Europe News

Moscow, Money and Sexy Football

Red square may be surrounded by the Russian military, but inside things are very calm. Manchester United and Chelsea fans look relaxed ahead of the biggest game in English football history. Maybe it's the fact that they are standing at the once fulcum of communist ideology. Or that nowadays the world famous GUM shopping centre has a lot more opulence than Chelsea's King's Road can muster. What Lenin would think is probably not printable on this web site.

But so far so good. No signs of trouble anywhere. In fact the unhappiest people around seem the be the local muscovites who blame the 50,000 English fans for bringing their horrible weather with them. Moscow is overcast and rainy. The locals are also not pleased by the fact that many roads have been closed by the police.

After spending the day talking to many Russians it seems the Abramovich effect is working. The Russian billionaire who owns Chelsea seems to have converted many muscovites into Chelsea fans. But that cannot completely overshadow the huge global support that Manchester United have. In red square the Reds (funny enough) must have outnumbered the Blues 2 to 1. Maybe the Chelsea fans decided against cultural gratuity and headed straight for the bars to try some decent Russian vodka.

If they are, I am jealous. I am currently stuck in a good old fashioned traffic jam. At least I have the company of Bertie Ahern the ex-prime minister of Ireland to keep me company. Even if he is a big Manchester United fan.

It may well take another hour to get to the ground. But once there I can get a good look at the pitch that is currently causing so much controversy. The Luzhniki stadium actually has a plastic pitch so to keep UEFA happy the Russians have had to import turf from Slovakia. I am not sure why it had to come from Slovakia but at least the Slovakian referee will be happy. He's on home turf!


Okay this is it. In the stadium now and despite the running track around the pitch it is impressive. And for all the pre-match concerns so far the Russians have done a very efficient job. But the pitch does look a little rough.

But this is a huge stadium and as I type the Manchester United fans are in full voice waving their scarfs in the air and singing their songs. The air is crisp. Let's hope the football is too ...


Half time. And it's amazing the game is a draw at 1-1. Manchester United were by far the better team in the first 45 minutes. A conservative view is they should be 2-0 up. Will Tevez rue that miss. Of course Ronaldo, the golden boy of European football, gave United the lead with a crisp header. And after that Chelsea seemed shell shocked. United kept the ball and created chance after chance. But right before half time confusion in the United box and their was Frank Lampard to slot home. I admit I am in corporate seats and when Chelsea scored myself and a CNBC colleague were the only ones who jumped up. Manchester United fans really do have global support.

So what about the second half? Can Chelsea play that badly again? Will United's confidence be hit? I am a bag of nerves. I fear my heart is in for another rough ride as the players come out for the second half. Beer anyone? Please ...