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Ferguson will relish CL draw

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Phil McNulty | 12:45 UK time, Friday, 19 March 2010

As Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his satisfaction at Manchester United's Champions League dismissal of AC Milan, a dark cloud suddenly hovered overhead in the shape of an innocent inquiry about last year's final defeat against Barcelona.

Ferguson's face contorted for a moment before he said: "The Rome final was too hard to explain. You wouldn't understand. We lost a game when we should never have lost it."

Most of us in Rome that balmy night thought we understood. We thought we understood that, apart from the opening 10 minutes, United had been taken to the cleaners by the vastly superior team. Not Ferguson apparently.

And one of the many tantalising prospects left open by the draw for this year's quarter-finals - and a theory already being supported by the bookmakers - is that he might get another chance to right what he feels, whether anyone else agrees with him or not, one of the wrongs of his career with a repeat performance in Madrid in May.

Sir Alex Ferguson Sir Alex Ferguson applauds the fans after United's win over AC Milan Pic - PA

Ferguson, whose cryptic comment about the disappointment of Rome may have centred on some major midfield malfunction in the Stadio Olimpico, will never express anything other than guarded optimism about any draw at this late stage of the Champions League.

He must, however, have danced a little inside when United were drawn against Bayern Munich in the last eight and then presented with the possibility of facing Lyon or Bordeaux in the semi-final if they win.

Expect memories of the pair's epic 1999 Champions League final in the Nou Camp to be revived, although Ferguson will hope United do not leave it quite as late this time to confirm a victory.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may not be quite as satisfied with the hand the draw dealt the Gunners, namely a meeting with Barcelona in the quarter-final and, should they shock the holders, a potential encounter with old adversary Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan or CSKA Moscow in the last four.

But, as we know, Wenger bows to no-one when it comes to having confidence in his team. He will have complete conviction Arsenal can overturn the odds and make it an unhappy reunion with his former club for Thierry Henry.

Wenger, in the aftermath of thrashing Porto in the last 16, stated a preference for meeting either United or the now departed Chelsea in the next round. It was dismissed as bravado by some, but he was deadly serious and will relish pitting his wits against Pep Guardiola.

Arsenal will go into this purists' delight of a game as rank outsiders, but Wenger may see cause for hope in Barcelona's willingness to rely on their trademark stylish passing game to beat any opponents.

When the game is played with these principles as the backdrop, Wenger always fancies Arsenal's chances and this will be no different.

And there will be plenty of sub-plots to keep everyone occupied alongside the obvious attractions of two teams committed to playing what they regard as the beautiful game.

The Emirates will make it an emotion-charged return to Arsenal for Henry. He is rightly guaranteed a rapturous reception as befits a player who scored 226 goals in 364 appearances for the club.

Cesc Fabregas will also attract some attention, with Barcelona regarded as his next likely destination if he leaves Arsenal. If Henry gets a warm welcome back in north London, Arsenal's captain may also get one when he returns to Catalonia.

And if Ferguson feels he has a score to settle with Barcelona, Wenger might be harbouring similar thoughts after Arsenal fell victim to them in 2006 in a final imbalanced by an early red card for Jens Lehmann.

Arsenal, even with a numerical disadvantage, led with only 14 minutes to go until late goals from Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti robbed them of the glory.

Barcelona, rightly, are favourites to win the Champions League for a second year in succession but this will cut no ice with the ever-optimistic Wenger as he plots to stop the seemingly unstoppable Lionel Messi and the "carousel" of a midfield, as Ferguson labelled it, inspired by Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Nothing is ever certain in football, but if a meeting between Arsenal and Barcelona does not produce moments to drool over then hats will surely be eaten.

If Ferguson had been offered United's potential route to the final before the draw was made by Emilio Butragueno, then you suspect he would have signed up for it instantly.

There must be caution in the message though. Bayern may not be the force they once were, but coach Louis van Gaal is a wily operator and they carry a hefty threat from the coveted Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.

