Man Utd determined to join elite club
So Manchester United are just one game from glory - one game from joining an elite band of European football's most successful clubs.
The names rolled off the tongue of Sir Alex Ferguson himself on Monday at his press conference prior to the Champions League victory over Arsenal. "My biggest regret is we haven't won the European Cup more times," he said. "We have a terrific history but it is not the same as Real Madrid, AC Milan, Liverpool, Bayern Munich or Ajax. We have regrets about that."
Real Madrid (nine wins), AC Milan (seven), Liverpool (five), Bayern Munich (four) and Ajax (four) are the members of that special club which Manchester United crave to join. United are not far behind with three wins - in 1968, 1999 and 2008 - and could draw level and maybe even eclipse Liverpool, Bayern and Ajax by the time Ferguson retires.
What's more, if United beat Barcelona in Rome later this month, then the 67-year-old Scot will join Bob Paisley as the only manager to win the European Cup three times.
Barca, of course, will be looking to enhance their own standing as far as Europe's most important competition goes. I was lucky enough to be at Wembley when they beat Sampdoria in the 1992 final. In fact, I was working as a pitch-side reporter for Capital Radio and standing about five yards behind the goal at the tunnel end. Had there been no net on that goal, Ronald Koeman's winning free-kick may well have taken my head off.
It's amazing to think that Barcelona had never won the European Cup until that day. Their quest for success had become an obsession fuelled by Real Madrid's multiple successes. Twice Barca had been beaten in the final; first in 1961 by Benfica but most painfully in 1986, when, in Seville, they missed all four spotkicks in a penalty shoot-out loss to Steaua Bucharest.
When they finally broke their duck at Wembley, the celebrations were wild. I remember being part of a pack of mainly Spanish journalists chasing manager Johan Cruyff down the tunnel in the hope of getting a reaction. Between serene drags on his cigarette, he said a few words with the air of a man who knew his place among the gods was assured.
Barcelona were thrashed by AC Milan in the final of 1994, but notched their second success by beating Arsenal in Paris in 2006. Five finals, two wins. No wonder they are hungry for more.
Unlike Barcelona - and unlike the five clubs whose records Ferguson covets - United have never lost a European final. Nor has their manager, who also won the Cup Winners' Cup with Aberdeen in 1983 thanks to a shock 2-1 win over Real Madrid.
I'm confident this year's final will be a classic game worthy of two great clubs. "Great" but also driven by having something still to prove.