Thursday, May 05, 2011

United vs Barca: A feast of football (and or) a thrashing in prospect?

SO then United have eased their way into what will be the club's third Champions League final in four years. Whatever happens in the Wembley final with Barca, it is a remarkable achievement given the funds at Ferguson's disposal and importantly following the loss of two quality strikers in Ronaldo and Tevez.

United qualified for the final thanks to two thoroughly professional performances in the semi-final against Schalke. The job was pretty much done in last week's first leg in which United ran out deserved winners; the two-nil scoreline could have been much heavier.

In the wake of that first-leg victory, commentators such as Martin Tyler (Arsenal fan) suggested that non-league Crawley Town had given United a tougher game earlier this season in the FA Cup. Premier League manager Ian Holloway suggested his Blackpool team are better than Schalke. Well, following last night's 4-1 second-leg demolition job at Old Trafford, it would come as no surprise if someone in the media claims that Accrington Stanley would have given United a tougher game - because the Germans were made to look that bad.

Ahead of the second-leg, Ferguson made nine changes to the team which lost limply at the Emirates over the weekend. It was a bold gamble by the United manager, one that saw Berbatov restored to the starting line-up as the lone striker. On a night when hitherto consistent under-achieving performers like Anderson and Gibson shone brightly at times, United's Bulgarian striker failed to inspire. Once Schalke had gone behind thanks to a superb goal by Valencia on 26 minutes, it was pretty much game over.

United went on to hammer another three nails in the Germans coffin with goals from Gibson and a brace from Anderson; you were left wondering if the Brazilian, had in fact put the wrong boots on; instead of his own, those of "twinkle toes" Javier Hernandez. Whatever the reason for this sudden rush of goals from Anderson, it was most welcome.

Berbatov did in fact provide an assist for Anderson's second goal, but apart from that he was one of the few United players who failed to impress against a largely hapless Schalke.

Injuries aside, it's fair a bet to assume that there will be no place in the starting line-up for Berbatov against Chelsea on Sunday or Barca in the Champions League final. The 4-1 (6-1) final scoreline did not flatter United one bit and so yes, it was quite difficult to believe that this was a Champions League semi final, because Schalke really were that bad and for this reason it is quite difficult to put the performances of players like Anderson and Gibson into any meaningful context.

Following a lengthy lay off due to a "mystery virus", Darren Fletcher came on as a substitute for the last 15 minutes and United fans will be wondering if he will be one of the players the manager will turn to in the final.

When United last met Barcelona in the final two years ago, following what was a very promising start, it ending looking like a miss-match - such was the Catalans dominance. Two years on little has changed, if anything what looked like a gaping chasm in class at that time has become even wider.

No matter what anyone says between now and the final later this month, United will be travelling to Wembley more than in hope rather than with any sense of genuine expectation. But sometimes the underdog does win and when they do it just makes it all the sweeter. Let us hope United do at least put on a show and do not end up playing like frightened rabbits caught in the full glare of the spotlight as was the case in Rome.


  1. Ferguson and his team have plenty of time to analyse Barça and prepare their approach for the final. I don't expect the game to be anything like two years ago and I think we can match them on the day. It will require big and brave performances and if we go in with the wind in our sails of having won the league we won't be an easy prospect for the Catalans. We have a strong and experienced time - Barça play wonderful football but they're not unbeatable.

  2. Barcelona are not unbeatable, but United's performances away from Old Trafford have been very patchy and quite obviously, Barca are in a class of their own right now.

    I doubt Barca will thrash United actually, but it could happen if they scored an early goal.

    I also believe Ferguson will be making a huge mistake if he selects Fletcher to start. Personally, I'd start with Carrick and the two young Brazilians in midfield with Valencia on the right.

    Rooney and Chicharito would play up front, that starting team would have a chance, but due to half arsed loyalties Fergie won't bite the bullet but if he doesn't he will be making a mistake IMO.

    If we do somehow manage to win it will be quite something.

  3. I saw some very interesting stats in the Football365 mailbox.
    "In the roughly 440 minutes played against 11 men over the recent four El Clásicos and the two matches with Arsenal, Barcelona scored three and conceded five, whilst in the roughly 100 minutes against 10 men, they scored five and conceded one. That's one goal scored per 147 minutes against 11 men and one goal scored per 20 minutes against 10 men"

    Barca are beatable. Arsenal managed it. I do worry about the temperament of Scholes and Raphael - they have a habit of getting sent off in crunch ties and when you go down to 10 men against Barca the extra space Xavi and co gain and especially with Messi's runs into the box they are unstoppable. So no rash tackles guys!

