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Ferguson cool as history calls

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Phil McNulty | 17:25 UK time, Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Rome

Rome is sweltering in unseasonal heat, but as Manchester United fans draped themselves over historic monuments, Sir Alex Ferguson was an ocean of icy calm before attempting to build a landmark of his own in The Eternal City.

In the stifling confines of Rome's footballing Colosseum, the Stadio Olimpico, Ferguson carried the heavy load of history riding on the Champions League final against Barcelona with comfort.

Ferguson cut a sharp contrast to his young, intense Catalan counterpart Pep Guardiola, whose deep-set eyes explained why one seasoned Nou Camp observer warned: "Manchester United might win - but only over the blood, sweat and tears of all Barcelona."

It is against this dramatic backdrop that Ferguson will attempt to write a fresh chapter in Manchester United's story by making them the first club to retain the Champions League.

Ferguson's Old Trafford empire, like Rome itself, was not built in a day. Make no mistake, 35 years of managerial experience have gone into shaping days like these, along with what Manchester United will try to achieve against Guardiola's glorious, free-flowing Barcelona.

The Ferguson on view here, sitting alongside Rio Ferdinand and Cristiano Ronaldo, was the amiable, grandfatherly version as opposed to the thunderous figure that can - and still sometimes does - surface.

alex595getty.jpgFerguson threw an arm of encouragement around Ferdinand, humoured Ronaldo when a curve ball question came in Portuguese and even joined in the levity when the Champions League final formalities were briefly hijacked in the cause of democracy.

"How did he get in?" whispered a smiling Ferguson to a Uefa official after one inquisitor pleaded (in vain) for Ronaldo to be a standard bearer to get more voters out for the European elections.

Ferguson even laughed off a suggestion United's all-white kit strip, a carbon copy of Real Madrid's, might antagonise Barcelona as he said: "We're happy with it - and we're better than Madrid."

And, as always with a Champions League final, there is the sense of being at the centre of world sporting events - demonstrated as Ferguson dealt with questions from Sudan to Japan via Venezuela.

There is also a lavish supporting cast on this version of football's catwalk - Portugal legend Luis Figo was one, lurking in the shadows as Barcelona and Manchester United went through their final training sessions.

The presence of United and Barcelona in a purists' final, with help from the fates, only added to the sense of excitement in a hot, crowded room in the lower reaches of the Stadio Olimpico.

Ferguson was speaking on what would have been Sir Matt Busby's 100th birthday as the calendar once more appeared to be pointing the omens in Old Trafford's direction with a nod to the man widely accepted as the architect of the modern Manchester United.

He won his first Champions League on what would have been Busby's 90th birthday and there was an unerring feeling of destiny about last season's triumph in Moscow, 50 years on from the Munich air crash.

If Ferguson felt Lady Luck was stacking the cards in United's favour he did not show it, insisting: "This type of game may be beyond fate."

And yet there was a confidence and assurance about Ferguson that hinted at the force being with United - even laced with a hint of self-deprecation about those final, vital moments when he will speak with his players before they walk out.

"What will I say? I haven't thought one word about it. These things usually happen to me about three in the morning when I try to get some inspiration from the deep chambers of my tiny brain."

This may be true - but Ferguson has left nothing else to chance against a team and club he holds in the deepest respect, unlike their rivals "that mob" Real Madrid.

And there was no light-heartedness when Ferguson spoke of his desire to elevate United even further in "the pantheon of great teams". This is his mission and Wednesday presents another potential step towards a successful conclusion.

Ronaldo was a subdued, brooding figure sitting feet away from Ferguson, but the World Player of the Year's battle with Barcelona's tiny magician Lionel Messi provided a permanent sub-plot to the debate.

No-one made any attempt to separate the pair - but no-one made any attempt to disguise how they could mould this potentially glorious showpiece either. World class, match-winning operators do that.

Barcelona do not simply provide a romantic presence in this final, they present a huge threat to Ferguson's hunger to add another layer on his Old Trafford legacy - not to mention joining Liverpool's Bob Paisley in winning three European crowns and moving one closer to Anfield's tally of five trophies.

But if this pre-match curtain call was anything to go by, United still remain the biggest story in town despite Barcelona's city centre hotel having to be cordoned off as their fans gathered with messages of support.

Guardiola, steeped in Barcelona traditions and worthy of huge admiration after a stunning first season in charge, was greeted by only a third of the photographers that met the United trio.

pep595afp.jpgHe even had to give best to a Uefa announcement demanding the removal of a grey Ford Mondeo (blocking a set of gates in the Via Gladiatori apparently) before he could give his thoughts on the final.

Guardiola makes no pretence about Barcelona's approach - they will attack and hope the genius of Messi, combined with the spearhead of Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o, can work alongside the brilliance of midfield pair Xavi and Andres Iniesta to topple United.

Will Barcelona play the game of passing patience that presented them with that one, crucial chance for Iniesta at Chelsea? Will it be settled by a moment of individual brilliance?

Will it go against expectations and develop into a war of attrition? These are the unknowns that make this one of the most anticipated finals for years.

There is a fear of United's greater physical power among the Catalan contingent, with Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney spoken of in the same breath as Messi and company.

Ferguson was not sharing a state secret when he insisted attackers will win this Champions League final - and if his body language is a guide, he believes he has the greater weaponry at his disposal in this battle of European football's gladiators.


Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    It's way too tough to call. As a United fan it's obvious who I want to win but Barcelona are such a good team. Let's just hope for a fantastic game that flows and shows the brilliance of both sides. What a night in prospect.

    Will anyone be watching the apprentice? Maybe only United fans if it doesn't look good at half time.

  • Comment number 2.

    A mega encounter of beautiful teams.

    I spent 3 wonderful years in Barcelona, and became a mad ManU fan on that famous match 11 yers ago, just after I moved here.

    The curious detail no one has looked at is..... look at the Barca shield, it is St. George's Cross, just as England. We are all brothers of the templars order, and God what a battle it will be!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    This may not be relavent here but Man U; are so lucky and dont deserve 3 champions league;

    they got lucky ten years ago, and if JOhn Terry knew how to take a penalty they would have only had one champions league medal; not three.
    they are so so lucky and I hope Barcelona destroy them tomorrow

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment is awaiting moderation. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Ferguson was "amiable" and "grandfatherly"? Now I'm worried. "The pantheon of great teams", quoted whilst in Rome? Is there a hole in his roof?

