The game tonight between Manchester United and Real Madrid is a fixture which symbolises what the Champion’s League is all about. Looking at it dispassionately it is a clash of the very best. Both teams, and indeed clubs, have an expectation that they can win the Champions League each year. Both sets of supporters believe that they have a good chance of a trip to Wembley come 25th May.
Our club had a taste of that feeling for a while; we went into games in Europe’s premier competition with optimism and faith. That belief was rewarded with the scintillating 0-0 at Highbury against Real Madrid, the demolition of Inter Milan, the humbling of Juventus and the famous victory in the Bernabeu. Unfortunately those moments all seem like distant memories and occasions that may be a long way from being repeated.
Comparisons are always erroneous and Arsenal are a different club to Real and United; history and statistics tell their own story but it felt, for a while, that we had gatecrashed the big time and were going to build on our base camp over consecutive seasons of qualification.
When a player joins Manchester United or Real Madrid it is in part for these sort of matches, and any club that can offer this (and of course the top wages that go hand in hand with the status) to a player has a hand that is Aces high.
It's not any idea of divine rights it's about a big London club in a big stadium, with big revenue not being able, or possibly willing, to step over the velvet rope.
It is not envy that I feel about the game at Old Trafford, it is a sense of sadness that the Arsenal held their own in this company and that I find it hard to envisage when that will again be the case.
One day perhaps, one day.