contest before Lionel Messi nodded a match-clinching second past Edwin van der Sar, who will play the last competitive game of his career on Saturday night.
"We know we are facing a very good team and have to be physically and psychologically ready," said Vidic.
"Against this Barcelona team you have to be intelligent.
"They have qualities but we will work on their weaknesses and expose them to try and win the game."
In truth, United have been working the tactics they intend to implement against the Catalans since the title was secured at Blackburn on May 14.
By the time they reach kick-off on Saturday evening, it means Ferguson and coaches Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen will have had a fortnight to work on a strategy to stop Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta weaving the pretty patterns that so often prove destructive.
However, it will have also sunk in with those players who have not experienced it before, that United are a team capable of winning big competitions.
Just as former United trainee David Platt observed in the wake of last week's FA Cup final that Manchester City would get a major boost from knowing they had the capability of seeing any task to its conclusion, so Fabio, Antonio Valencia and Javier Hernandez are aware of it too.
And Vidic knows he can lead a team to glory, not just be in one.
"I was very proud when I was given the captaincy but if you are captain and you don't win a trophy, it is not a great feeling," he said.
"One of our main targets this year was to win the Premier League and go above Liverpool.
"But this is not going to stop. We want to improve and get better."
It seems strange to think now that when Vidic arrived, it was less than a month after United had crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage, they were about to go three years without the title and Ferguson was generally been written off as yesterday's man.
Not any more, although, with Arsenal ending the season so far from glory, Chelsea in the midst of more upheaval and Liverpool not even finishing in the top five, it seems the forthcoming battles will be with the men who had their own parade in Manchester today, seven days before United have theirs.
"I arrived here in 2005 and every year has been getting better," said Vidic.
"It is just amazing. In five years at this club I have won the Premier League four times and am about to play in my third Champions League final.
"It really is a dream."
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