Chelsea v Manchester United: Ancelotti ready to gain redemption
For a few minutes yesterday Carlo Ancelotti joined his Chelsea players in a gentle warm-up before training.
Fantacising you are a player once again must be a common daydream for those former pros who turn to management, particularly when a big game such as a Champions League quarter-final is on the horizon.
And particularly when you work for someone as capricious as Roman Abramovich, knowing that your job could end with the next untimely defeat.
Tonight's visit of Manchester United marks Ancelotti's 100th game in charge of Chelsea, quite an achievement in its own right given the frequency of the changing of the guard under Abramovich.
The chances of Ancelotti staying at Stamford Bridge for another century look a lot slimmer than he did in his Chelsea tracksuit.
While victory in the first leg of this all-English Champions League quarter-final would strengthen his case, there is a perception that Ancelotti has not done enough to prevent the season from unraveling. Redemption could yet come in the Champions League — an escape route that he has taken before.
The precarious nature of management is something to which
Ancelotti has grown accustomed. “We have to look forward — to another 100 games. My aim is this, but for the manager the aim is to reach the end of the season,” he said.
Ancelotti lives for these seminal games, even though they aren’t as much fun as they used to be.
“I prefer it when I was a player. Every player wants to play this kind of game,” he said.
“Obviously there is pressure because we want to win, but my emotion is this — happy to be involved in this game.”
The task facing Ancelotti's team this evening is a familiar one — trying to overcome the collective talents of Manchester United. The two clubs have shared the Premier League trophy for the past six seasons and contested the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow, when Ferguson's side won 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.
Ancelotti has six victories to Ferguson's two when the pair have gone head-to-head as managers, but while domestically Chelsea can claim parity with United in recent years, their record in Europe ultimately falls short. United have won two Champions Leagues; Chelsea have none.
Ancelotti was brought in to break that run, as was £50m striker Fernando Torres.
Ancelotti defended Torres yesterday, but would not be drawn on whether the club's record signing will start.
“He doesn't have a problem. I want to support the player if the moment is not so good. I am happy with Fernando's performances,” he said.