    I assume that he'll revert to type by tomorrow night.

    The analyst would have to conclude that Barcelona, with a weakened defence, but intact in midfield and at the front, will attack relentlessly, and that a huge amount will depend upon the Man U back four. Man U will rely upon high-octane counter-attack, spearheaded by Ronaldo and Rooney.

    Which is why that whole scenario will probably be turned upside down.

    We're all expecting so much from the two most scintillatingly attractive teams in Europe - and probably the world. Messi v Ronaldo; Rooney v Henry; the magical Barcelona midfield v the relentless closing down of Man U. Etc. Etc.

    But I'll probably be watching "Springwatch": Bill Oddie's due to hatch.

  • Comment number 6.

    Three things. First of all, can we please stop the one sentence per paragraph format, it makes the blog very disjointed & difficult to read.

    Secondly, "Will Barcelona play the game of passing patience that presented them with that one, crucial chance for Iniesta at Chelsea?". I'm sorry, but we must have been watching a different game. Barcelona were not patient at all, often gifting possession straight back to Chelsea with hopeful long balls and crosses from deep areas. How many crosses that left the boot of Dani Alves from very deep areas ended up going over the heads of everybody? They often panicked and gave the ball away needlessly.

    Thirdly, my prediction. United to win at a stroll, 2-0. They're playing too well for Barca and their defence will be too much of a physical presence for the likes of Messi, Eto'o and co. Barcelona's defence, on the other hand, is weak and Rooney & Ronaldo will run riot. Interesting to see if Tevez will get a look in.

  • Comment number 7.

    1 year on and i'm sat here wondering whether or not i'll still have my name come Thursday morning.

  • Comment number 8.

    With all the hype surrounding this game it's almost impossible to see it living-up to expectations.

    Barca will attack as it's the only way they know how to play and it protects against their weakness...defence.

    Utd will contain Barca, as they did successfully last year, and play on the break. An early goal could open the game up and provide a classic but I wouldn't bet on it.

  • Comment number 9.

    Good luck United. I have been so impatient this last week, waiting for the CL final. I completed my degree by finishing my last exam on Monday and this match is the perfect reward. Absolutely can't wait, come on you reds! United to win the match playing beautiful football in one of the best finals in memorable history.

    Please, oh please don't disappoint me!

  • Comment number 10.

    Someone bitter ingeniousbillo46 a Chelsea fan by any chance??? As a Man Utd fan no matter win or lose i hope that the final is the spectical that it promises to be. Less than 24hrs to go and i have butterflies in my stomach.

    Come on United!

  • Comment number 11.

    ingeniousbillo46 (Post 2) - So United are lucky to have 3 European Cups?

    Hmm. As a supporter I may be biased, but I think what you say has to be the most ignorant statement ever made in one of these blogs. Given the fact that United lost a superb team in the Munich air disaster I would say we have more right than most to think ourselves very unlucky to only have 3 European Cups.

    Having spent much of the past 10 years being denied by disallowed goals (e.g. Scholes versus Porto in 2004 QF) and key injuries (entire back four versus Milan in 2007 SF), once again I wouldn't say United have been blessed with luck.

    And if Bayern aren't fit enough to last 93 minutes and John Terry can't score from 12 yards, I don't see that as luck either.

    Maybe, just maybe, Manchester United deserve their success? But no, OK, you keep saying its luck. Keep kidding yourself.



  • Comment number 12.

    The Man Utd manager called Rafa Benitez Disrespectful and yet he was a hypocrite when talking about his team joining the European elite such as Real Madrid,AC Milan etc etc and he did not have the decency or respect to mention Liverpool football club that are among the European greats and have won and retained the cup before the likes of Milan etc,If it would have been Benitez brushing Utds achievements aside the press would have had a field day and slated him for it but they dare not upset the chosen one,For that reason i truely hope Barca win in Rome.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hey Billious - Post 3 at 11:01.

    You are right, your post is totally irrelevant. However why let an irrelevant post go by without an answer. Luck - good and bad - is always part of a season or a tournament, and in your limited vision all you focus on is the good luck that you feel United have had. How about the bad luck we have had. Has any club ever been more stricken by bad luck than United in 1958? On the edge of a European Cup winning team that had reached the semi finals when the plane crashed in Munich decimating one of the greatest teams ever assembled, before it reached anything like its full potential. Perhaps you don't remember that far back, but it is etched in my memory and all United fans of my generation (and younger).

    We have had a number of games where we were knocked out of the tournament under unlucky circumstances - the Bayer Leverkusen semi final loss in 2001, and particularly the Porto loss in 2004 when Scholes goal was wrongly disallowed for offside. Luck good and bad plays a part in football - but not many clubs have suffered the degree of bad luck that United did in 1958.

  • Comment number 14.

    My post at 00:51 repeats almost exactly what The Third Ronaldo wrote 25 minutes earlier, but with the delay in moderation I had not seen his post - apologies for being repetitive.
    Moderation seems to take an excessive time!

  • Comment number 15.

    It astounds me that united fans think they have no luck. evry single home game when they are winning or drawing they get 5 minutes injury time and a dodgy penalty to boot. And take this year for example, they were lucky to still be in the competition following their first leg performance against porto and if kieran Gibbs had not have slipped, who knows what might have happened.

    Their 2 champions league titles have been one by pot luck( penalty shoot out last year) and the good fortune they received in barcelona in 99. Some may say they have had bad luck in other years but who's to say they were 2 go on to win the competition in those years? to do so would be highly disrespectful to the clubs who won it in them years.

    The facts are they have won their 2 champions league titles by luck and are therefore the luckiest team in european football. and thats a fact!!

  • Comment number 16.

    rafa benitez has said that united spend more money than liverpool, however this is wrong. benitez has spent much more money than sir alex ferguson since arriving. and the only reason the current squad costs more is because sir alex made the right transfers and hung on to his players, benitez just gets rid of his players. benitez talks about facts, well, i present the facts to you again.

