“I was the last to know we’d won. In my house, I’ve got a sequence of pictures of all the lads reacting to Edwin [van der Sar]’s save from [Nicolas] Anelka, and as Rio and Vida and the lads are tearing off, gone, I’m stood there with my arms in the air and my head still down. I hadn’t seen it, didn’t know what had happened, but I just knew that we’d won. Didn’t even think about it. We were European champions.
”Quite a lot of the celebrations are a blur. That’s not because of how much I drank, more down to being drained. The initial celebration when we sprinted from the halfway line, seeing everyone going absolutely mental, lads in their suits going as crazy as the lads who had played, the staff… it was just one of those moments that you can never forget. It was something special.
“But I remember after about a minute or two of going mad, screaming, shouting, jumping around, I just hit the biggest brick wall. I remember seeing my family in the crowd and saying to them: ‘I need to sit down or lie down, I’m finished.’ It lasted maybe 10, 20 seconds, but that’s the only time I’ve ever felt like crying on a pitch. I didn’t know whether to laugh, shout, scream, run around again or just to cry. It was a unique feeling.
”Being us, we celebrated that night, flew back the next day and that was it, onto the next challenge. We won the league again the next year, won the Club World Cup, won the League Cup, almost won the Champions League again. We should have beaten Barcelona in Rome – that’s the one that got away, for me – but that doesn’t change what a special group of players that we had. We were absolutely relentless.”
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