Beating Roma last year was one of my most magical experiences at Old Trafford. After the horrific goings on in the away leg, with the police beating the shite out of our fans, it felt as though justice had been done when we humiliated them so badly.
On the way to the ground, reports came in on the radio about the Roma ‘Ultras’ stabbing our police horses, and confronting the police. As we walked closer to the ground, we could see that trouble was brewing. Police vans were parked all along the road, with police on horses walking up and down between the crowd. The Roma fans were fenced off, but they weren’t shielded from the larger cans and bottles which kept being hurled in their direction. We were all haunted by the dreadful images of bleeding men being clubbed over the head, and we had all read the stories of women and children being attacked.
What the police were able to stop the fans from doing before the match, our team managed to do on the field. We absolutely murdered them.
Less than six months have gone by since our 7-1 victory over Roma and tonight we are facing them again. It could be said that out of all the teams in the competition, Roma are the ones we least wanted to face. Whilst our lads will walk out on the field tonight hungry for a win, our desire to pick up three points won’t come close to Roma’s need to redeem themselves on the European stage. They are going to be up for this one, and I have a feeling we could live to regret the mocking “Totti, what’s the score?” chants from the last match.
We will be without Van der Sar due to his injury in the first half of the Birmingham game, meaning Kuszczak will make his Champions League debut. In the fourteen full matches he has featured for us, he has managed to keep five clean sheets. His impressive save following Rio’s deflection on Saturday will have gone far to instil some faith in him from the fans.
Vidic and Brown are doubtful after picking up knocks at the weekend, however, with little more option than O’Shea, Pique and Bardsley to fill in, I imagine one or both of them will be in the starting line up. Defensively, we have been superb this season (on paper at least) and regardless of the injuries, we’ll be wanting to keep solid at the back. Fortunately, the added bonus of Hargreaves, who may be starting tonight, should help with that department.
All European games are tricky, and you can never take any opponent for granted (just ask Roma after they came to Old Trafford after a 2-1 victory over us at their place), particularly not an opponent who desperately seeks revenge. They come to Old Trafford on the back of a 4-1 drubbing at home against Inter Milan, so an early goal for us may be enough to force them in to the depths of despair.
Something feels very right about the European Cup this year, and the sooner we can top the group and get on to the next round the better. Here’s to picking up all three points against Roma.
Do you think we will win tonight? Or will their revenge hunting be enough to steal the points for them?