Roma vs Man United: history won't repeat itself

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Romans generally like their food piping hot but there is one dish best they like served cold: revenge.

Humiliation and elimination at the hands of Manchester United in last season’s Champions League has been eating at AS Roma for the last 12 months and now, finally, Luciano Spalletti and his men have a chance to lay that 7-1 annihilation at Old Trafford to rest.

This will be a sixth meeting between the sides in a year, and hope springs eternal in the capital. After the violence that has marred previous clashes, this may not have been the draw UEFA or United fans wanted, but in the cafes in around the centre of the city, the feeling is that the on-field heroics of the Giallorossi will be grabbing the headlines.

Dispatching Real Madrid from the last round has given Roma what it has always wanted: the admiration of Italy and the sole flag career of the tricolour in Europe.

With Inter and AC Milan exiting with nothing more than a whimper, the macho capital has been thrusting out its chest even more. The feeling is that the power balance is finally moving back further south after seven long years.

Spalletti has instilled a steely resilience and work ethic that even that old slave-driver Fabio Capello couldn’t get out of his team after they had won the title in 2001.

Saturday’s win over Milan was a perfect example of their new-found gladiatorial mood when, after battering the visitors to a standstill, they went behind to Kaka's excellent volley.

Previous Roma sides would have been left on their knees, awaiting the inevitable thumbs down but it's all ‘I am Spartcus’ poses around the Olympic stadium these days.

Spalletti could even look along his bench and have confidence in whoever he wanted to throw into the fray. Indeed it was  substitutes Mirko Vucinic and Ludovic Guily who grabbed the goals to keep Roma on cloud nine – all they need now is to put city rivals Lazio to the sword on Wednesday to set off a real Roman orgy of self-belief.

There is little chance of history repeating itself for United this time around.