Today is the return of the Champions League.
There are several glamour matches in this the first round of the knockout stages of the Champions League. Arsenal v Roma, Real Madrid v Liverpool (two of the three most successful teams in this competitions history) and Chelsea v Juventus. But for me the clash between the defending champions of England and Europe who are currently leading the table in England against the current leaders in Italy is the draw that has me nervous. Inter have won the Italian crown the last two years and have a healthy lead again this year. As do my team in England.
For those of you who don't know me then I will let you know that above Hockey, above even Baseball the sport with the highest place of honour in my heart is Football. Not that American crap where they almost never use their feet. No the real Football. The Football of Pele, Maradona and George Best. The 5th Beatle as he was known. And yes I am a Manchester United supporter. Call me a glory hunter if you would like but my father has been a United supporter since the 50's. In fact I can pinpoint the exact day. May 3rd 1958. That's the day that Manchester United lost the FA Cup final to Bolton. A remarkable final because just months earlier Manchester United's plane crashed while trying to take off from the Munich airport. Several players died in that crash and one of the most promising young teams in the sports history was decimated. Duncan Edwards was killed in that crash and he was only 21 at the time and already considered one of the best players in the world and some people who saw him play saw he would have gone on to become the greatest ever to play. So a team with many of it's stars dead and it's coach in a coma managed to play a match just 13 days after the crash. And several months later they reached the FA Cup final and then lost with 4 crash survivors playing in the game along with a couple of new recruits and some young players called up from the reserve team. My father listened to that game on the radio and cried for days after United lost. And that is how Manchester United got into my blood. He stuck with them through the 70s and 80s when they weren't great and Liverpool were, but now we are the dominant force in England and long may it continue.
So I am nervous today. I am as nervous as a 10 year old at the Neverland ranch when the lights go out. I can't sit still. Manchester United play Inter Milan today in the first leg of the round of 16 in the Champions Leage. It's the knockout stage, you play two game one home and one away and whoever has the most goals wins. And Inter Milan is coached by Jose Mourinho a charismatic leader who stopped United's dominance when he was at Chelsea in England and who always seems to have United's number. And we are without several key defenders for the first game which is in Italy at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza or the San Siro as it is commonly known. This is an intimidating stadium to play in. But we have a ton of experience in this competition. We are defending champions and I am confident we can get a result. A score draw will do nicely. 2 - 2 would be ideal. Then we go back to Old Trafford for the second leg and take care of them on our turf. I can't wait.