    Mascherano 18m -good player, little expensive
    Arbeloa 2.6m - hmmm
    Lucas 6m - what a complete fool Benitez is
    Vronin free - clear reason why
    Leto 1.85m - who?
    Torres 20m - no brainer, dont have to be a genius manager to realise he's a good player
    Benayoun 5m - not quite consistant enough
    Babel 11.5m - Benitez treats him apallingly
    Aurelio free - again you can see why
    Pennant 6.75m - awful buy and overspend
    Kuyt 9m - works hard.....for 9m
    Palletta 2m - rubbish
    Bellamy 6m - gone
    Agger 5.8m - treated like garbage
    Keane 20m - treated like garbage
    fowler foc - stop gap
    Kromkamp - garbage and gone
    El zhar - hmm
    Crouch 7m - gone
    sissoko 5.8m - gone
    Gonzalez 4.5m - gone
    Barragan foc - gone
    Reina 6m - good signing - yay at last
    Zended foc - gone
    Carson 750,000 - gone
    Morientes 6.3m - gone

    31 signings made, not including Ngog who he keeps bringing for some strange reason.

    As well as his stupid selections when he has got everyone fit. He should go now. Oh no maybe we could go for another knockout competition...yawn
    Pellegrino foc - lol
    Josemi 2m - gone
    Garcia 6m - gone
    Alonso 10.5m - hurrah good signing
    Nunez - gone

    Now that list of buys and ultimate sales is why Liverpool will not win the league under Benitez. 3 good signings, probably 2 decent signings and the rest garbage.


    ---------------------------------------

    Benitez has spent more than SAF in both net & gross since he arrived at Liverpool.
    Prior to Chelsea being bought by Abramovich, Liverpool had the highest net & gross spend on transfers in Premier League history.

    Since Benitez arrived he has spent 212,490,000 gross.
    In that same period, SAF has spent 169,450,000 gross.

    Benitez's net spend is 110,460,000, averaging 22,092,000 per season.
    SAF's net spend in the same period is 93,400,000, averaging 18,680,000 per season.

    Since the Premier League began, Liverpool have spent 380,115,000 gross.
    United have spent 391,150,000 gross.

    Liverpool have spent 202,445,000 net since the Premier League began, averaging 11,908,529 per season.
    United have spent 200,585,000, averaging 11,799,118 per season.

    Now, which "facts" were you talking about please?

    http://www.transferleague.co.uk/

    ------------------------------------

    liverpool fans may argue that the reason liverpool have spent more money is because there have been 4? managers in the last 20 years who needed to alter and add to the squad. thats a false and invalid reason, as a team like arsenal have won 5 titles in the past 20 or so years, including 3 premier leagues. theyve gone through maybe 5 manager changes in that period. theyve spent a fraction of what liverpool have spent and yet won 3 premier leauges. so it is known that liverpool have spent more money than united since the premier leauge began, yet theyve won 0 premier leauges. if i was a liverpool suporter i would demand to know where that money has gone into. as a united suporter, i know my money has gone into winning things like 2 champions leauges, and 11 premier leauges - thats a good enough reason to justify the spending in our club, and yet weve spent less than liverpool.

    remember, in monetery terms, liverpool are about 1/5th of size of manchester united, they are a smaller club. so all this money will take its toll harder on liverpool. the fact is we can spend as crazily as liverpool if we wanted to because we seem to win trophies on a consistant level as well as generate solid revenues. the equation matches, united spend big and win big. liverpool spent bigger and won far less.

    benitez has never prooved him self as a manager on limited funds. his managerial record was poor before valencia, he got sacked by two clubs for absolutely abysmall match results. sir alex on the other hand prooved himself at st mirren and aberdeen with 0 funds (arsnel and spurs wanted to sign ferguson after that as well). if benitez was put in a football leauge 1 side today, with the limited funding available, i am certain he would not suceed because unlike at liverpool, benitez would not be able to buy his way out of trouble. especially if you look at the 40 million he just spent in the summer.

    how could benitez sit there and accuse united of spending and buying the premier leuage? how dare he make such a criminal statement, it should infuriate anyone, the hypocracy, after spending more money than united. after 4 trophyless seasons, benitez has seem to lost his cool some what.

    and did united deserve to win the leauge this year? consider united were competing for 5 trophys this season, 3 of them won, with a chance to win 1 more. liverpool couldnt compete for 1 trophy this season. also consider united had 13 first team players injured or suspended at one point of the season. i wouldnt like to think how liverpool would fare if 13 of their players were out. the logic here is very very simple. if liverpool were the better team, they would have won the leauge.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    konvictz, probably the most well put reply to any liverpool fan thinking they have been hard done by,although extremely long it was well worth reading, i'd love to see anyone try and come back from that one with any 'facts'.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    As a Liverpool fan I absolutely have no wish for United to win this game. But what I wish for and what will happen, is not the same thing.

    This game is a mismatch. Barcelona are wearing the emperors new clothes. Technically very gifted, and outstanding in a poor league, but ultimately lightweight. United will crush them. Chelsea showed the way, and were one kick from beating the "mighty Barcelona", with half the attacking talent of United.

    Sadly, after United win, we will never hear the last of it, and made worse by the incorrect assumption that Barcelona are worthy opponents. Even a Norwegian referee would not be enough for the Spanish champs. 3-0 to Manchester.

    How that hurts!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Hey torontored...

    The cloths that barca players are wearing have been given by press and coaches arround the world for a very good year... domestically and in europe!!! remember that chelsea was the only team this year to stop them from scoring....

    Calling the spanish league a poor league is nonsence... the competitivity of the spanish league is huge... The top 4 teams in the premier have systematically been the same, for ages, that leaves a gap with the rest of teams. That does not happen in spain... up to six teams are still in to fight for the cahmpions league places... up to 10 teams were involve in relegation fight untill last week, there are 6 fighting next week to staty up in la liga... a havent seen anything like it not even in england, nowhere in europe....

    And now going back to the final, Man U are probably favorites,i agree. combination of barca absences and united talent both in attack and defence... They will still have to sweat,it wont be that easy.

    I just hope that both teams have a great day, play good football, and we see a good final...

  • Comment number 22.

