Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand opens up on 2008 Champions League Final pressure and Ronaldo penalty pain

Matt Davies
AFP via Getty Images

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand says the pressure to beat Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League Final was astronomical, adding that losing would have been "torturous".

The game - contested in Moscow - was the first all-English final in the history of the Champions League, with the rivalry between the two clubs particularly strong as United had just pipped Chelsea to the Premier League title by a mere two points.

United came out victorious 6-5 on penalties after the match finished 1-1 in normal time, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nicolas Anelka failing to score their spot-kicks before John Terry's infamous slip sealed the tie.

Speaking on BT Sport, Ferdinand told of his desperation to get his hands on the trophy, partially as he had won everything possible domestically with United but also because he couldn't face losing to Chelsea.

The Blues had the likes of Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Joe Cole in their team, all of whom were his friends and international team-mates.

To compound the pressure, England were due to face the USA at Wembley just a week later in preparation for the 2008 European Championship. For Ferdinand, it was simply a must-win game.

"That added pressure to me definitely because I was playing against friends, international friends, friends I'd grown up with," he said.

"It was tough, it was really tough, because at the end of the day there were so many bragging rights to be had between us and listen, if we'd beaten someone from Italy or Spain or Germany, you don't see them fans or hear from them really, until you play against them in a year or two down the line.

"Whereas if you lose to Chelsea in Moscow, that's folklore, that's history, that's there every time you go to their stadium, twice a year if not more and from the fans that you see.

"I was coming back to live in London after that, they'd have been on me all the time so that pressure mounts up. It becomes a kind of crazy, crazy beast inside before the first whistle is even blown."

Fortunately for Ferdinand, he didn't have to face the torture of showing up to England training after coming out on the losing side. The 41-year-old stated there were no absentees among the Chelsea players, however.

"The feeling of having to turn up with England after that game, being on the losing side, would have been torturous, would have been horrendous," he added.

"You'd have complimented saying 'Listen, sorry gaffer, I can't turn up', because it meant that much to us.

"We all spoke like that before the game and after the game, and we were just fortunate we were the team on the winning side.

"To be fair to the Chelsea players they all turned up. It's not like we were going to come in there screaming and shouting with our medals round our neck because we weren't that type of people.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed his penalty in the shootout (Getty Images)

"But it was more the fact that knowing the other team had beaten us and they were sitting across the table."

Ferdinand also revealed quite how much pain Ronaldo felt after missing his penalty.

He said: "Cristiano ... this was a big part of it. He had an unbelievable season, player of the year. I think he was world player of the year that year as well.

"He missed his penalty - you don't see the pictures but when he [Petr Cech] saved it, he just laid on the floor crying because he knew how important it was and that he'd missed his penalty."

BT Sport 3 will show highlights of the classic 2008 Man Utd v Chelsea final, on Friday 10th April, 7pm.

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