Talking Sport with Neil Trainis
PUBLISHED: 19:04 14 May 2008 | UPDATED: 12:40 11 August 2010
2006 Getty Images
THE meeting of two of English football s superpowers in the European game s showpiece has not delighted everyone but it may have given those sitting at the top table of the domestic sphere reason to smile. For Richard Scudamore, the man who attempted to o
THE meeting of two of English football's superpowers in the European game's showpiece has not delighted everyone but it may have given those sitting at the top table of the domestic sphere reason to smile.
For Richard Scudamore, the man who attempted to orchestrate the Premier League's commercial expansion across the globe with proposals of playing top flight league fixtures in far-flung cities, the 2008 Champions League, he anticipates, will bring reason for vindication.
As Sir Alex Ferguson and Avram Grant prepare their players to achieve European distinction it is difficult to escape from the uneasy feeling that their clubs have symbolised more than any other the descent of English football from a sports domain to a money-making business empire.
Football purists may be forgiven for groaning when the semi-finals were resolved and Barcelona had been pragmatically outmanoeuvred at Old Trafford.
After all, the ejection of the side most neutrals wanted to see take to the field at the Luzhniki Stadium, for the delights of Lionel Messi's sublime fleet-footedness as much as anything else, robbed the famous old tournament of the kind of flair, invention and artistry which could have made the Moscow final revered in decades to come.
That is not to say Manchester United and Chelsea will fail to produce an intensely exciting clash but the occasion between two clubs, whose domestic rivalry is set to be replicated on the most glamorous club stage of all, is sure to be more rip-roaring than leave any techno football enthusiasts open-mouthed in awe.
That will be of little concern to the Premier League's chief executive who, having had to bear the brunt of scathing criticism from leading figures in the game over his plans to give much of the rest of the globe a taste of English football's top flight, may now be looking on with a degree of smugness as much as pleasure.
Scudamore, along with those within the administration of the game, will no doubt realise that while a first ever European Cup final contested by two English teams is not any sort of blueprint for 'game 39', it could prove to be prophetic for any revised version of the idea coming to fruition.
Whether Manchester United versus Chelsea has captured the imaginations of folk on the streets of Moscow is debatable and whether it proves to be a precursor to Liverpool versus Arsenal in New York or Blackburn Rovers versus Everton in Dubai remains far-fetched.
Yet if the game generates the thrills the 2000 version failed to, when Real Madrid reduced the all-Spanish Champions League finale to anti-climax by dismantling Valencia, then Scudamore and his backers may be able to take solace from the fact that this season's fixture has given world football's supervisors a nudge in the ribs to remind them that their vision is not dead in the water.
He will perhaps watch the final with a sense of apprehension as much as enjoyment in the knowledge that trouble between Manchester United and Chelsea supporters could inflict irreparable damage to any attempt to resuscitate his plans to stage English fixtures across other continents.
For the rest of us, however, the hope is that Manchester United reach the attacking heights they have scaled at times this season while not stifling the game out of all existence with a defence that conceded a measly 22 goals on the way to the Premier League title.
Equally one hopes Chelsea can muster the free-flowing football Grant insisted he would bring to Stamford Bridge in the aftermath of José Mourinho's departure and, in the absence of technical vivacity, play their part in a final to be remembered for years to come.
As the game approaches what is clear is that in the hours leading up to the kick-off and the few hours after the final whistle, the eyes of many with varying vested interests will be fixed on Moscow.
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