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  • Comment number 23.

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  • Comment number 24.

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  • Comment number 25.

    I predict a poor game, surprisingly cagey from both sides, with Barca playing for penalties after 45 mins. In the end, it will be a game where one of the teams just does not get going and we all ask what happened? Fans of either team will be happy as long as they win, the neutrals will think 'is this it?'.....1-0......

  • Comment number 26.

    Your line 'The presence of United and Barcelona in a purists' final, with help from the fates' is a bit cryptic to me? Then again, you refer to Alexe's body language twice; Pep has a body too, no?
    Any reference to Munich Air disaster is spine chilling. History! Yes SAF has had a distinguished 35 years of managerial experience and has laid each brick like a masterful mason.
    "This type of game may be beyond fate." are the words of an extremely hard working and thinking manager who has taken every conceivable step to exclude an intervention in his masterpiece by some fickle chance. High degree of industry, attention to detail and sound tactics are his forte. And he has a team that listens. Still, we all know it is good to be led by a lucky general.
    I have a feeling, Manchester United will put it across Barcelona without much fuss.

  • Comment number 27.

    I like Barcelona, they play good football and in this season they have had an excellent man (as far as I know) for a manager. His moment with Guus during the Chelsea match when they were losing and Abidal had been sent off made me like him more. To lose to this team is no disgrace. That said, I wish with every fibre of my body for a United win. Like Vidic and a previous very cynical poster, I care less whether its a goal filled match or a penalty shootout win after extra time. For bitter Liverpool fans, Fergie not mentioning your team among the greats would not remove you from that position, would it? but your need for affirmation implies... doubt? United juu juu juu zaidi! (Up up up United!)

  • Comment number 28.

    The discussion about luck is endless. Man Utd has enjoyed good luck, just as it has suffered bad luck. These things tend to even out. Tonight can go either way.

  • Comment number 29.

    Here we go again....I live in Japan and will getup at 3.30am to watch the match. Last year's final was nothing special. Tonight will see a United victory 3-1!

  • Comment number 30.

    Which decent teams have utd beaten this season - in the league they beat the most deflated chelsea side for years - they failed to beat liverpool or arsenal. Their performances in the champions league against full strength opposition has been iffy and yet again they are lucky enough to come up against a weakened Barca. let us hope that Ronaldo's last game for utd is one he hopes to forget.

  • Comment number 31.

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  • Comment number 32.

    Stashutten.............One reason why the Barcelona club crest contains the cross of St George might be because the club was actually co-founded by a group of English, Swiss and Spanish. This is a guess, not a fact, but worth a shout.

    As for tonight, I don't support United, but I have a strong feeling the final will be remembered as Rooney's arrival at the summit of European football. Many people backing him to see red, but I feel he will attain glory tonight.

  • Comment number 33.

    I dont' fancy United playing in white. I wont bother commenting on the blog...... United to shade it.

  • Comment number 34.

    30. At 08:02am on 27 May 2009, thehawk123 wrote:

    Which decent teams have utd beaten this season - in the league they beat the most deflated chelsea side for years - they failed to beat liverpool or arsenal. Their performances in the champions league against full strength opposition has been iffy and yet again they are lucky enough to come up against a weakened Barca. let us hope that Ronaldo's last game for utd is one he hopes to forget.
    ........................................................................
    I feel sad to have to do this but (sigh!: We could turn that around and ask, which decent teams have Barcelona beaten this season, they beat the most deflated Real side for years bla bla bla.. and yet United contest the champions league final for the second year running, which your team is not doing. Obviously, champions of Italy, Portugal and Arsenal (which they beat by the way in the semis, just in case you landed from a hermitic retreat in Lhasa yesterday)are not decent teams for you.
    Oh dear.....

  • Comment number 35.

    thank you bingbing

  • Comment number 36.

    If ever SAF needed help, which he doesn't, on how to combat Barcelona's attacking threat he need look no further than the Barca-Chelsea first leg at Nou Camp. Problem is that Man Utd's midfield does not have the defensive capability that Chelsea's has, especially without Fletcher. So I am intrigued to see what the midfield line up will be because Barca will be hoping to dominate there to counter for their "suspect:" defence.

    I cannot see Barca's defence holding out against Utd's attacking options so there will be some goals. Utd's defence will be up to the task of containing Messi, Eto'o, Henry, but if Barca's midfield is given space who knows?

    Nobody can "call" this game, its a cup final with the 2 best teams in the world.

    Come on Utd

  • Comment number 37.

    FRIENDLY WARNING:

    Some dodgy stuff appearing on these sites now. Moderators seem to be on to "kkandnathan", and, possibly, to "binbingo123". "Suewin123" is a softener, designed to encourage bloggers to open up the links which appear on the other two.

    These questionable people clearly seek to get onto unmoderated sites.

    BE VIGILANT.

  • Comment number 38.

    Luck.Teams and managers make their own.Teddy and Solksjaer didn't start in'99,they came on to score.Last year,if Tevez weren't so short,he'd have scored twice in the first half,after The Roon twice laid chances on a plate for him.But lets not bother ourselves with exercises in futility,the reason we all watch this game is its unpredictability,like when Wolves beat United a couple of years back when they were bottom of the league.This final has been hyped up like no other,and whoever loses will be remembered as the titan who buckled when history came calling.Thus the pressure on the players and managers is unbelievable.It doesn't matter how many you've won,or if its your first full season in charge.It boils down to 90 minutes,and its aftermath.Its more likely a cagey encounter we'll see tonight.I hope its moments of brilliance that decide it,not player mistakes.Matches of this caliber can destroy careers,so lets play everyone performs,may the best team on the night be worthy victors.Glory to the beautiful game

  • Comment number 39.

    Fergie has promised us that United will "keep hold of the ball and pressure Barcelona". I really hope thats the case and we should try to keep Barcelona in their own half as long as possible rather than sitting deep and counter attacking a la Chelsea. Come on United...lets show them Catalans what we're all about.

  • Comment number 40.

    United all in white in a European final against Barca??

    2-1 Rotterdam '91

    Let the omens commence!

  • Comment number 41.

    Good morning from Rome.