And they also carry a lot of luck into the quarter-final, with Fiorentina still understandably bitter about Miroslav Klose's late goal that gave Bayern victory in the first leg of their last 16 encounter, the striker so offside that it appeared to blind officialdom to the infringement.

Even if United overcome Bayern, Lyon and Bordeaux have shown they possess enough to pose a threat. Lyon ensured Liverpool made an early exit from the Champions League, while former United defender Laurent Blanc's outstanding work at Bordeaux has even led to him being mentioned as a potential successor to Ferguson at Old Trafford.

And plenty of eyes will be cast in the direction of Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh, who is expected to ply his trade in the Premier League at Arsenal next season.

United are now second favourites behind Barcelona to win the Champions League, but this is the season of surprises and Wenger will have genuine aspirations of springing another one.

You can follow me throughout this season at twitter.com/philmcnulty and join me on Facebook.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Afternoon Phil I kew you couldn't resisit this blog. I was offering odds of 1/10 that you would post a blog this afternoon (over on Robbo's blog), - you haven't dissapointed!

    As the saying goes the bookie always wins!

    Anyway haven't read the blog yet so I'll give it a read. An early point as a United fan if we play in the same way we did against Milan (particularly in the second leg) I can't see beyond a third final in a row - an amazement (but not unprecended) feat, - as someone inaccurately posted earlier.

  • Comment number 2.

    straight in at number 1 Jamie.

    great draw for UTD, path to the final :)

  • Comment number 3.

    what a pointless blog.

  • Comment number 4.

    Definitely think the draw was a good one for United, not so for arsenal

    I'm really not sure that a 'potential' meeting with Barcelona in the Final would be the best thing for United. As a Utd fan I'd rather play them over two legs, which i think would give us a better chance to beat them.

    But what will be will be. Besides, a potential meeting of Barca and 'the special one' in the semi's is great for all footy fans.

  • Comment number 5.

    Phil,

    C'mon. Barca deserved to win last year but calm down.

    Barca scored a fortunate first goal that was created from nothing, not a wonderful passing move but a long ball to a player who has since moved on.

    The second was when United were chasing the game.

    United weren't taken apart just as they weren't when we played them in 2008.

    I would have hoped to have played them over two legs but there is a good chance that they will fall against Arsenal.

    United v Inter in the final maybe. The media will be wetting itself, oh Jose another sound bite please xxxx

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm stunned that Ferguson is the star and poster boy of this article. If the theme is the adversity of Barcelona, why isn't it being written from the perspective of their current opponents?

    To expect a "revenge" final is to say the outcomes of at least four of the match-ups before it are foregone.

    To say the least if there are "plenty of sub-plots", I'd have liked to have seen these detailed a little more than a mid-late article sidenote.

  • Comment number 7.

    As a United fan, I'm happy with the draw, but no team can be underestimated at this stage. Admittedly, United demolished Milan in the second leg, but had things gone differently in the first half at the San Siro, it could have been a whole different tie.

    Will be intrigued to watch the Arsenal, Barca games. Are Arsenal fans happy with this draw?? Would anyone care to make any predictions?!

  • Comment number 8.

    good draw for utd,can see them lifting the cup, thay cant play as bad as last year.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think the summary on the front page should either be talking about Wenger wanting a repeat of 2006, or Fergie a repeat of 2009 (not Fergie 2006).
    Still it's an exciting draw. Barca vs Arsenal is an intriguing tie, I fancy Arsenal to give Barca a run for their money, but still you expect them to be too strong. United’s match against Bayern is also fascinating. I’m sure that the Germans have been desperate to avenge their ’99 defeat which was incredibly cruel. You would expect the special one to get through against CSKA, but they will need a good home victory as I doubt even Jose will relish a game in Moscow. It’s also good that a French team is guaranteed a place in the semi’s.
    Here’s hoping for a Barca vs Inter and United Vs Bordeaux semis (have the master take on the apprentice with Laurent and SAF). Then United against either would make an excellent final.
    With any luck the Gunners will surprise people and we could still have an all English final on the cards, but I doubt it’ll be easy for either.

