Manchester United vs. Barcelona
Finally the dust has settled and two teams are left to face off for the biggest prize in European Football, Manchester United and Barcelona will battle it out for the Champions League Trophy and the moniker of best in Europe. Think back to 2009 and Manchester United were overwhelming favorites to lift the Champions League trophy, the experts said Barcelona were poor at the back and wouldn’t be able to defend against a United attack of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez. Well Barcelona held on to the ball got an early goal and never looked back, Manchester United did not really show up on the occasion and the players felt that they let themselves down. Well now two years later and the same payers get the chance to atone for that disappointing display and Sir Alex Ferguson gets the chance to right a tactical mistake he made two years ago.
Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona play a beautiful game, they hold the ball and they probe and they hold the ball and they probe and they get the ball to Messi who creates something from nothing and they score. It’s a simple tactic of waiting until the opponent makes a mistake and then punishing them. Barcelona on a number of occasions though this year when faced with a solid defense have actually struggled to break them down and only for Messi’s genius against Real Madrid then who knows, but the facts are the facts. Barca has Messi and he is a genius. With Xavi,Iniesta and David Villa Barcelona are astonishingly good in the middle and up front, again like two years ago the question marks hang over the defense. Gerard Pique was with Manchester United and was allowed to go back to Barcelona, as Sir Alex deemed him not good enough to be a starter. Puyol and Abidal along with Dani Alves are attacking minded defenders and age is against Puyol at this stage. I think they may struggle to contain the runs of Chicarito Hernandez and Wayne Rooney.
Ferguson rarely makes mistakes such as the one he made two years ago, he changed a system that worked to accommodate Ronaldo and it backfired. United though on the day just didn’t get going and Barcelona held the ball and had them chasing shadows for most of the match. With Vidic and Ferdinand at the center back position and Evra and O’Shea in the corners United will be solid on Saturday, Edwin Van Der Saar after a 20+ year career is calling it a day and the Dutchman will play his last competitive game of soccer between the sticks on Saturday. Lifting the Champions League trophy would be a great way to exit the game. With Ryan Giggs, Park Ji Sung, Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick United will look to work hard to pressurize Barcelona on the ball and to force their opponents into making mistakes and then upfront for United is the key. Wayne Rooney and Hernandez have found a great telepathy and they are really linking well Dimitar Berbatov will probably start on the bench but the enigmatic Bulgarian is a match winner on his day.
On paper this game could be a classic, we have two teams who pride themselves on playing football. We have two of the greatest attacking players in world football one on either team (Messi and Rooney) and we have a Barca defense that is prone to the odd clangor. This one will be tight and could go all the way to penalties, in looking at this game I’ve considered loads of different permutations but the one thing that keeps coming back to me is that revenge is a dish best served cold, United were beaten and beaten badly by Barcelona two years ago that came a year after United knocked Barca out in the semi-final. I think Sir Alex Ferguson gets it right on Saturday and with the stronger bench players and the more talented defense I think Manchester United get it done and the trophy stays in England.