    It is easy to understand the frustrations of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool fans that they are not present on the big day, but let's put this "lucky United" thing to bed right away shall we?

    Sir Alex Ferguson, at least twice to my certain knowledge, mentioned in his press conference that you needed good fortune along the way to win the big trophies - he is not denying it and I am sure the three clubs I mentioned enjoyed a bit of luck on the way to winning silverware in the past.

    Big worry among the Barcelona contingent is that weakened defence. Can it cope with Ronaldo and Rooney?

    I also share the thoughts of many of you that this game is being so eagerly awaited that it might disappoint us. Let's not be negative though - let's go for a classic.

    Be good to hear all your thoughts on the game here.

  • Comment number 42.

    Wish I could say I didn't care who won but that would be a lie.Have nothing against United who have captivated me with their counter attacking thrust but I do believe the utopian free flowing technically and tactically proficient football displayed by this Barca side deserves European club football's greatest prize.It will gimme great pleasure to see Carlos Puyol lift the trophy this evening at the Olimpico!

  • Comment number 43.

    As far as champions league luck goes, United have had it good and bad in the past but tend to save their good luck for the final.

    2 great teams, 1 final, luck and controversy may well play a part. What United need to do is get their performance and tactics correct, take their chances, and hope that is enough. I'm just hoping we can win...

  • Comment number 44.

    redabdblackT1899........

    I can't go along with this view shared by many people it seems, that because Barcelona have played for the most part in their domestic league, and on several occassions in the CL, great attacking football, that this therefore means they are deserving of winning the CL.

    They are a great team and if they beat United, then only then do they deserve the title, it is as simple as that.

    If they lose, I do hope we are not going to see comments stating it is a tragedy for football that Barcelona did not win the CL. It won't be a tragedy for football it will be as a consequence of football and playing against a top opposing team. In today's mail Martin Samuel sums it up with the headline " So you say you are the best...prove it"

    And no I don't support United.

  • Comment number 45.

    Phil, who do you reckon will get the nod in United's midfield tonight? We know that Carrick and Anderson will definitely start but between Scholes and Giggs? I personally hope Scholes starts...Giggs gives the ball away too much and you can't afford that against Barcelona. Love to hear your thoughts.

  • Comment number 46.

    Phil, Rooney and Ronaldo on goal scoring form can destroy anyone. United will create chances but the question is, will they be ruthless enough to finish? My prayer and hope is that the answer will be a thunderous AYE!

  • Comment number 47.

    poltergeist, I agree id prefer to see scholes start, but Think Giggs will get the nod

  • Comment number 48.

    To poltergeist23, I would also hope that Scholes does but avoids the Red card. Its a good thing that Yaya is not in mid for them. If later in the game Rafael can come in and O Shea goes mid, I would be glad. Is Ferdinand fit? Evans is good but Etoo would eat him for lunch and supper.

  • Comment number 49.

    Regardless of what the outcome is tonight, Messi will still be crowned Fifa player of the year award for scoring 37 goals this season and the highest goals scorer in champions league with the highest assist.. how will it go to ronaldo? tonights game would not be the decider of who wins the award by any chance...................

  • Comment number 50.

    why oh why are we playing in white

  • Comment number 51.

    To the unlucky Chelski fan. As most of us know 'the harder you work the luckier you get'
    It sounds like a good case of sour grapes. Good luck to United tonight - not that they need it!

  • Comment number 52.

    My money would be on Ryan Giggs to start in place of Darren Fletcher, but Ferguson is wisely keeping his cards close to his chest. It is a real blow for United to be without the Scot because his energy and influence was a huge factor in the semi-finals against Arsenal.

    What team to United fans think Ferguson should field? And should he employ Ronaldo through the middle to prey on that weakened Barcelona defence?

  • Comment number 53.

    2-0 United and I definitely don't think it'll be a classic.

    Utd will take a tip from Chelsea and clamp down hard on Barca.

  • Comment number 54.

    United appears a very balanced side in ALL areas. Save for fears for the right back, countered by a half fit Henry and a Park playing in front United can hurt.
    It may not be as close as we think.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    This Barca team has scored a stack of goals this season, about 20 odd more than United, BUT when these wonderfully gifted Catalans came up against P/L defences, they were very poor, no matter what possesion they had.
    In last years United / Barca encounter, Barca couldn't hit the proverbial barn door, United had more shots ON GOAL and I think that will happen tonight.
    Both goalies will be tested and no doubt VDS's experience will tell in front of a better defence.
    For me, 2-1 United, Ronaldo and Rooney to score, probably Iniesta for the Catalan's, not a classic, too much at stake, but what do we expect ??
    Come on United !!!

  • Comment number 57.

    United 2 Barcelona 1

  • Comment number 58.

    pep looks more laid back and has a glint in his eye
    2-1 barca

  • Comment number 59.

    I agree with the last few comments. However, I suspect United will exploit Barcelona's weaknesses at set pieces. Vidic in the air or a Ronaldo special could win it.

  • Comment number 60.

    this is bound to be 0-0 over 90mins. Get your money on it now!!

  • Comment number 61.

    I'm hoping for an early Barca goal, Barca cannot sit back on their depleted defence and it would draw United out.

    I really hope Rooney stands up and makes his claim to be up there with the greats, the spotlight is off him so I hope he can play to his best and not get sent off for a mistimed tackle on Messi.

  • Comment number 62.

    Okay, which way do they want it? On on hand they're saying "Looking for a fourth win in the competition, one behind Liverpool" and on the other "Looking to make history by being the first team to retain the trophy"

    Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. Either you acknowledge that this is the European Cup under another name and therefore it's already been successfully defended. And guess, amongst others, which team have achieved that Fergie?

    Come on Barca!!!

  • Comment number 63.

    I really really don't think this is a game to play Ryan Giggs from the start. If Fergie doesn't fancy Scholes, maybe Carlos Tevez would get a start. I really hope Scholesy plays though. He was our best player at the Nou Camp last year.

  • Comment number 64.