  • Comment number 10.

    a couple of tasty ties in there. United will definitely be pleased with their route to the final again, knowing that if they make it the tougher teams were in the other half.

    and Alic, what are you on about? shouldn't have lost? they systematically took you apart. good job Rafa didn't say that eh Phil?

  • Comment number 11.

    Good blog but not sure oneMAN Roonited will make it as far as the final though

  • Comment number 12.

    I've a feeling an Inter vs United final, you just get the feeling the 2 managers must go face to face for not only the biggest prize in club football but also their repective egos. The post match psychological battle will probably be better - if the FA cup final between United and Chelsea is anything to go by.

    Gary Neville - England 2010 - A terrifying thought !

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree that United did not play up to their usual standard against Barcelona but I think Ferguson forgets that his team could not get the ball back from the Spanish giants to cause any problems of their own. Deprived of Fletcher in midfield, they were left chasing shadows. Barcelona are not the team of last year, and United have more width now. Who knows.

    Everyone seems to be writing off the French clubs but Bordeaux has been my dark horse all year long. Ignore these two at your peril.

    http://www.soccerlimeyinamerica.com

  • Comment number 14.

    It would be foolhardy to dismiss Arsenal's chances. Before the draw this morning, I had Arsenal v. CSKA, Man U v Bordeux, Bayern V. Lyon and Inter V. Barca. In some twist I had the top end of the draw right. Arsenal v Barca will be delightful to watch. Contrary to the Premiership where they have maybe struggled against the counter-attacking teams with speed, it would be different against a confident Barca side that would want to pass through them. So, dnt dismiss the Gunners. I see this tie ending 2-1 Arsenal (1-0 at the Emirates and 1-1 at the Nou Camp)

  • Comment number 15.

    Good draw for Man Utd, shame about Madrid. :( could've been mouthwatering semis.

    Ribery and Robben will rip Rooney and Red Devils to Real Madrid.

  • Comment number 16.

    Arsenal.. Arsenal

  • Comment number 17.

    It's fair to say that the draw has been kinder to United than Arsenal. I fancy United to beat Bayern and Lyon or Bordeux over 2 legs 9 times out of 10.

    I think the other round is far more intriguing, I genuinely fancy Inter (Jose Mourinho) to mastermind there route to the final. He is an incredibly astute manager.

    The one caveat I would put on that prediction is that Inter need to keep Cambiasso and Sniejder fit throughout that run.

  • Comment number 18.

    No mention what so ever of Fulham overturning Juventus 4-1? Instead you focus on the Champions League draw, great, what a riveting read. So annoyed i had to register to say its a disgrace.

  • Comment number 19.

    Can't wait. I think that united without question have a great chance of making it to the final, that being said there's still a lot of work to be done.

    Was really hoping to avoid Arsenal, Barca and Inter, so pretty damn glad we won't meet any of those til the final!!

  • Comment number 20.

    So, Man Utd once again get an inordinate amount of luck in the champions league draw.......I think we can almost guarantee they'll be in the final come May.

    As for the other side of the draw, Arsenal vs Barcelona should be a corker. I think it will be closer than most people might think, given that Arsenal are going to be allowed to play and Barcelona have been struggling (relatively speaking) this season, however i still think Barca will edge it.

    My shout for the Final, Man UTD vs Barcelona repeat, with the same outcome.

  • Comment number 21.

    Phil Mc'nulty wrote/ Alex Ferguson said:

    "The Rome final was too hard to explain. You wouldn't understand. We lost a game when we should never have lost it."

    My response:

    That may seem a perplexing response to a game where in fairness United were dominated, but in a strange way I know what he means.

    I don't think when saying that he was referring to the events on the pitch, as when he talked to Sky's Geoff Shreeves after the game he openly admitted Barcelona had deserved their victory.

