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Champions League Final: Pougatch's preview

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Mark Pougatch | 19:00 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011

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At the end of a long, exhausting and at times controversial season, a Champions League final at Wembley involving England's biggest club and a Barcelona wonder team is always going to be a fabulous way to bring down the curtain.

There's added piquancy, of course, because they met in the final in Italy two years ago. I remember well sitting in Rome's Olympic Stadium when Manchester United were trying to defend the trophy they'd won in the torrential rain of Moscow.

It's easy to forget it now, because Barcelona played so magnificently well, but Manchester United had the better of the early play and had Ronaldo not spurned an early chance, things might have turned out very differently. As it was, the Portuguese man o' war tried to do too much on his own in his last appearance for United, Wayne Rooney was stranded out on the wing and Michael Carrick was so swamped in midfield it took him eighteen months to find his mojo again.

The chances are it's going to be dramatic, bearing in mind the history of these two. In fact, that 2-0 win for Barca in the final in 2009 was arguably the most prosaic of all these two have been involved in.

Barcelona have won at Wembley before, their first European Cup triumph came in 1992 when Ronald Keoman bent in a free kick. In Paris, five years ago, they staged a stirring comeback to deny Arsene Wenger his longed-for place at the top table of European coaches.

United's three European Cup triumphs each have a thrilling narrative: a Wembley win in '68, cloaked in the emotion of the Munich disaster; the barely believable denouement in the Nou Camp in '99, and then John Terry's slip and slide from the spot in Moscow.

United's win in 1968 was a triumph enjoyed by the whole country, such was the impact of the destruction of the Busby Babes on the nation's psyche, and that's where things are so strikingly different these days. There will be as many fans in Britain wanting Barcelona to win as there will be cheering Manchester United.

English - and British - football has splintered into fierce tribal followings. To cheer for your deadly enemies is never, ever an option. Sir Alex Ferguson said that in 1967, when Celtic became the first British club to win the European Cup, even Rangers fans wished them well. There's no point being King Canute. That's the reality of modern day football.

Let's just hope these two titans of world football send us happily off into the cricket season with a game we'll be reminiscing about for years to come.


Mark Pougatch will present the build-up and full coverage of the Champions League Final from midday on Saturday

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I would like to ask where the blog is about the Premiership Final between Saracens and Leicester? This is a repeat of last year's final and is the highlight of the Premiership season, yet you have no blog about it on this blog site despite it being covered on 5 Live.

  • Comment number 2.

    Mark you do a brilliant job.. the contrast between your knowledgeable, non-partisan, well-researched, insightful and intelligent delivery and Colin Murray could not be greater.

    Long may you continue to anchor these important events.

    Thank you for all of your hard work throughout the season.

  • Comment number 3.

    The rugby was a great match especially the last 10 minutes. However it would be churlish not to say that the football was arguably one of the best matches I have ever seen. The right team won too.

  • Comment number 4.

    Earlier this morning 5 Live correspondent Andrew Fletcher was describing being with 1000 United fans at the Old Trafford Cricket centre as the match was played, he described the experience and said something along the lines of 'this is how it went'. Then the 5 Live commentary goal highlights with Mike Ingham and Alan Green were broadcast.

    Can you tell me Hasit, were the 1000 people sitting in a big room together listening to the radio?

 

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