    I have to agree with torontored's comments on this. The final is a mis -match. While Barcelona play nice pretty football with all their skills & slick passing, when it comes to getting through a packed defence, eg Chelsea in the SF 1st leg, they pose about as much threat as a dead hamster. I'm taking Man U to win 1-0 with Ronaldo scoring the winner ( from is own half of the pitch )

  • Comment number 65.

    ref 60 Philtoon 82

    Any prediction for the half-time score, so I can bet on the double?

  • Comment number 66.

    its all good talking bout the defence, but its the attack that actually allows you to score to win these games.

    sir alex will probably play berbatov and rooney. i would advise sir alex to put ronaldo as a 3rd striker. that is ronaldos best position in my opinion. last year he was given the freedom to attack openly and join in with rooney and tevez and he got on the end of balls and created oportunities himself. this year he has been stuck in the wing and not come foreward as much (still had a great season though).

    i could see ronaldo, rooney and berbatov combining well. tevez will probably start from the bench, going by what sir alex usually does. but if they game is not going to plan, tevez will come on in place of a midfielder. a key question was asked but overlooked at the beginning of the season - can ronaldo, rooney, berbatov and tevez play well together? i think some recent premiership games (like the spurs game) have clearly demonstrated they can play, and play very well together.

    united can match barcelona's attack in my opinion, when united perform well, they are better than any team in the world. the quick 1 touch passing, movement, through balls - that comes into uniteds game in occasions.

    united's point of view seems to be positive and determined. i was worried that barcelona may have too much in attack for us, but lets not forget united have won the club world cup, the premiership and the carling cup. barcelona have been very very successful domestically and they have every reason to believe they will win.

    i think it will be a close game. united have not opened up oponents and hammered them consistently with 4-5 goals as they did last season. so for that reason, i cant see united scoring many goals. but another good thing you could say is that it wont be as intimidating as the nou camp as there will be equal fans.

    in the nou camp, barcelona absolutely outplayed chelsea in that area between the halfway line and chelsea's box. the passing and movement was amazing, brilliant to watch. but as i said when it got to chelsea's box, that was it, they didnt create enough of a threat. so in that sense, i know barcelona will have alot of possesion in united's half, its obvious, its their style - but im hoping they dont convert that posesion into good chances.

    united's style is similar in some ways, but a little different. united will look to release players (like rooney and ronaldo) quickly and this could be a problem. like against arsenel the other day in the premiership, as soon as united got the ball, they looked to deliver the killer through ball or over the top to get the goal, but unfortunately it didnt work for them. everytime united got the ball, they lost it in that game. hence 0-0 scoreline. so maybe sir alex will look at that and instruct his players to use the ball more inteligence, and make sure the passes stick.

    one things for sure, you dont want to be giving the ball away to barcelona too much. im sure messi and eto will want to get their message across.

  • Comment number 67.

    all this reading about luck makes me laugh at all you anti-manc, hard working teams reach finals of tournaments and manchester united is one such team. those of you expecting a classic final might just be dissappointed because both teams are bound to play a cautious game knowing that one mistake could cost you. i do see a couple of goals with manchester united proving that football is about scoring and defending.

  • Comment number 68.

    In last year semi,s Fergie parked the bus in front of the defense, exactly the same that Chelsea did this year, and almost gave them the same results, while this is as legitimate as playing flowing attacking football with 5 upfront, it's also the style that the team who feels inferior adopt to win the game, but then don't come a present Utd as an exponent of passing and attacking football, when at the minor difficulty they bring back the troops, sit tight and wait for the other,s mistakes.

    If Utd wants to be regarded as a better team as Barcelona then they have to go for the game, fight for the control of the ball and impose themselves if they can, i am not a Barca fan, and generally i don't like the club that much, but at least i appreciate they are trying to win with their style not matter who is in front of them, that might a bit naive in modern football, but football still need teams like them, Spain or Brazil on opposition to boring, ultradefensive teams, like Capello,s, Italy,s or Greece.

    As a neutral i know where which team i would like to win.

    A question for Phil McNulty, how many neutral fans in Italy has he found supporting Utd tonight? And surely you will not wonder why...

  • Comment number 69.

    I hope ManU don't make the mistake of mistaking Barcelona for Arsenal. BArca is the Real Deal!

  • Comment number 70.

    I've been a Barça supporter for the last 30 years, I saw this team win the CL at Wembley and Saint Dennis and lose it against AC Milan.

    This match will definitely be a tough call, both ManU and Barça have been playing the best football in Europe this year and both teams have their weaknesses and strong points, whoever reads the match properly will win.

    Just for information, Barça have St George's Cross because St. George is the saint patron of Catalonia, and it's also part of the flag of the city of Barcelona, English and Catalans share some cultural aspects as well. And yes the team was founded by a Swiss in 1899.

  • Comment number 71.

    Firstly and irrelevantly I'm a bit dissapointed that it will be United in their away kit. Barca's is much nicer. Man United's all white strip isn't a kit in itself more of a mish mash of a few. How do they decide these things? Coin toss? Oh well.

    Secondly, where are all the English people who swore they were going to support the English team in the final after Chelsea were so cruelly robbed in the semi? Just seems like everyone wants Barca to win.

    Thirdly, I know this is a controversial statement but i do not expect to see much of Messi tonight at all. Poor lad dissapears everytime he has played English opposition, twice against Chelsea this season and twice last season against United. I know he played really well against Bayern, Lyon and Real this season but I think English teams know how to stop him getting involved.

    I think one of the keys to tonight is, everyone knows how Barca will play.

    However, picking United's line up and formation is almost impossible.

    I think this may give them the edge

  • Comment number 72.

    Citius Altius Fortius would be the slogans in all those historical edifices dotting the Eternal City.

    Red Devils facing the Spanish Inquisition before the Romans for ninety minutes and perhaps even more would be a delight to all historians.

    Fake diving, pleading for yellow or red cards and expulsion of fellow footballers would not be sporting for the eyes or conscience of discerning fans world wide.

    Let us wish the footballers and fans a fair and fine evening.

    Thanks Phil for keeping us informed of all that is going on out there.



    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 73.

    #71
    I am a Chelsea fan and I support ManU tonight. But not because it is English. I find it is a better and more all round team in comparison to Barcelona.

  • Comment number 74.



    Phil, A question for you, it's not bit embarrasing for the english journalists in Rome, that Guardiola is able to express himself in Italian, spanish and english in the press conferences and Alex Ferguson is unable to articulate properly in his own language?