    I think he was meaning he knew United had a team with the attacking talent to expose Barcelona's defensive frailties but it just didn't materialise that way, - the main reason for that being Barcelona scoring on their first serious attack.

    The game was basically the reverse of what was expected. Barcelona defended the best I have ever seen them, United defended poorly, going forward Barca were the more fluent, United looked disjointed.

    However as the saying goes gioals change game and if Park's prod hadn't been heroically blocked by Barcelona in the 2nd minute, I can say with a 100% confidence it would have been completely different. This was compounded by Eto's goal from their first sighting at goal.

    Talk about your all time backfire!

    This may seem obvious but I felt so dissapointed after lasy year's final as it just felt so anti-climatic, especially after last year's epic!

    I felt so confident, and in no time (well 110 minutes including the add breaks and the half-time anlysis - felt like no time) we had been comprehsively beaten.

    I'll close by saying this time round, that experience will have the wounded animal on United regardless of who we meet, should we manage to manaeveure our way past a potentially tricky Bayern team.

    That's let off some steam!



  • Comment number 22.

    Great job in dismissing Bayern before a ball is kicked.All Englander journos same to be one and the same.You're already talking about a United v Barca final where Sir Alex will triumph and grant interviews on the pitch beaming from ear to ear instead of coughing uncontrollably like he did last year.Hope Bayern,with Ribery and Robben,make you eat your hastily cobbled together blog!

  • Comment number 23.

    Sorry Phil, I'm generally a fan of yours but, I couldn't care less about the draw, why isn't there a blog about the Fulham game?

  • Comment number 24.

    Must say, delighted wih that draw. Will be interesting to see how Arsenal do against a team that is even superior on the ball to themselves. Barca will likely have nudging 70% possession even at the emirates, and they didnt look to clever defending against porto when they were able to string 3 passes together.

    Also, it will give the world the chance to see how far behing iniesta and xavi young cesc is.

    Plus I dont fancy Gallas trying to stop messi....could be messy

  • Comment number 25.

    If Inter go through I think the could cause Barcelona or Arsenal some real problems over 2 legs.

    They will play a physical game, keep space to a minimum and counter attack with pace. Neither Arsenal or Barcelona will like playing against them. In my opinion Inter are the only team capable of knocking Barcelona out.

    For United to win it I feel that it needs to be a Inter vs Utd final and this draw makes that possibility.

  • Comment number 26.

    So in other words you think United shouldn't have even bothered turning up to last year's final? Because the result was pre-ordained? Or what? All Fergie is saying is that he thinks they could have beaten Barcelona if they had played better, had better tactics or whatever. He's admitting that Barca were the better side on the night.

  • Comment number 27.

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

  • Comment number 28.

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

  • Comment number 29.

    "Arsenal will go into this purists' delight of a game as rank outsiders"!!!

    Another complete and utter load of drivel coming from you Phil. If you look at the odds on the game then Arsenal are 13/8 to beat them so how does this make them rank outsiders?

    Yes they will be underdogs but that's it. I'm looking forward to Arsenal beating Barcelona and on to the final.

    If you want to know what rank outsiders are then look at the odds against Arsenal v West Ham and they are 14/1 to beat us. Now that's rank outsiders isn't it?

  • Comment number 30.

    You Mods are slow and useless. Especially you, yes, you, checking this post right now. You're useless.

  • Comment number 31.

    I can't understand, everyone is talking about 1999 Bayern-ManU. Noone about 2001 Bayern-ManU. Forgotten those two losses?

  • Comment number 32.

    I think that it's a good draw for Barca. They will have the advantage of playing home in the return leg of the quarter-finals and the semi-finals if they reach that stage.

    Interesting tie for United. Bayern are similar to AC Milan in that they are not the force that they once were but have a couple of players who can produce the goods (ie, Robben, Ribery and Klose as an aeriel threat). Unfortunately, their defence is poor to say the least and I fear that United will win with ease.

