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Review of the week

Chris Charles | 12:49 UK time, Friday, 29 May 2009

They say all roads lead to Rome, but while Barcelona cruised around like Peter Fonda, Manchester United were stuck on the hard shoulder.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side looked like broken men at the end of the Champions League final, not even able to muster the traditional slump to the ground as the final whistle sounded - presumably for fear they wouldn't be able to get up again.

Ferguson, meanwhile, wore the shell-shocked expression of a man who's just been duffed up by Mr Big in the prison showers. The United boss couldn't have looked any more haunted if he'd slipped a white sheet over his head and gone trick-or-treating.

Fergie's post-match interview with Sky's Geoff Shreeves featured a coughing fit so severe I thought I'd tuned into a remake of 'Bob Fleming's Folkin Classics'. Throw in Shreeves attempting to brush a wasp off the good knight's collar mid-conversation and you had a moment of TV gold right up there with The Parrot Sketch.
Samuel Eto'o and Cristiano Ronaldo
Over on ITV they appeared to have adopted the mantra 'Don't mention the score' as the in-vision box disappeared for the whole of the first half. Fortunately in Steve Rider they had a cool customer to smooth things over - although in fairness he'd had a dress rehearsal in February when someone decided viewers would rather watch that advert with the bloke hitting himself than Dan Gosling's dramatic late winner for Everton against Liverpool in the FA Cup.

Anyway, enough of that, let's rejoice in the sheer joy Barcelona brought into living rooms across the country on Wednesday evening - apart from half of those in Manchester, plus Surrey, Cambridge, Taunton...

All the pre-match rhetoric was peppered with references to Christians and lions, Cristianos and Lionels, but it was the dynamic duo of Xavi and Iniesta who left everyone gasping for breath. They may be puppet-sized, but the pair were pulling the strings in midfield and the X-Man even had enough time for a stern word in Ronaldo's shell-like, no doubt borrowing a line from Get Carter to inform him: "You're a big man, but you're in bad shape."

At the business end of the pitch, it was Eto'o and Messi who did the damage - the former celebrating his strike by vigorously tapping his inner arm in a curious manner last witnessed in Trainspotting. His Argentine team-mate then killed the game off by hanging in the air longer than my Uncle's flatulence to nod in the second - a goal which must have had Terry Venables squirming in his armchair.

The former Barca manager did an interview with the Daily Mail looking ahead to the final, in which he declared: "Messi is wonderful on the right but Ronaldo is terrific on the right, the left and through the middle as well. He also scores goals with his head, which Messi couldn't do even if they put a top hat on him." Oops.

While Eto'o and Messi were hitting the net, Gerard Pique decided to cut it up with a pair of scissors (where did he get them from?) to take home as a souvenir. By the time he'd finished, he had enough material to make a Rab C Nesbitt-style string vest - although it still wouldn't have been as holey as the United defence.

But the Red Devils haven't become a rubbish team overnight and they can console themselves with the knowledge that, like their opponents, they too did the treble this season - Barca adding the Champions League title to the Copa del Rey and La Liga, with United taking the Premier League, the Carling Cup and the, er, ooh it's on the tip of my tongue.

And of course they got to meet Prince William and English football's number one fan Michel Platini as they collected their losers' medals. The Uefa president has made no secret of where his loyalties lie and his post-match grin was even wider than the one worn by Fergie at the KC Stadium upon hearing Newcastle were down.
Phil Brown singing
Ferguson's opposite number last weekend was Hull's Phil Brown, who just in case no-one had noticed his embarrassing half-time team-talk in December, decided to lead a public karaoke version of Sloop John B in the middle of the pitch.

I'm not saying Brown's got a large ego, but I wouldn't be surprised if he began his mornings by gazing into the shaving mirror singing that other Beach Boys classic God Only Knows What I'd Be Without You.

While Hull fans were in rapture it was a different story down at Villa Park, as Newcastle went down quicker than Ricky Hatton after limply succumbing to their fate. The Geordies ended the game with 10 men after David Edgar behaved more like Edgar Davids with two rash challenges, although in fairness they'd struggled to have scored with 20.

Middlesbrough also slipped into the Championship, much to the dismay of fellow-blogger Robbo, while Sunderland fans celebrated their last-day escape by holding up placards reading 'Let's all laugh at Newcastle'. Although you suspect they may have produced them even if the Black Cats had gone down too.

Congratulations to Burnley, back in the top flight for the first time since Brotherhood of Man were at number one, and marking the occasion by handing out 7,000 free season tickets to loyal fans. The Clarets announced they wouldn't be continuing with the pledge into a second Premier League season, which as The Guardian's Fiver noted was "pretty much the definition of spring optimism".

In Scotland, Rangers fans had a cunning plan to get tickets to see their side win the SPL at Tannadice after the away allocation quickly sold out. A poster on a Rangers forum wrote: "Phone up the club shop and ask to buy a pair of Dundee United socks. Don't even mention tickets for Sunday. They might become suspicious.

"Then when they take your sock order, personal details and process your payment, your details will be stored on their system. Phone up again and order your home tickets for the Rangers match and because of your sock order, you will be on their system and you will get your match tickets. It's perfect."

Perfect, aside from the fact there was no such database, resulting in Rangers fans ending up with hundreds of pairs of Dundee United socks and no match tickets. The poster was a Celtic fan.

Nearly as embarrassing as the injury that kept out Gers defender Kirk Broadfoot, who suffered burns to his face when a poached egg exploded in the microwave, prompting rival fans to gleefully chant: "Shall we poach an egg for you?"
Cheryl Cole
Looking ahead to this weekend and it's Chelsea v Everton in the FA Cup final - a pairing that has thriller written all over it. Wayne Rooney is apparently taking 25 friends to cheer on the Toffees, but after strained relations with the club over the past few years, he might be thinking about wearing a disguise. The white shirt he wore against Barcelona should do it - nobody saw him for 90 minutes.

It's not clear whether heavily pregnant Coleen will be among the party or whether Cheryl Cole will be there to support her man. The Girls Aloud singer has just been voted as men's ultimate fantasy cheerleader - a fact of no real significance, other than it allows me to publish a gratuitous picture of her to lead us nicely into the weekend.

The real stars of the FA Cup, though, will undoubtedly be the return of the legendary pairing whose names will raise a smile as soon as you read them. Yes, Saint and Greavesie are back doing a stint for Setanta. Rejoice! For younger viewers who don't know what they're missing, here's a clip of them in their pomp (check those hi-tech opening titles).

And finally, story of the week involved Steven Gerrard, who admitted to Football Punk magazine he used to "take one for the team" by chatting up ugly girls so his team-mates could Kop off with their fairer friends. I know exactly where he's coming from - although in my case I had no choice.

Your chance to lift the FA Cup in the office
Norwegian mascot punches player in the face
Ronaldo interviews himself
Newcastle vicar's hymn

Videos courtesy of Off The Post and E.O.N


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