    Yes, i suppose this have something to do with the Glasweigan caracther, the shipyards, and all that...

    How many goals has Ronaldo scored against spanish opposition by the way?

  • Comment number 75.

    At 11:01pm on 26 May 2009, ingeniousbillo46 wrote:
    This may not be relavent here but Man U; are so lucky and dont deserve 3 champions league;

    As opposed say, to Liverpool? Who, let's not forget, won the last of their European Cups in what everyone believes was the luckiest of circumstances against AC Milan. Who's other wins came when the Great European teams were all going through a rebuilding process and something of a nadier. Beating Club Bruge and BMG in finals. Hardly European Powerhouses then or now.

    Bitter, bitter, bitter.

  • Comment number 76.

    Banjophet, ryanmancman, scarolinared,

    I have noted your comments. I am not bitter, nor a sore loser, but I am willing to put all the money in my pockets vs all the money in your pockets that had any other team won the champions league as you have won the previous two, you wound gracfully concede that it was luck.

    and in 2005 we scored three goals, that were not lucky or fluky. Luck is needed. I accept, but for the love of god can you Mancs please for once, accept you were lucky and did not deserve to win


    thank you

  • Comment number 77.

    why?

  • Comment number 78.

    Glad you asked about the lineups Phil, this blog went way off (United are lucky bla bla)
    So the general thinking is Ferguson will start with
    Van Der Sar
    O Shea Ferdinand Vidic Evra
    Anderson Carrick
    Park Giggs Rooney
    Ronaldo
    hes said that he likes Rooneys versatility, defensive capabilities and danger he poses when operating from the left so if Rooneys on the left then it cud be Ronaldo up front with Park on the rightI dont really have a good feeling about this.
    - Ronaldo isnt as good with his back to goal, hes far better when hes running at defences cos he creates a ton of space for other players.
    - Rooney will be all day trying to catch Messi which will reduce his own atttacking threat. and he will probably be sent off for constant fouling after Messi nutmegs him again!
    The only way Park works on the right is if Ferguson intends to put so much pressure on Barcas reserve full backs while the 3 in midfield smother the space for Xavi and Iniesta to receive the ball dangerous ploy. If one pass gets through midfield with Park Rooney + Ronaldo up the pitch (as it surely would at some stage) then its big trouble.
    IF Rooney IS to start on the left then I hope Berbatov is up front with Ronaldo on the right and Park on the bench. Park is not a right winger and will not frighten any full back, even Barcas 3rd or 4th choice ones! Then If Berbatov drops deep (as he always does) then Rooney and Ronaldo can attack the spaces in behind and Giggs Berbatov, Carrick, Anderson can supply the passes. Berbatov dropping deep also gives license to at least one midfielder to make a run from deep.
    BUT heres what I THINK
    Ferguson will start Rooney up front and Park on the left to shadow Lionel Messi as he did in last years semi's.
    Van Der Sar
    O Shea Ferdinand Vidic Evra
    Carrick Anderson
    Ronaldo Giggs Park
    Rooney
    Remember where you read it first folks!!

  • Comment number 79.

    Lets get one thing straight. Man U are not creating history. Liverpool, Bayern, Real and others have all defended the trophy. Changing it's name means nothing - just like the first division.

  • Comment number 80.

    does anyone know if iniesta and henry are going to play given their injuries?

    could this be the most hyped up game in history?

    questions i hope phil or anyone else can answer!

  • Comment number 81.

    I am really looking foward to this prospect.. i think the game will be won by indivdual duels all over the pitch.. barca wont be able to control the pace how they do in la liga and man u's power will be a big factor however players like iniesta and messi can change a game in an instance.. also the loss of abdial and alves will be a factor!

    I just think that Man U are a very gritty team who know how grind games out. Technically Barca are a much better team all over the pitch however in these big one off occasions power can be a have effect..... i just hope the ref doesn't have to much to say ....

  • Comment number 82.

    74. At 2:28pm on 27 May 2009, angelthejam wrote:


    Phil, A question for you, it's not bit embarrasing for the english journalists in Rome, that Guardiola is able to express himself in Italian, spanish and english in the press conferences and Alex Ferguson is unable to articulate properly in his own language?

    Yes, i suppose this have something to do with the Glasweigan caracther, the shipyards, and all that...

    How many goals has Ronaldo scored against spanish opposition by the way?

    -------------------------------------------------------

    The United players understand Fergie and thats all that counts. Ronaldo has scored as many goals against spanish teams as Messi has against English ones...

  • Comment number 83.

    To those of you who seem to be new to football, I'll explain the rules. To win, any amount of luck you receive is not taken into account. Humility and other players injuries also do not affect the final result. Also, because the teams that play may not be better than previous teams, this in no way affects the result. Also, if one team plays more flowing football, then that also has no bearing on the outcome either. What does affect the game is goals.

    Two teams of 11, play 2 halves of 45 minutes, and the one with most goals at the end, wins. Tie break rules are established, with the same outcome. Those that score the most goals, win. No previous performances have any bearing on the outcome of the game in question. It is technically impossible to say that the team which played the better football lost, as the ONLY objective of the game is to score more goals than your opponent. If your team do that, then your side were the better side on that day, as that is the only objective, regardless of which teams were playing, their histories, and their performances.

    It really doesn't get more simplified than that. Maybe if that is too difficult to take on board, then I suggest ice skating. Here, the outcome is much more a reflection on individuals opinions of how the sportsmen and women perform, and i am sure that would be more suited to your tastes and understanding of how sport works.

  • Comment number 84.

    Man Utd will win 4 -1.

    They will get the early goal, and then the flood gates will open second half. Secretly, I want it to go to extra time, but not penalties.

    But I see a 4 - 1 win. Ronaldo 1, Rooney 1, Park 1, and I think that Mr Giggs is going to put the cherry on his formidable career with the goal to put the game out of site. Even the Barca players will applaud that goal.

  • Comment number 85.

    No-one has pointed out the other reason tonight is so significant. To date English, Spanish and Italian clubs have each won the European Cup 11 times.
    If ManUnited do it tonight English clubs have won more often than any other nation

  • Comment number 86.

