Ignore the pundits... nobody knows anything!

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Nobody knows anything. That was screenwriter William Goldman’s maxim.

That is why Irving Thalberg, the great Hollywood producer, turned down the chance to make Gone With The Wind because “no Civil War picture ever made a nickel”. It is also why, as the UEFA Champions League final nears, you can hear and read pundits scratching around for precedents, omens, rationales to justify every possible outcome.

Ruud Gullit, who kick started the Chelsea revolution as player and coach, thinks Chelsea will win because they lost the Premier League and “they will be out for revenge.” Thanks for the devastating technical insight, Ruud.

Marcello Lippi, interviewed here thinks his old friend Sir Alex Ferguson has the edge with his leadership, array of attacking talent and United’s team spirit but doesn’t stick his neck out too far, concluding only that “Chelsea are in good condition but Manchester have a slight advantage.”

Far be it from me to challenge the only coach to win the World Cup and the Champions League but United’s defence might prove critical. They have not conceded a goal for 486 minutes in this tournament – my Reuters fact box tells me – and have kept eight clean sheets in 12 games. They have also, the same factbox tells me, never scored in the first half of a European final.

Last night I dreamt Chelsea won 3-2, a most unlikely scoreline (unless it goes to extra time), but the dream was over so fast I couldn’t, even under hypnosis, swear on my heart of hearts that it was a premonition of the Champions League final.

A Chelsea victory will rank Avram Grant alongside such other coaching greats as Tony Barton and Dettmar Cramer. They both won “big ears” despite taking over as coach mid-season. Barton replaced Ron Saunders at Aston Villa only three months before that unlikely triumph against Bayern in 1982 and Cramer triumphed with Bayern against Leeds in 1975.

The 1975 final is a perfect illustration of how such an important fixture can be remembered in completely opposing ways. In England, it will always be the final in which an inept referee deprived plucky Leeds of victory by ignoring two penalty claims and disallowing a Peter Lorimer goal.

In Germany, Bayern’s 2-0 win was regarded as a moral victory against a team of thugs whose crippling tackles could have ended careers. Uli Hoeness injured his knee in the final and had to stop playing when he was just 27.

Lorimer's goal that wasn't vs Bayern in 1975 

In search of other precedents, I scoured assorted background stories buried in various dark and red blue recesses in cyberspace. Chelsea have never lost in Moscow – they beat CSKA 1-0 in the 2004/05 Champions League group stage – and United have never won there: they went out on penalties to Torpedo Moscow in the 1992/93 UEFA Cup first round after drawing 0-0 in the Luzhniki. Only Ryan Giggs, of the players likely to feature on Wednesday, will remember that.

Neither side have ever lost a European final – so something’s got to give – and …. I’m getting fed up now. Let’s just agree with Goldman. Nobody knows anything. All we can do is speculate.

Chelsea win in Moscow - something Man United have yet to do 

I have been wondering whether Winston Churchill ever copyrighted his famous remark about a riddle wrapped inside an enigma because, if he did, his heirs would be worth millions – even if they just accrued royalties from the number of times that cliché was applied to Avram Grant.

Despite what Richard Williams says here, Wednesday’s final will not tell us whether Grant is a great manager or a mediocrity.

If Chelsea win 1-0, there will be celebrations and hosannahs. But next season, when Chelsea hit a sticky patch, someone very much like Richard Williams will write a column which asks: “Avram Grant: great manager or lucky mediocrity?”

So finally, here are my thoughts about things I’d like to happen on Wednesday – but probably won’t.

1. United and Chelsea produce an 11-goal thriller that beats the previous record of 10 goals scored in the 1960 final which Real Madrid won 7-3.

2. Vladimir Putin impresses neutral observers with his keepy uppy skills. We interviewed Wagner Love in Champions and he said, at the civic reception where CSKA celebrated their 2005 UEFA Cup win, Putin did a spot of keepy uppy. The best Love could say was: “Football is not his thing.”

Putin is, of course, a Zenit St Petersburg fan – like his successor Dmitri Medvedev – and should be in a good mood this week.

3. Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack sign a pre-match contract, countersigned by Roman Abramovich, John Terry and Kofi Annan, outlining the precise conditions under which each of them will have the right to take free-kicks within shooting distance of the United goal.

4. ITV’s Peter Drury doesn’t mention 1999 and all that whenever Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs get the ball.

5. Nobody blames the referee after the game.

6. If Chelsea win, Roman Abramovich talks to the press and admits that some of the glory is due to a certain Mr Mourinho.

7. The word “special” or “special-special” never passes any pundit’s lips in the studios at Sky and ITV.

8. One of the goalkeepers scores. From open play.

9. Didier Drogba doesn’t pout. Not even once.

10. In a pre-match press conference, Cristiano Ronaldo admits that his uncanny resemblance to the young Cliff Richard is no fluke. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Cliff’s,” United’s stellar Portugeezer admits, “My mum used to play all his hits. Did you know Bachelor Boy was No1 in Madeira for twelve weeks?”

Off to Moscow now, if the bus to Heathrow works, and my connection at Amsterdam doesn’t fall through. Back online on Thursday.