They will take the High Road and they will take the Low Road, and Manchester will be a sea of Blue when Rangers face Zenit St. Peterburg at the City of Manchester Stadium at the UEFA Champions League Final on May 14th.
One of the international shocks of this season was to see King Oliver Kahn and his Bayern Munich team mates demolished in the City of the Czars 4-0 in the 2nd leg of their semi-final at the Petrovsky Stadium, built on an island in the River Neva. It was no fluke, with some beautiful goals by a team coached by Dutchman Dick Advocaat, who won the treble with their next opponents Rangers FC a few seasons back. Backed by GAZPROM with annual sales of over $30 billion, they can only get better. www.fc-zenit.ru.
It was 25 years ago that a Scottish club won a European trophy when Aberdeen coached by an up and coming coach called Alex Ferguson won the Cup Winners Cup by beating Real Madrid aet 2-1 in Gothenburg.. Rangers hold the world record for the number of national titles, 51, and cups and it was 1982 , on their 100th anniversary, when they last were triumphant in Europe., 3-2 over Dynamo Moscow in The Nou Camp, Barcelona. www.rangers.premiumtv.co.uk. Current Russian Premier League champions Zenit will play in their first ever European final.
Three and a half hours and no goals in the two semi-final legs and extra time at Ibrox and Stadio Artemio Franchi,in the Renaissance city on the River Arno. The Gers won the penalty shoot-out even after skipper Barry Ferguson missed the first one. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor stood firm and Nacho Nova scored the 4th and decisive shot,4-2. They have already won the Scottish League Cup and will probably beat Celtic to the Scottish League title and face lower division Queen of the South in the Scottish FA Cup Final and then Zenit, so could get 4 trophies this season. Coach Walter Smith and assistant Ally McCoist formerly Rangers top scorer with 355 goals between 1983-98, have done a marvelous job.
No problem with accommodation for this final. Manchester isn't the easiest place to find a bed, but Lancashire has a hundred thousand beds within an hour or so, in Liverpool, Southport and even Blackpool, the most rooms available anywhere in Europe, and a great train, light rail and bus transport system in Greater Manchester. Manchester International Airport, Liverpool John Lennon, Leeds/Bradford and even East Midlands Airport are within easy reach. www.uefa.com
The stadium, home of Manchester City, was adapted after the Commonwealth Games and a half hour walk to the East of the city centre. I was there a week or so ago as the City youth team beat Chelsea for the F.A. Youth Cup. Unlike Old Trafford, which has lots of pubs and cafes nearby, and its own train station, this stadium has no nearby pubs and one tiny Chinese owned cafe on the road to Yorkshire where I bought a great big pie and chips and a drink for less than $4.00 and it took me 10 minutes to walk to the stadium from the main road and the giant Joe Mercer plaque on Joe Mercer Way. You can expect to see more Rangers fans outside than inside the relatively small stadium, but whatever the result, it will be a night to remember.