This time last year Rio Ferdinand sat in the dressing room after Manchester United's Champions League triumph and pledged with his teammates they would enjoy the magical moment again. For Moscow, read Rome, the opposition is Barcelona not Chelsea, but that same silver cup is the prize within reach tonight. Ferdinand says the emotions of the United players after the penalty shoot-out success against Chelsea encapsulated why his club are now the dominant force in English and European football - and the players were already planning their return to the final.
"When you looked around the changing room, it was telling that people were thinking about it," he said. "Now we are only one step away from getting back to where we were last year. It was a dream to come back, but it's become a reality because of the players and the people I have got around me. "When I was a kid growing up I would set myself targets for the next season. That is the way I am now and you can't be any different at this club. The past has shown that anyone who rests on their laurels here or thinks that they don't need to achieve anything else hasn't tended to be around very long. If they are in that mind frame then they are gone.
"We want to be part of a team that goes down in the history of this club." Ferdinand, 30, is desperate to play his part at the Stadio Olimpico with a calf injury unlikely to prevent him lining up against the Spanish champions. He admits he does not like watching his team from the sidelines - nor does he want to suffer the same heartache as the Chelsea players did last May. "To lose a game in the Premier League and even in training is a killer," he said. "I've lost FA Cup finals and semi-finals, so I know what it feels like to lose, but the magnitude of this - the European Cup final - is huge. You don't get many opportunities in finals like this, so I'd like to think we do not taste what it's like to lose.
"I don't care how the game goes. It would be nice if it was a great game with loads of skill and stuff, loads of goals for us, but at the end of the day people don't remember it for being a great final. People remember the winners." Ferdinand added: "As long as my team are winning I couldn't care less. When I lose, my mum and dad can't get hold of me for days; I won't speak to them. "They will text me and say that they know I am upset, but just want to say hello. I just won't have it; I am just a bad loser.
"I can't help it. It was like watching the Wigan game [the 2-1 away victory in United's penultimate game of the season]. They scored first and all their fans were turning round and giving it this and that towards where we were sitting. "Then we scored and I was, like, the loudest person in the directors' box. So when we scored the second goal I just got up and left. "I had to because if I had gone nuts and they had scored again I would have been so embarrassed. So I just went straight out, got in my car and drove home. I kept the radio off and texted one of my mates to see if we had held on and won. I am a bad watcher, a bad loser, the lot. I am getting worse because the stakes are so high. Every game we play here is a pressure situation."
Victory tonight and it will mean four trophies for United this season. But, apart from a loss on penalties in the FA Cup semi- final with a weakened side against Everton, they have stood up to every major test. Defensively, United have shown their mettle when it matters most and their attack, led by the pace of Cristiano Ronaldo, has the ability to tear any team apart. Ferdinand says: "Against high-class opposition like Barcelona, there's no room for six or seven out of 10. We've all got to be playing at our peak to make sure we get a result.
"But I think in the massive games, when the pressure's on and it's the be-all and end-all, we've produced and hopefully we can achieve that again this time. "Porto away [1-0 in the quarter- final] was a huge result, we knew we needed to keep a clean sheet. "Arsenal home and away were big performances defensively, not just the back four, but the whole team and that's been the key. If we can do that, we know we've got the players who can score.
"I think we are the best counter-attack team in the world. Barcelona will be wary of it. They will know that if they have loads of possession then they had better do something with it because if they don't, we can punish them." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Manchester United v Barcelona, KO 10.45pm, ART Prime Sports and ART Sport 4