Michel Platini spoke of his pride at the staging of the "special" Celebration Match.
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Having ended his three-month loan spell at Manchester United FC on Sunday, Henrik Larsson played one last game at Old Trafford after all, following his inclusion in Marcello Lippi's final Europe XI squad to face the Premiership leaders in tonight's Celebration Match.
Larsson received a late call-up to join a stellar cast drawn from the continent's leading clubs for a match which will mark two jubilees: the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which laid the foundations for a united Europe; and Manchester United's half-century of involvement in European competitions. The Swedish striker had the honour of captaining the Europe XI, while Gary Neville led out the United side.
"Football brings people together," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "In a continent so proud of its cultural diversity, football offers a common language. It helps to integrate different communities. At its best, our sport conveys some of Europe's basic values: the rule of law, respect for others, freedom of expression, teamwork and solidarity. I feel very proud that UEFA has been able to organise this special match."
United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, a scorer when Matt Busby's team became the first English side to win the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1968, added: "The history of Manchester United is tied up with that of Europe. Some of the club's greatest moments have been played out on a European stage." He added that he was pleased to welcome "so many stars and friends to Old Trafford to celebrate these two significant anniversaries".
Sir Alex Ferguson fielded a full-strength side for the game being staged by the Manchester United Foundation and UEFA, with support from the European Union. German Markus Merk refereered the fixture which kicked off at 20.00 local time (21.00CET) and was watched by a record crowd in excess of 70,000 for a non-competition match at Old Trafford. All proceeds will go to charity.