Almost every Manchester United fan of a certain age can answer the question of where they were when Edwin van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka’s penalty on that sodden May night in 2008; it’s simply a memory that will never leave the mind. The Dutchman’s save, on the second round of sudden death penalties against Chelsea in that year’s Champions League final sealed a third European Cup for United in Moscow, and it will surely go down in history as one of the classic moments in the club’s storied history.
The former Ajax, Juventus and Fulham goalkeeper, back at Old Trafford for Sunday’s annual Soccer Aid game between England and a World XI, spent some time recounting that magical night in Russia with ManUtd.com:
“I had a long career and people always talk to me about Moscow, but that gives me no irritation whatsoever. It was a magical moment for myself, for my club Manchester United, for Holland, for my parents, for my family, my wife and my kids so, of course, it doesn’t bother me at all.”
United’s former no.1 offered this on the save from Anelka’s spot-kick that secured the European Cup: “I went to the right. The ball came to the right too. This one wasn’t in the corner. This one was an easy save. It comes towards you in that moment, it touches your hands and goes out.
I’m quite collected but I stood there and the guys are coming towards me. There are those three or four seconds on your own, when you see them coming and then…
“WHAM. Everything happens then.
I think Ronny (Cristiano Ronaldo) collapsed on the pitch. Wazza (Wayne Rooney) touched a couple of the guys then jumped over the boards. The rest of the boys were on top of me. I still have some great pictures with (Darren) Fletcher, (Michael) Carrick and Anderson.”
United’s European Cup triumphs each hold a special place in the hearts of United fans, purely because they’ve become so iconic; ’68 in Wembley, a decade on from the Munich air disaster, ’99 and those stoppage time heroics at Camp Nou, and ’08 in Moscow in the pouring rain. United may have struggled to reach the summit of European club football since, losing two finals to Barcelona in 2009 and 2011 since, but they still remain deeply indebted to the Dutchman for his work that night.