Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fergie can rule in Rome ...but only if United defend like champions

Manchester United go into tonight's Champions League Final as slight favourites due to Barcelona's injury problems, even though it is expected that both Thierry Henry and Iniesta will both start the game after recovering from injuries. In the case of the former Arsenal striker, it remains to be seen if the Frenchman is 100% match fit. Going into the final many pundits are rightly talking about Messi who is arguably the world's number one, the Argentine can destroy any team because at times he is unplayable. Henry and Eto'o can be equally as devastating, both are blessed with electric pace, it is therefore vital that the United defend properly, and as a team from front to back for the whole game and especially in the opening period.

Ahead of the big game, Fergie talked about the need for United to retain possession of the ball, he said that the team who does this best could be key to victory. The United manager knows that Barcelona can retain the ball well; it is one of their strongest attributes. However, Ferguson did not talk about the weaknesses in the Barcelona back four - even if the Catalans' had been a full strength United would have fancied their chances, the fact that they will face the holders with a patched-up defence should give United confidence about their collective ability to find a way through.

Earlier this week I posted that United could win the final from set-pieces because they have the greater aerial threat, or least that should be the case providing Edwin van der Sarr doesn't have an aberration at the other end. In the days that followed it was interesting to read Jose Mourinho echo my thoughts on this aspect of the game, in that the Inter manager also highlighted what is a perceived weakness in the Barcelona defence.

United definitely have the ability to win the final providing they do not throw it away in the opening 30 minutes, because if the champions can fend off Barca's early probing attacks I for one fully believe they can and will hopefully retain the trophy. The big danger for both finalists is allowing their opponents to set the tone if either concedes an early goal or two, because as we saw in the semi-final against Arsenal, the game was all but over after just 14 minutes following United's opening brace.


  1. The fact that Barca will be missing three first choice defenders will be very important tonight. Firstly, it will make Barca less dangerous going forward, particularly because of the absence of Alves. Secondly, it will encourage United to try to put a lot of pressure on the makeshift back-four. I agree that set-pieces could be very important because of United's advantage in the air.

  2. And they defended like schoolboys. Great start although Ronaldo tried to do everything on his own. Extremely poor defending by Vidic for their opener which seemed to really shake United as they were extremely poor for the rest of the game. Fantastic header by Messi for the 2nd but Ferdinand was nowhere near him.

    In addition the midfield was woeful & for me not one player emerged with any credit. I never thought I'd ever say this but Fletcher was sorely missed!

    Extremely disappointing & frustrating night. United didn't show any belief after going 1-0 down. I don't mind United losing to a better team if they at least give it a go.

  3. It was a very frustating night. A you say we started very well, but the first goal changed the whole complexion of the game. I also agree that United really missed Fletcher, he might have made the difference. Giggs was a complete waste of space but so was Rooney, Park, Anderson and Carrick. Only two United players came out of the game with any credit and that's Ronaldo and O'Shea.


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