    Bordeaux are a fantastic team with very impressive players (Gourcuff being my favorite). I expect them to beat Lyon (as Bordeaux play home on the return leg) and they should face United in the semi-finals. That will be a great match-up. My heart says Bordeaux but my head says United. Bordeaux have a chance with Gourcuff's creativity and skill and they will play home on the return leg again. However, despite Chamakh being in the public eye because of his impending move to Arsenal, I don't think he is that great of a player. He has a lot of pace (which could catch Rio/Vidic out) but his control and finishing are not that good.

    I'm hoping for a Barca v Bordeaux final.

  • Comment number 33.

    The last time we (Arsenal) played Barca in the CL, we lost the match and our captain (Henry) joined them in the summer. It could happen again. . . but if we win this time, can we pick one of their players?

    2/3

  • Comment number 34.

    I fully agree with posts #1,#7,#16,#22,#23 and #31.

    Now I wait with bated breath to find out what they are.

  • Comment number 35.

    Nice blog Phil. This was the draw I was looking for, particularly Arsenal v Barcelona, what a mouth-watering tie. I don’t really want to see an all English final, I always think there is an extra edge when the two teams in a European final are from different countries, but with this draw if there was to be an all English final it means Arsenal have beaten Barcelona which I can happily accept.

    United’s route to the final seems pretty straightforward if they stick to what they are good at, if Arsenal can overcome Barcelona, which I think they can do on there day, then I see no threat were they to get Inter in the next round. Chelsea’s problem with Inter were they had no pace or creativity, they were made to look dull and average. An Arsenal or Man Utd would have destroyed Inter that evening.

    Arsenal have nothing to lose and all to gain, they need to win this first tie at the Emirates, they need to punish Barcelona like they can when on fire and effectively win the tie in the first leg. I don’t fancy there chances if Barcelona walk away from the first tie with a draw or Arsenal with a one goal lead, cmon the Arsenal, make it a night to remember.

  • Comment number 36.

    Damn, are the mods all at sleep still??

    Anyhow, the game with Barcelona/Arsenal promises to be the best out of all of them. I cant help thinking that Manchester United has the easiest route as long as they can negotiate Robben and Ribery which I think our back four, if fit, can do quite easily

  • Comment number 37.

    arsenal have a chance top get to an all english final..

  • Comment number 38.

    As much as there are no easy games (and other assorted cliches) at this point, Arsenal do seem to have got landed with the trickiest route through. But Barca, Inter, Man U would be a glorious achievement.

  • Comment number 39.

    In response to Simon Samm (2):

    Yes Simon I simply clicked on the football blog link, clicked on Phil's name in the hope and expectancy he'd post a mid-Friday afternoon blog in the wake of the draw, - and I was in luck.

    And when I had seen noone (Plymouth or is that just on Robbo's blog) had posted a comment, I thought now is my chance.

    Yes it is a good draw I don't want to be oo complacent but with that draw I would expect us to make a third final on the trot!

  • Comment number 40.

    I enjoy most of your blogs Phil, you raise some good points, which is obviously the point of a blog. But to say this is a season of surprises!!! Manchester United lose Ronaldo and Tevez. Arsenal lose Adebayor and Toure. Liverpool lose Alonso. Chelsea got older. Man. City got a lot better, Spurs got a lot better and Villa are stronger too. In Europe Real Madrid go out in the round of 16 for the sixth consecutive year and that is a surprise. Team game. They're not a team. Surprised again !!! Barcelona favourites,a few good other teams of which only a fully fit and disciplined United have a chance to beat them, sure. But surprise season, come on. What did you expect bearing in mind transfers mentioned above ???

  • Comment number 41.

    Just a thought for you all.

    Champions league final. United win, and club captain Gary Neville lifts the trophy.

    And several people posting on here spontaneously combust!

    I'm only saying this to forewarn some of you that a bucket of water to douse yourself down with might be handy.

