Thursday, May 28, 2009

United players let themselves and the fans down, but congratulations to Barcelona.......

There's an adage in football that says you can only play as well as you're allowed to play and after the opening ten minutes of the Champions League Final last night in Rome it looked like Barcelona were going to allow United to dominate them. That was until United's midfield parted like the Red Sea as Andres Iniesta's strode through unchallenged to pick out Samuel Eto'o who turned Vidic inside out before toe-poking home a fine goal that beat Van der Sarr at his near post. United's Dutch 'keeper has been criticised for not dealing with the Cameroon striker's effort, but in fairness it was a snap-shot effort that flew beyond Van der Sarr at speed.

United never recovered from the opening goal even though it was completely against the run of play, but questions have to be asked as to why it was allowed to happen. Possession of the ball was fairly even for the remainder of the opening period, but the Catalans' were clearly given a major confidence boost by the early goal - sadly United's midfield did not rise to the occasion.

Barcelona went on to hammer the final nail in United's Champions League Final coffin, when Messi of all players, was allowed the freedom of the United penalty area to head home the well deserved second-half killer goal.

In the wake of what was bad night for United, not unexpectedly, the critics and enemies of the club in the media have enjoyed a field day. The BBC sport website used the headline "United outclassed", which is stretching the facts somewhat. United were not outclassed at all, yes they lost the game and mistakes were made, but the champions of England were NOT given a football lesson.

Apart from going over the mistakes at the back, the biggest single failure behind United's defeat was a catastrophic failure in midfield and it's here that Fergie needs to shoulder some of the blame. Ahead of the final, Fergie said that the side that does its best work on and off the ball would probably win the game; as far as United's midfield was concerned they were collectively awful in both respects and it has be said they missed the industry of suspended Darren Fletcher.

Ryan Giggs came into the starting eleven and early on it seemed that he'd been given the job of supporting Ronaldo through the middle, however, he was nowhere to be seen when Barcelona were in control of midfield and here again questions need to be asked about United's tactics. Fergie only served to confuse the nature of his own tactical plan when hinting that Giggs had been asked to do more of a defensive job a la Darren Fletcher; so was it a case of the Welshman failing to follow instructions or was the midfield just a complete muddle? To further compound matters, Anderson failed to take any measure of control in the engine room and so it came as no surprise that he was replaced by an out of sorts looking Carlos Tevez at the interval.

Ahead of the final, Graeme Souness rightly pointed out that Chelsea had done United a huge favour, because they very nearly beat the Catalans' and in so doing had put the fear of god into them; the point being Barca would be wary of playing another English club. At half-time when clearly it was going very badly wrong, Ruud Gullit opined that United had learnt nothing from the Chelsea performance in the semi-final; the point here was that the champions had failed to pick up on how to deny Barca space in front of the back four where defending was concerned.

Ultimately, United were not good enough on the night, the players let themselves, the club and the supporters down. The United fans in the stadium could barely be heard during the game, which is probably why one supporter later said the team and the fans didn't turn up.

While it was hugely disappointing for United, much credit has to go to Barcelona who have been the best team in the competition this season. On a personal note I wasn't happy about some of the unjustified hype surrounding this current United side with some pundits saying "this could be the best ever English side". For heaven's sake, it isn't the best United side that Fergie has produced, even though the man himself has only served to add weight to that myth.

The supporters would have been over the moon if United had won last night, but just perhaps this current team isn't quite what it has been cracked up to be, and so it is to be hoped that the defeat will serve to strengthen Fergie's resolve to reach the final again because where the manager has been totally correct is his assertion is that United have under-achieved in Europe.

United showed diginity and respect in defeat, both on and off the pitch and despite not playing well there was no sour notes to report on, or complaints about the result. There was no crying in the stands and the United fans who'd made the costly trip to Rome didn't let the club down by causing trouble after the match had ended. The final didn't quite live up to expectations, but that was largely down to United's poor performance on the night; it is hoped at least some of the players who tasted defeat last night will in time make up for what was a bad night for Manchester United and its supporters.

United's man of the match: Ronaldo - the only one who looked capable of doing anything on the ball all night long.


  1. Disheartening match and have to admit - Barcelona were in a different class last night. Iniesta was brilliant.
    Perhaps you're right, this definitely isn't our best team. We haven't even played our brand of free flowing football like last season, except for a few matches. Too many times this season, we've got 'the job done.'
    Our midfield was non existent like you mentioned. There are a few what-ifs such as how much of a difference the presence of players like Fletcher and Hargreaves would have made. Thought Anderson would play their role well, but he was extremely disappointing. But is it only their absence that let us down or is it also the absence of a creative midfield/playmaker a la Xavi/Iniesta? Not doubting Carrick's ability of being that player, but he surely isn't in the same class as them. Is that an area we need to look at next season?
    I do disagree with you on one point and that is United's man of the match. Ronaldo would MOM for the first ten minutes, but otherwise I thought it would have to be Van Der Sar for keeping us in it till Messi scored.

  2. Nik,

    I think the midfield is perhaps the single biggest problem area and I agree it does need stregthening if at all possible. Personally, I'm not sure Scholes and Giggs should be given many more opportunities, but Fergie will always try to do the right thing as he has done with Gary Neville who we are seeing less and less of.
    Even if you cannot match the likes of Iniesta, you can stop them with better organisation but that simply did not happen because United's tactical plan was poor IMO.
    Fair comment on MOTM, it's all about opinions.

  3. Midfield was MIA. No balls to our forwards, no extra hand in defence. Disappointing.

    I'm also writing to let you know about the FREE Unofficial Manchester United 2007/2008 UEFA Champion League Season E-Review that I just finished producing. The name itself is self-explanatory but the additional feature is that I've included links to Youtube videos to enable a richer experience in reigniting United's triumphs in the road to Moscow.

    I'm currently in the midst of producing the 08/09 e-review (was hoping for a happy ending) but I feel its still important to come up with a quality 08/09 season e-review even though we lost to Barca.

    I wish to personally give you a copy of the FREE Unofficial Manchester United 2007/2008 UEFA Champion League Season E-Review and maybe offer it to your readers as well. The editing is kinda sketchy but that just boils down to my incompetency in art. :P

    Thanks for your time.

    Warmest regards,
    Ulrik Fredrik


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