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Thursday, 25 December 2008

That Was The Best Manchester United Moment From 2008

manchester united blog john terry penalty miss champions league moscowThere was a great deal to savour in last season's Champions League final – so why is the abiding image of John Terry's slip as he took his penalty in the decider, and the ball's subsequent skid off a post to what Manchester United hailed as safety and Chelsea gloomily accepted as oblivion?

It was not, after all, the end of the story; but for Nicolas Anelka's subsequent failure to beat Edwin van der Sar, the decider might have gone on long beyond 1.34 on a Moscow morning. Yet, because Terry seemed the very heart of Chelsea, the driving force through a campaign that only notionally had been led by the Israeli coach Avram Grant, his miss stuck in the mind.

We have witnessed previous instances of icons falling short from 12 yards. To name just a few who comfortably outrank Terry, Michel Platini, Zico and Socrates frustrated in the magnificent 1-1 draw between France and Brazil in Guadalajara, Mexico, during the 1986 World Cup (France won the decider but lost limply to the Germans in the semi-finals) and watched Franco Baresi and Roberto Baggio clear the Brazilian bar at the end of the goalless 1994 final in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile you could imagine Cristiano Ronaldo winking. The young man destined to pick up just about every trophy going in 2008, individual or team, might himself have proved the focus of anguish for, after putting United in front with a gorgeous header and proceeding to torment Michael Essien, he had his penalty saved by Petr Cech. Anderson and Ryan Giggs then kept United alive until the time came for Anelka.

The Frenchman had declined to take a kick when Grant was asked to nominate his initial five. A 115th-minute sub after Didier Drogba's dismissal, Anelka had not felt ready to face Van der Sar. Yet he had been on longer than Anderson, whose penalty had raged past Cech.

Penalty deciders may not be football, but they are drama. At first you wonder if the victims will ever get over it. But they do. Zico, surely one of the greatest players never to win a World Cup, has seldom been out of work as a manager. Gareth Southgate, whom Terry Venables so heart-warmingly ran to console after his miss ended Euro 96 for England, is making his way at Middlesbrough.

Terry's tears have dried in next to no time – though you may see a couple more if redemption comes at the end of this season.

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