    MUFC fan here 0-0 or 3-3 cant see united winnin on penalties two years in a row

  • Comment number 87.

    I'm hoping for a big suprise from Ferguson.

    I'm hoping that instead of sending his team out tonight to be cautious and tight, he will instead look to capitalise on a Barca side weakened by injuries and suspensions, and ask them to attack from the first whistle.

    This Barcelona team are vulnerable. They are champions, but they are not as great as this Man Utd team.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    Konvictz,

    You are an obsessive of such a disturbed nature that you compile a list of Benitez's signings on the day that your team are in a European Cup Final - sorry, a Champions' League Final - in the Eternal City? I know that United fans are dispassionate about their club to the degree of indifference but I would have thought that you could have shelved your Liverpool fixation for just one day. 'Pathetic' is a word that hardly describes your hang up with Britain's European giants. Ok, so Ferguson is busting a gut to be considered the equal of Bob Paisley: though two European Cups in 23 years still looks sad compared to Paisley's three - in eight years, but that is no reason for you to be concentrating all your limited mental and emotional resources on Liverpool Football Club.
    Relax! Grab yourself a pea wet and a mug of tea. Have a party! And, if you manage to fluke it tonight, have a sing-song. But, please, try to get it right if you use the Italian word 'campione'. It has a hard C, pronounced like a K, not CH as in chumps, chimps or chavs, all of which could be applied to your anally retentive self.

    Visca Barca!

  • Comment number 90.

    ingeniousbillo46, don't talk silly. you don't win these competitions having not earned or deserved it!!

    As for the line up tonight i believe it will be the following:
    Van der Sar
    O'shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
    Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Park
    Berbatov, Rooney

    I, unlike many of you, do not predict a tight game. I predict a free flowing match with goals. Personally I think Barca will open the scoring and United will come back late on and overwhelm us with a 3-2 victory.

  • Comment number 91.

    Lets get one thing straight. Man U are not creating history. Liverpool, Bayern, Real and others have all defended the trophy. Changing it's name means nothing - just like the first division.

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Have they done back to back titles at the same time though?

    To be honest, Rio summed it up best: we just want to win.

    We have all summer argue about who the best ever team/manager/player/mascot is.

  • Comment number 92.

    COME ON YOU REDS!

  • Comment number 93.

    comletely agree with no. 78 re line up and no i don't know the actual selection. it's clear from these blogs that many utd fans and pool fans will always disagree over just about any debate so let's leave that to one side. i do fear the attacking potential of barca, a team i have admired over the years, i'm hoping that utd's better all round team, as in compare defenders (suspended or otherwise) will prevail. here's hoping for a great game. if barca win, i'll be among the first to congratulate them and acknowledge they were the best team this year. if utd win i know my friends who are supporters of the other english teams will acknowledge that utd were best. but that's the great thing about this match, it really could go either way as there are so many possibilities from whatever lineup is selected for both teams and not necessarily the celebrated 2 or 3 from each team. come on utd, vidic to score first in the eight minute!!!!!

  • Comment number 94.

    again phil, while i'm sure you're focused on other things right now, please exlain the immense delays in moderation??? other blogs on this site go straight to post, and if necessary removed later, seriously come on!!!!

  • Comment number 95.

    pains me to admit it, barca completely deserving winners, congrats. well done to the utd boys great season, better team denied us so no shame in that!

  • Comment number 96.

    The true power house of english football is Chelsea , sorry they did not made it to the final but they subdue Barcelona and loss out of foul refree, Congrat Barca, you render ManU to zero

  • Comment number 97.

    Barca played very well indeed and there's no taking away the wonderful performance put in by them. United had a very bad game!! such a shame we had it on such a big occasion. The defending was unusually poor and no-one could manage to string a decent pass together after Barca's early goal. In fairness I think the game would have gone either way depending on what team scored first, unfortunately for United and the fans it was Barca.
    Im sure United will bounce back strongly and will have learnt a valid lesson tonight. There will be plenty more occasions for United and its fans to celebrate in the future.

    Im also noticing there are many bitter supporters from other teams posting on here. Come on guys, there's no need for the hard feelings is there? Im sure United fans would keep writting claiming your team doesn't deserve to be wherever or win whatever etc.. Your teams didn't make it this far and didn't come close to us this season! The reason for this is because United have been the better team in every sense, and no other reason. xx

  • Comment number 98.

    13. At 00:51am on 27 May 2009, scarolinared wrote:

    Hey Billious - Post 3 at 11:01.

    You are right, your post is totally irrelevant. However why let an irrelevant post go by without an answer. Luck - good and bad - is always part of a season or a tournament, and in your limited vision all you focus on is the good luck that you feel United have had. How about the bad luck we have had. Has any club ever been more stricken by bad luck than United in 1958? On the edge of a European Cup winning team that had reached the semi finals when the plane crashed in Munich decimating one of the greatest teams ever assembled, before it reached anything like its full potential. Perhaps you don't remember that far back, but it is etched in my memory and all United fans of my generation (and younger).
    =======================================================================

    Has anyone been more stricken?
    Need i remind you of Hillsborough, the worst of all?
    Fans died, my friend. People like you and me.
    Fans make the club, not players.

  • Comment number 99.

    I think the English as is always said, have the talent. they play their game with much physics. take a look at the midfield of liverpool,chelsea and others.with that of the spanish, they play flair. lets analyze this. the ultimate role of midfielders include hoilding onto the ball for your team mates to dash into empty sapces, distributing the ball to where ever there are weak opponents and make neccessary and inteligent tacklings. one doesn`t actualy need master physics to do all this.in the likes of xavi and iniesta, they are not too of physics but the key action is that, they hardly give out the ball. they have been raised in a way to protect the ball when they are on it.they have great reflexes and the ability to run ball into empty holes. from a live interview of iniesta, he said....since ever i was 11, i have been taught how to run into empty spaces with the ball without loosing possession...with respect to the final match, we saw how these two spanish weave their ways out.to me i think all midfielders should learn from them. they are fabulous! with that of messi, he isnt just a genius but a good role modle! i think barca totaly outweight man u. they deserve the cup!

 

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