Rio Ferdinand has reflected on how a “bet against class” cost him and Manchester United dear in the 2009 Champions League final against Barcelona in Rome.
United had been crowned Champions of Europe a year previously when they beat Chelsea on penalties in the Moscow final, but they were beaten 2-0 by the Catalans in the Italian capital a year later.
Samuel Eto’o had opened the scoring for Barca in the first half, and Pep Guardiola’s side then wrapped up a 2-0 win in the second period when Xavi’s cross over the head of defender Ferdinand was expertly headed in by Lionel Messi.
The centre-back now admits that he had pushed up in the belief that Xavi wouldn’t be able to locate Messi with the cross, but the World Cup winner had other ideas.
“I lost sleep over that many many times,” Ferdinand told BT Sport when reflecting on the game.
“I bet that Xavi couldn’t get the ball over my head from that distance and that’s why I’m glad not a betting man.
“Against lesser players you can gamble but if you bet against class you get punished.”
Barca later beat United in the Wembley final of 2011, and Ferdinand says they were best side he’s faced.
“They were the bane of our lives, Ferdinand added.
“We beat them in semi-final to go to Moscow in 2008 but they got their payback and more in two finals.
“They were the best club side there’s been. They put on a clinic that night at Wembley, we weren’t good enough.
“They were at another level altogether and would have done that to anyone else in that situation.”