In the 1970s heyday of the BBC’s Holiday programme, when foreign countries were still mysterious, the presenters were forever reporting on locations “of contrast.” Turkey: “land of contrasts”. Barbados: “island of contrasts.” New York: “city of contrasts.” You get the idea. Eventually their locust eye would fall on a buffet and all talk of contrast would cease until the next report, but even the great contrast detectives of the seventies would struggle to find much difference between this season’s Chelsea and Manchester United. Foreign-owned, star-packed, formidable but flawed, you could shuffle the teams like Sir Alan shuffles Alpha and Renaissance and not detect any significant changes in strength or quality. Post-game, of course, there’ll be contrast a-plenty, which will spill over into the Premier League holiday season, with nervous luxury villa owners wondering if they’ll be getting the “gutted” Ashley Cole kicking their furniture to splinters or the “Words can’t express how I feel” version of the same player showing his delight in generous tips. The Holiday programme may be gone, but at least it has left a valuable remedy for the shock of defeat – a good buffet should do it.
Ten reasons why Manchester United will win:
1. Manchester United are unbeaten in this season’s Champions League.
2. They have also kept clean sheets in all of their last five games in the competition.
3. No team from London has ever won the Champions League – clubs from the North West account for seven of England’s ten successes.
4. Manchester United have been to the final of three previous European tournaments and have won on each occasion.
5. The last four first-time finalists – Arsenal, Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and Valencia – have all lost which doesn’t bode well for Chelsea.
6. They have only failed to score in two games from December onwards while Chelsea have failed to on five occasions.
7. Manchester United won both the Premier League and the Champions League in 1999, showing they are capable of winning the double.
8. They have only lost one game all season while Wayne Rooney has been on the pitch – the FA Cup quarter-final to Portsmouth.
9. Throughout this season, whenever Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in two straight games for Manchester United, he has gone on to score in the third.
10. Didier Drogba has only ever scored once against Manchester United in eight games.