Sunday 22 April 2018

Ferdinand has sights fixed on consigning pain of Rome loss to ancient history

Simon Stone

Rio 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 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.

"I have never watched 2009 again," he said. "But matches like that are hard to forget. 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.


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.

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

"Darren can run ridiculous amounts during games," said the 32-year-old. "He gets the crowd going and is an integral member of the squad. It will be great to have him back."

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.

"That won't happen with us," he said. "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 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.

Irish Independent

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