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Roma 0 United 2

The potential for chaos was written all over this game, both on and off the pitch. The Roma players would be wanting to avenge last years exit, whilst the Roma fans and local police have an anything but friendly relationship with United fans. Luckily for us we came out of this game with a huge advantage ahead of the second leg, and were in one piece too.

The day started at 5am on our way to Heathrow terminal 5. After a week of headline news coverage we wondered if our flight would take off, but luckily we made it it to Rome by mid morning, checked in to our hotel and headed off to collect our tickets. United cleverly decided to make each travelling fan to make their fan to a spot in the middle of nowhere away from the main station and city centre in order to get a match ticket. Crazy. We all produced our vouchers, passports, travel details etc to get the tickets and then managed to cheat our way into collecting a few more in other people’s names (with their permission!) for others to use. 

With tickets in hand a group of about 10 of us made our way down the famous Spanish steps in the hot sunshine and found a nice spot to eat. The restaurant was a regular hang out for the Roma players and so we spent our meal being wound up by Roma supporting waiters who were travelling to Manchester for the second leg and having to stare at all the team photos on the wall. Along with one of Joe Calzaghe! After a good meal and a quick stroll around the fanous shopping streets it was football time.

The local police had organised buses to take Reds to the stadium. To their credit this worked well and we were led in a large police escort from the outskirts of Rome straight into the away end. No Italians to stab us in sight, and once through the 3 security checks, 2 tickets checks and passport check there were no more police inside the ground. What a contrast to last year when the United side of the barrier was lined by baton wielding animals looking for any excuse to have a go.

As time went by the away end did not seem to fill up. From talking to other Reds it seems many did not travel, and that many others did not manage to collect their tickets as they were in other people’s names. Perhaps after last year many just did not fancy it again, especially with it being the third time in a year we have played there and with flights being so expensive at Easter. I would guess by kick off we had around 2500 in 3200 seats at the most. The home fans were passionate and loud before the game, with the flares and firecrackers going off, and the huge flags waving behind the goals. It is seriously intimidating and loud for visiting teams to play against, which made United’s win even more impressive.

United started slowly, and Roma’s movement off the ball was fantastic. It seemed we were off the pace and intimidated by the atmopshere, but little did we know it was a deliberate ploy by Ferguson and all would be revealed soon. United were truly magnificent at the back with Rio Ferdinand playing an absolute blinder. When you keep a clean sheet, admittedly riding your luck at times, you just need some inspirational players at the other end to score the goals. Ronaldo and Rooney certainly offer that and both had wonderful games. For all those who said the winger cannot deliver in the big games, just watch this game again. As Martin Samuel wrote in The Times, “Noted small-game player Cristiano Ronaldo set Manchester United on the way to an entirely meaningless Champions League semi-final with a not-at-all brave header against the completely useless second-best team in Italy in the benign atmosphere of the dilapidated cowshed that is the Olympic Stadium. There, that should please them.”

When the final whistle had sounded the wave of emotion was fantastic. What a result. There were two big negatives though. Firstly, an injury to Vidic that seems to be serious and may keep him out for the rest of the season. Memories came flooding back of this time last year when we lost a defender a game through April leaving us to face Milan with a make shift side. And secondly our continuing phase of missing too many chances. We should have scored more goals in this game especially looking at Ronaldo hitting the post, Carrick’s volley wide and then the last minute volley by Ronaldo after a superb Tevez cross.

We had two hours to discuss these matters and more after the final whistle sounded as we were not allowed out the ground. At least we had won and at least it was warm, as standing there after midnight it did get quite boring. Especially when you’ve been up for so long. But you cannot complain after watching a game like that, and the constant singing passed the time. Vivia Ronaldo. Eventually we were piled back on to buses and taken back to the city centre by 1am. No trouble awaited, the police behaved, our travelling fans were impeccable and the players did us proud. We came, we saw and we conquered.

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  1. birchy :: April 3rd, 2008 9:09 am

    great write up and great news about there being no trouble from fans or police. lets hope they continue like that for all visiting teams.

    fingers crossed vidic isnt out for long

  2. Sarthak :: April 3rd, 2008 7:16 pm

    Brilliant piece Oli.

    Great to hear everything went well, and that you guys weren’t in much ‘danger’ per se.

    Fantastic result, Roma seemed deflated in the last 10-15 mins of the game

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