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 at Old Trafford, 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, although he realises it is unavoidable in the build-up to their Champions League final rematch on May 28.
“I have never watched 2009 again,” he said. “But matches like that are hard to forget. It is clear in your head.
“If you want to sit and think about games like that they come up quite easily. It is like bringing something up on the internet.
“I have rerun it in my head a few times and we just never played. We weren’t Manchester United.
“On the way back we were sitting there thinking, ‘if only we had gone out and been the real Manchester United, it would have been different’.
“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.”
United may have a tough job stopping Barcelona, and Alex Ferguson has already declared an intention to use all the remaining time to get Darren Fletcher fully fit for the game. And Ferdinand understands exactly why.
“Darren can run ridiculous amounts during games,” said the 32-year-old. “Park Ji-sung is the only person who could rival him running-wise. That says a lot.”
“He covers a lot of ground, gets at people and can score important goals.”
Fletcher is certainly not the type to stand off in admiration. He has succeeded in getting under Arsenal’s skin in the past to believe he can do the same to Barcelona and destroy the “aura” Ferdinand accepts has grown around the Catalans.
“We had that,” he said. “You would stand in the tunnel before the match and feel the game was already won.
“But that won’t happen with us. 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 still have their 19th Premier League title to wrap up, which they aim to do at Blackburn on Saturday by securing at least the point they need.
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 very 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 Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved