Former United defender Ferdinand says all-English clashes in Europe’s top club competition were always the most pressurised matches he played in.
And a classic example was the 2008 final in Moscow, when United skipper Ferdinand finally got his hands on the European Cup having won everything domestically.
Ferdinand has recalled how he was desperate to beat Chelsea – not only to add to his significant trophy haul, but also because the centre-half didn’t want to turn up for England duty at Euro 2008 that summer having lost to United’s fierce rivals.
And it wasn’t just because it was the final – there was always more at stake when playing English clubs in the Champions League than against the likes of Juventus or Barcelona, the United legend said.
“That added pressure to me definitely because I was playing against friends, international friends, friends I’d grown up with,” Ferdinand said, in a Q&A on BT Sport with presenter Jake Humphrey on Tuesday night.
“It made it a much higher pressurised situation because so much more was at stake if it could have been.
“It was tough, it was really tough, because at the end of the day again there was so many bragging rights to be had between us.
“And listen, if we beat someone from Italy, Spain or Germany, you don’t see them really until you play them in a year or two down the line.
“Whereas if you lose to Chelsea in Moscow, that’s folklore, that’s history – that’s there every time you go to their stadium, twice a year if not more, and from the fans that you see.”
Ferdinand was about to move to London when United were preparing to take on Chelsea in the Champions League showdown between the Premier League’s top two sides that season.
Following a tense match which finished 1-1 at the end of extra time, United won 6-5 on penalties, after Cristiano Ronaldo, John Terry and Nicolas Anelka failed to score their spot-kicks.
Ferdinand recalls: “I was coming back to live in London after that so they would have been on me all the time.
“That pressure mounts up so it becomes a crazy, crazy beast before the first whistle has even blown.”
And he said he’d even have considered not turning up for England duty had he been on the losing side.
“You’d have contemplated it saying ‘listen, I’m sorry gaffer, I can’t turn up’, because it meant that much to us, and we all spoke like that before and after the game and we were just fortunate we were the team on the winning side.
“To be fair to the Chelsea players they all turned up, and it wasn’t as though we were going to come in there screaming and shouting with medals around our neck because we weren’t those types of people.
“It was more knowing that the other team had beat us and they were sitting across the table, ‘What are they thinking? What are they saying?’.
‘You just think the worst and they probably wouldn’t necessarily have been like that but you have a lot of mind games that start going on in your head and you create a monster that probably isn’t as big as you think.”