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Hong Kong Soccer Sevens

Manchester United legend Wes Brown reflects on winning Champions League in Moscow, 10 years on

Monday marks the anniversary of the night when United beat Chelsea to claim the second Champions League title of Alex Ferguson’s reign

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 10:52pm

At the start of last season, a picture of Manchester United’s starting XI lining up ahead of the 2008 Champions League final went viral.

With 10 players greyed out following Wayne Rooney’s return to Everton, just Michael Carrick remained in a red shirt, the last player left at the club to have played that night in Moscow.

So when Carrick walked off the pitch and into retirement to a standing ovation at Old Trafford last weekend, it was the end of an era.

Monday marks the 10-year anniversary of that night, when United beat Chelsea on penalties to win their third European Cup, and the second Champions League title of Alex Ferguson’s reign.

Another member of that team, Wes Brown, may have “turned grey” much sooner than Carrick – he left United for Sunderland in 2011 – but his memories of the occasion are still vivid.

“I was in two Champions League finals in my career, but to play in that one was brilliant,” said Brown.

The 38-year-old is still going strong playing for Kerala Blasters in the Indian Premier League. He’s in town for the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens with the Playon Pros team – an initiative that was created to give current and ex-professionals the chance to save for their futures and build a life outside of the game when many find it difficult to adapt.

But next week, Brown’s mind will surely turn to what was the crowning achievement of his career.

A centre back by trade, Brown had become Ferguson’s first-choice right back that season following a serious ankle injury to club captain Gary Neville, and he acquitted himself well, forming an effective partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo down the right wing.

But on May 21, 2008, Ferguson started Ronaldo on the left, sensing he could exploit Michael Essien, Chelsea’s defensive midfielder who was playing right back that night.

The plan worked perfectly – Ronaldo pulled away from Essien in the 26th minute to rise high and head home Brown’s pinpoint cross from the right for the opening goal.

“We managed to do the double that year, but also for me personally, it was a brilliant year,” said Brown. “It was a season where we had a really good team, a really good squad, very strong players.”

Reflecting on Carrick’s retirement, and the symbolic end it signifies for that great United side, Brown smiles.

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“Yeah, that’s how it goes, that’s football,” he says. “I was in a good few teams in my time at Manchester United. But that team was a special one. Such good players – in defence, midfield, attack. All throughout the team.

“That bench would probably get on and start in many 11-a-sides, even today. It’s good to look back on it now and realise what a great achievement it was then.”

Ferguson himself is obviously no longer in the United dugout, either. And there has been an outpouring of well-wishes this month after a brain haemorrhage left the 76-year-old in intensive care.

Few at Old Trafford will have had as close a relationship with the Scot as Brown, the Longsight lad who came through the club’s academy ranks.

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Ferguson rated Brown as “the best natural defender in the country” when fit. Had it not been for a catalogue of serious injuries, including cruciate operations on both knees, a broken ankle and muscular issues, Brown would likely have been at United a lot longer.

“Of course, yeah, it’s obviously not good when you hear stuff like that,” said Brown of Ferguson’s health problems.

“But from the operation that he’s had, I’ve heard he’s pulling through, so it just takes time to recover now.

“All the best wishes go out to the family and we hope he gets better soon.”