    I get the feeling that either Barca will score early and they will thrash us like in 09, or we will win a close fought game with them never giving up and us surviving by the skin of our teeth.
    Then again look what Arsenal did to us for most of the match last weekend. Barca could do that far more effectively.

  4. Also whilst I think Carrick is a dead cert to start against Barca (Think Fergie has no choice but 4-5-1) just remember how the last time we faced them affected Carrick.
    Prior to the 99 final he was actually a pretty good midfielder. He was never the same after that match. They tore our central midfield to shreds and its taken him close to 24 months to hit something resembling the form he had before that match.
    I wouldn't be at all surprised if he hardly touched the ball at all and Barca run rings around him - then again we don't have any central midfielders that would stand a chance against them.

  5. Rafael and Fabio, have the legs and the skill to match Iniesta and Xavi; but clearly no one can match Messi. I totally agree with your comments about Carrick. I'd add that starting with Fletcher is asking for trouble.

    United will end up chasing Barca all across midfield, we will on ocassion win the ball back only for Fletcher and or Carrick to give it straight back to least that is the big danger.

    At least with the youngsters we'd have some legs and skill (unlike with Park - who has the legs but his passing ability leaves a lot to be desired).

  6. Cant see Fergie playing Raf/Fab in central midfield for United this season - especially in the biggest game of the season against the best midfield in the world. You have made some good points about them before and feel that they could excel in this role. I agree with what you have said but they would have needed a fair few games throughout the season to adjust to the role. Fergie could have done this earlier in the season when he was rotating between Anderson, Carrick, Gibson, Fletcher, Giggs, Scholes etc hoping to find a combo that sticks. Feel like he has missed out the chance to try them when the others were playing so poorly that there was nothing to lose by trying it.

  7. The important thing when playing against Barca, is to not lose the ball, which is something our midfield has a habit of doing, especially against teams that close us down quickly.

    Schalke gave us buckets of time and space on the ball and then some, which is why we ran them off the park both in both legs. But will Barca do the same?

    I'm excited by the prospect of the twins playing in midfield because they can keep the ball well and know how to pass and move quickly. And they can run back and defend with real tenacity as well. But I don't think Sir Alex will even give this idea a glance, which is a pity.

    If Carrick, Anderson, Gibson, Scholes, Giggs, Fletcher, or Park can somehow up their game in the final and pass quickly + accurately before getting closed down by 2/3 Barca players, then we may have a chance. But the question is, can they? Not likely, but I'm hoping it could happen.

    Another point to note, if Barca wrap up the La Liga title sooner rather than later, their players would get much rest/preparation prior to the final.

    All that said, I'm glad that we're in the CL final and 3 pts ahead in the league with 3 matches to go, considering all the negative stuff (but not 100% false) that has been said about United earlier this season. Exciting times.

  8. Dave and Anon,

    The really sad thing is the twins have been played out of position and they are made to play in midfield.

    Fergie gets mixed up with these half-arsed loyalties, which is ok and perfectly understandable until it affects your chances of actually winning which is exactly what we are talking about here.

    Fletcher, Anderson, Park and Carrick WILL almost certainly give the ball back to Barca soon after we've won it back following prolonged spells without the ball and that is likely to lead to our downfall as was the case at Wembley recently, except on that occasion we had four opportunities to clear the danger area but Carrick passed it straight to the player he was supposed to be marking in Toure.

    ALL games are won and lost in midfield and especially against Barca.

  9. hello, talking about barca vs MAN Utd I think both teams have great players and coach they have played great football so far. I think the match will be exciting....thanks for sharing the info and i like it indeed...good wishes, Hendra agus

  10. Essentially I think if United are gonna wanted to take their fourth European trophy home to the Theatre of Dreams then their gonna have to get out of the starting blocks early. As we've seen on numerous occasion in the Premier League this season United often act very complacent sitting back waiting for the game to come to them which is something they cannot do because Barcelona are a team that can capitalise and the game will be over before it has even begun. If United want to prove themselves in this final and show that they can win then I feel they must attack the game early and play a strong attacking side as opposed to a more reserved one. It's 90 minutes at Wembley and if United can nick an early goal then I think this will favour them far more than trying to create some chances in the later stages. The team I would play is Van der Sar Evra Vidic Ferdinand and Fabio as the back four Valencia and Nani on the wings and Giggs and Scholes in the middle and Rooney and Hernandez up front as to me this is the team that can really bring the fight to Barcelona and hopefully come away with the victory.

    Sam Francis - Manchester United Supporter

  11. vote victory in the champions league manchester united here:


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