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Manchester United v. Barcelona – an armchair manager’s review

May 30, 2011

I am never one to kick the team I support when they’re down. Far from it. I have supported Manchester United since I was in Standard 3, a distant 28 years ago. So neither am I a glory hunter. What I’m about to say may be termed by some as exactly kicking the team when they’re down, but it’s just how I feel. To start with, it was men against boys if I’m being perfectly honest.

I watched the game last night, with a high degree of pessimism I might add. United started in promising fashion. The first 10 minutes was a joy to watch. Barcelona weren’t given the time to settle and was attacked relentlessly. As the saying goes, you’ve got to turn possession into chances, which United didn’t do. Not enough at least. Who are we kidding anyway. This is Barcelona for heaven’s sake! Once Barcelona settled into their rhythm, it didn’t take long. They started asking questions which wasn’t answered in a good enough fashion by United. At first I saw some hope as Mascherano was played as a central defender. You see, Mascherano formerly played for Liverpool. In games against United, he always had this sort of attraction to trouble. If I’m not mistaken, last season in both games against United he was sent off. If only Rooney and Hernandez could rile him enough, last night’s game may well have gone United’s way.

United’s central midfield pairing of Giggs and Carrick to be honest, couldn’t hold a candle to Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. Well, maybe Busquets. But against the true football wizardry of Iniesta and Xavi, Giggs and Carrick didn’t get a look in. Carrick has just signed a new contract which would keep him at United until 2014. What Sir Alex sees in him I honestly don’t know. He couldn’t possibly be the answer to United’s search for a creative midfielder. He didn’t fare too badly, but just didn’t do enough in my view. Giggs looked his entire 37 years last night. Furthermore I think his off-field antics did effect his head. It would be a lie if it didn’t. Therein lies the issue. He wasn’t able to perform to his true capability.I thought he was a perfect fit for the central midfielder’s role as the creativity and maturity would’ve done United huge favours in a game of this magnitude.

Didn’t sleep after the first half though. With the score at 1-1, there was a glimmer of hope (or actually I hoped there was a glimmer of hope), although it didn’t look good for United. After 15 minutes, Barcelona had 63 per cent of the possession. Rooney’s equaliser was totally against the run of play. The thing was United were run over by Barcelona with their slick passing and creativity. And don’t get me started on Messi. The best footballer in the world at this moment in time bar none. He toyed with Giggs and nutmegged half of United’s team. When you have a player like him in your team, success is an inevitability. Coupled with the others playing excellent supporting roles, you are virtually unstoppable.

Last night, Barcelona was unstoppable. No two ways about it. The second half was more of the same stuff, only worse. I was especially peeved with Valencia. Why he wasn’t booked was beyond me. Barcelona, with their marauding fullbacks, effectively snuffed out United’s wingers. Valencia has been storming down the flanks since coming back from injury but last night he was simply overwhelmed by the occasion. Gone is the player who could beat defenders and deliver pin point crosses. Last night he was just going after players’ pins, if you know what I mean. Strangely, United’s defence was in sixes and sevens and couldn’t deal with Barcelona’s attacking threat. I don’t think Vidic and Ferdinand played too badly but Barcelona’s attack was just too good.

The fact was illustrated perfectly by Messi’s goal. After some slick passing (which is the norm with Barcelona), nobody closed Messi down and he fired a drive which was beyond Van der Sar, who didn’t have a final game of his professional career to remember. In the game against Blackburn, United passed Blackburn to death in the final minutes of the game to finally win their 19th League championship. In the Champions’ League final, United was indeed passed to death by Barcelona. If Barcelona had taken all their chances, the score disparity could’ve been bigger. Nani and Scholes couldn’t do much to alleviate United’s troubles either. The commentator remarked that in order for them to be able to do something, they had to have possession of the ball which unfortunately wasn’t the case.

Sir Alex was trying to answer the critics who said United won the Premier League with a squad which was not the best by winning the Champions’ League. Mind you, with the squad he had, he didn’t do too badly by reaching the final. Unfortunately United was given a footballing lesson by Barcelona, the best club team in the world. In any case, this review (review konon!) may be scathing, but it would not stop me from supporting Manchester United. There’s still next year. Time to brandish the chequebook perhaps?

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