ROME, Italy - CNN - There was a double defeat for Manchester United in the Eternal City. Not only did the players metaphorically fail to show up but their fans were literally out sung by Barcelona's noisy, colorful contingent of fans.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/28/barca.fans.gi.jpg caption="Barcelona fans proudly display their club colors in Rome."]
One of the great myths of British football was shattered. English fans do not always travel in greater numbers and chant louder than supporters following other sides in Europe. The red and blue kit of Barcelona was the color of the day around Rome on Wednesday and many Manchester United supporters told me they were surprised to be seemingly in the minority.
It is impossible to collect exact figures but reports that Barca returned 7000 tickets from their official allocation seem hard to believe judging from the view inside the Stadio Olimpico.
English fans pride themselves on their witty (and, lets be honest, plain rude) songs but you can not fail to be impressed by the communal "technique" of Barcelona's support – scarves are twirled in unison above heads, producing a vast, rapidly moving, wall of color. And because they favor shrill whistling to singing or shouting they are louder than many of their rivals.
In fairness to the United faithful, their team did not offer a great deal to cheer about come the time of asking.
The English did claim victory on one front, though. While Barcelona fans wandered around Rome bemoaning the lack of beer, United's cunning supporters defied the alcohol ban and, with the help of some compliant bar owners, became champion drinkers for the day – even if their team gave away their Champions of Europe crown at the end of it.