Date: 23rd February 2009 at 9:34am
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I don’t know what’s this with our defence before European knockout ties. Last season Hargreaves played at right-back in both legs against Barcelona to cover for Brown who’s been drafted in to the centre because of Vidic’s injury…

The season before we had no Vidic and Evra in Rome while in the second leg Ferdinand and O’Shea both picked up knocks. Still, United progressed on both occasions despite all the injury problems so we’re entitled to be optimistic as we’re contemplating a Rafael-Carrick-Ferdinand-Evra back four at the San Siro.

‘I have to find two centre-backs somewhere,’ Fergie said. ‘It’s a nightmare.’

It is indeed, a recurring old nightmare: I feel exactly like before that fateful night at, you guessed it, the San Siro. In the 2007 semi-final United were up against AC Milan, city rivals of Inter and were forced to field a back four of O’Shea, Heinze, Ferdinand and Evra at Old Trafford. Somehow we squeezed through with a 3-2 win, playing some devastating attacking football to compensate for the defence’s horrible lapses.

But then we were turned over at the San Siro. That game was special in one sense: we had Vidic available for a vital European knockout game! But that came at a price as Rio Ferdinand had to be left home. Now Brown was at left-back, the increasingly erratic Heinze played on the left with Evra suspended and O’Shea did his best on the right.

We all know how this makeshift defence, with the half-fit Vidic, coped against a rested and fresh AC Milan: pathetically, giving away unbelievably cheap goals in the first half. Thus we had been dumped out of Europe but at least they went on to beat the Scousers in the final.

I’d rather forget that game but as I contemplate the threat of Adriano and Ibrahimovic the memories of that night keep popping up…