Manchester United last night made a significant step towards eventually losing to Barcelona in the final of the Champions League when they overcame a lacklustre Chelsea side at Old Trafford.

Although there is still a very tricky semi-final to negotiate – probably against German side Schalke – United are quietly confident of securing the honour of being out-played and generally embarrassed at Wembley on May 28th by the Catalan maestros.

A delighted club executive told the Cutter last night, ‘We’ve dreamed of this all season. The players are absolutely beside themselves to be only a two-legged tie away from a Champions League runner-up medal. Playing Barcelona will be a privilege none of those boys will ever forget. In fact Darren Fletcher has even asked if he can take his autograph book onto the pitch with him. Personally I cannot wait for the opening whistle to blow, knowing that anything could happen in those ninety minutes. We might have a meaningful attack at some point or even – God willing – a corner!’

United gained the opportunity to trudge off the pitch at the end of May after getting past an underwhelming Chelsea who now must concentrate on securing a top four place in order to have the chance to lose to Barca at some stage next season.

A dejected John Terry summed up the mood of the cockney camp.

‘We were desperate to add to our runners-up feat of three years ago. I’ve even been practising my bawling in the mirror so people would actually believe I was gutted at the loss. I bet Ferdinand hasn’t done that which just shows why he isn’t even captain of his club, never mind the national side.’