Mancs emerge as top dogs in Moscow

It’s 3.25am on Thursday morning and I’m stood alone in the massive square outside Moscow’s garish, scruffy Belorusskaya train station.

I’ve just exited the superb metro system, which the authorities kept open until 4am for the benefit of the travelling United and Chelsea fans. Security has been tight but effective - I’ve not seen one incident of trouble during three days in the Russian capital.

It’s raining heavily, I’ve got no coat and I’m exhausted. Two hours ago, I witnessed my team lift a third European Cup. I’ve never been so nervous watching a game. Never. The match had everything and the experience was life affirming. But now I just want my bed.

Mentally, I’m drained. How can watching a game of football take so much?

Physically, I’ve gone. The beer, fast food and lack of sleep haven’t helped, nor has playing in an 11-a-side match for Manchester United fans against Spartak Moscow equivalents at their training ground stadium five hours before the final.

Andrei Kanchelskis, the Russian media and 400 Spartak fans watched us go down 3-1. Not a bad result since we’d never played together, and not bad for supposedly dodgy Anglo-Russian relations either. The hospitality from our hosts was first class.

Man United in Moscow: Good times had by all 

I’m due to fly in five hours and need some sleep if I’m going to carry on living, even if it’s for two hours. Raffish mates made of sterner stuff have gone to the players’ after match party. They’d get where water wouldn’t.

I’ve just said goodbye to two Doncaster Reds, a dad and lad who will sleep rough in the station before catching a 20-hour train back to Berlin and a flight to England. They only arrived on the morning of the match after a train from Warsaw.

I’m now alone but only five minutes from my hotel, virtually the last leg of a problem free trip. But my passage is blocked – by a dog.

Moscow’s authorities estimate that 30,000 strays populate the city and that many of them congregate around metro stations. A local quoted in The Guardian said: "Some of them even go up and down the escalators."

This mutt is snarling at me. Maybe it’s a Scouse dog and the “Scouse Free Zone” flag in the Chelsea end of the Luzhniki Stadium was wrong. If I move, it growls. It’s as if my bag is full of aniseed and not a dirty football kit and final memorablia. Like a Mastercard pen.

The beast looks more like a cross between a wolf and hyena and I’m flummoxed as what to do. I try to edge away, but the hound has none of it and barks so loud that workmen 100 metres away look over. I can’t speak Russian, so I can hardly shout for help.

With my brain ceasing to function, I consider improbable solutions. Like calling Ji Sung Park and getting him to come and eat the mongrel. But Park is probably doing an early morning marathon as his team-mates celebrate by singing - seriously - French house music. And I don’t have his number.

Or by booting it harder than Anderson hit his penalty. But the bitch would end up in Serbia if I did that. And I’d end up in a Siberian salt mine as punishment.

So I wait and shuffle nervously, like Ronaldo before he takes a penalty. And like Cristiano “I stay” Ronaldo, I’m eventually saved by someone else, a doleful looking local whom the whelp finds more interesting.

It’s a dog eat dog world. Just ask John Terry.

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