By Ben Davies
There’s something that stirs the emotions on hearing Tony Britten’s adaptation of George Frideric Handel’s “Zadok the Priest”. A sense of history, a sense of achievement, a chance of immortality for the players. The music is of course is The Champions League theme music.
Tonight see’s the return of the Champions League after its winter break. A mouth watering tie awaits Manchester United against AC Milan. I really can’t wait; adrenalin causes the blood to pump a little faster….
We last played AC Milan in Champions league in 2007. The first leg at Old Trafford was fairly close with Wayne Rooney scoring a late winner to seal a 3-2 victory. The second leg was a completely different story with Milan winning a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Even with the loss of Ronaldo, United are now a different beast. Back in 2007, the team was relatively new and lacked the experience of Champions League football. We had yet to wrestle the Premier League trophy away from Jose Mourinho’s so lacked the savvy and experience acquired since our recent success. That team was growing; Ronaldo and Rooney had started to show their immense talent which would eventually see us winning the Champions League in 2008.
Currently AC Milan are third in Serie A, nine points behind Inter, although AC have a game in hand. AC’s recent form isn’t the greatest; their previous five games have seen two draws, two losses and a 3-2 victory against Udinese last Friday, which will lift spirits and confidence a little.
There has been a lot of media talk regarding David Beckham playing against this boyhood club and the club he had great success with. Rightly so, Beckham is a true United legend. He had his best days of his career at United and wore his heart on his sleeve. He would run and run for the club he loves. On his return to Old Trafford Beckham will no doubt receive a deservedly warm welcome. I will write a blog solely on Beckham just before the return leg at Old Trafford.
Whether Beckham starts tonight is another matter. As many of you know Beckham has been a recent substitute since AC’s poor performance against their bitter rivals Inter Milan. Pato has returned from injury, so we could see a front three of Pato, Huntelaar and Ronaldinho. In recent seasons Ronaldinho has seemingly shown greater interest in outside activities. However, in this season Ronaldinho has shown a return to form with nine goals and nine assists to his credit. Pirlo is now playing deeper in centre midfield which is something we could take advantage of…
I expect United to start with their typical away European formation. 4-5-1 when Milan have possession of the ball and United are in attack spring quickly into a 4-3-3 formation with Nani and Park supporting Rooney. With Vidic missing through injury, we will see a welcome return of Rio in centre defence with Jonny Evans as his partner.
AC Milan are not the same team of 2007. I am quietly confident of a victory over two legs. I expect tonight to be slightly tougher as it is the away game; I think we’ll see a tight game with perhaps only a couple of goals. It is vital we score an away goal; everyone knows how vital an away goal is. I will be happy with a 1-1 result or even a 2-1 defeat.
The return of Champions League, can’t wait!!