  • Comment number 42.

    I really fancy Bayern and Arsenal going through.

    Bayern with a fit Ribery and a rejuvenated Robben will cause UTD problems. The Bayern defence may actually get physical with SHREK and we will see the true side of the hairy one, RED card or limping out of Europe and the World Cup.

  • Comment number 43.

    Interesting draw Phil. As a Man United fan, have to say I am delighted with the draw.

    Just that our half of the draw seems weak. May the best team (Man United ) win.

  • Comment number 44.

    Remember, 4 years ago when Arsenal got to the final, we had to play Real Madrid, Juventus, Sevilla, and Barca in the final . . . and as previously mentioned, we were only 16 minutes or so away from the title . . .

    Maybe it needs a mission impossible route to bring the best out of Arsenal.

    And also . . . re Man U: let's be brutally simple here. At the moment, they ARE a one man team. Shut Rooney down, and the team's effectiveness is hugely reduced. I'll happily admit, he's in the form of his life. But all this talk and assumption that Utd will cruise to the final is really
    rather premature . . . remember, everyone in the know assumed Chelsea would beat Inter . . .

    I agree with the logic of the Man U - Inter final. And If that happens, I see Inter winning (Lucio vs Rooney anyone?).

    And then Jose heading off to Man City!

  • Comment number 45.

    As a United fan I have to say I along with Fergie, relish to meet Barcelona in the Final. It won't be easy, and for me that would make it a more deserved win.

    Last years final, we were outclassed as we didn't have the midfield able to stop Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. Well......we didn't have Fletcher and Hargreaves, arguably two of the worlds greats in defensive midfield. Combine that with Giggs to slip between their midfield, and Rooney up front with deliveries from Valencia. It stands to be a great tie!

    Van der Saar
    Rafael Ferdinand Vidic Evra

    Hargreaves Fletcher
    Giggs
    Valencia Park/Nani

    Rooney

    Could be brilliant!!!

  • Comment number 46.

    Common phil .... I think people are too quick to pounce on our performance in dat final... I am not saying that we were the only deserving team after 90 minutes but manu did not get totally outplayed.
    A freakish goal gave them the match...

  • Comment number 47.

    2 weeks ago, I posted the draw Utd would get, it was Bayern then either Sevilla or Moscow,the 2nd part is not right but Lyon/Bordeaux is the same mix/standard.

    Oh, and what do we have in the other half ? Barca/Inter/Arsenal.

    What did we have the other season. Oh, Barca, liverpool,Chelsea.

    Utd have again been giftwrapped a route into the final AGAIN, they are a good side got lucky.

    Oh, and before you refer to the semi they played against Barca as evidence that they do occasionally play good teams in their prime before finals, I seem to recall Utd played as defensively as Liverpool before them and Chelsea and after them against Barca.

    The only problem Utd will have is that if Barca are not tripped up,their motivation to win the final in Madrid will see them off, unless lady luck goes Utd's way.

    Whats your betting ?

  • Comment number 48.

    Once again, people so quick to jump on Phil for writing a blog. Why bother reading and then criticizing? What a waste of time and space.

    Anyway, nice to see Arsenal are going to win nothing again this year. Barcelona will rip them to shreds. If Man Utd and Chelsea can walk all over Arsenal, Barcelona will have a field day. They are a better side than United and Chelsea. Arsenal will no doubt fold like a pack of cards and Wenger will go on to blame the youthful squad/more money spent/inexperience, etc.etc.rather than the fact he is unable to produce a team any more that can challenge at the very top.

    I also don't think it will be as easy as Man Utd fans think it will be to reach the final. Bayern are coming into form and with players like Ribery and Robben, they could turn over anyone on their day.

  • Comment number 49.

    10. At 2:07pm on 19 Mar 2010, Chasney wrote:
    a couple of tasty ties in there. United will definitely be pleased with their route to the final again, knowing that if they make it the tougher teams were in the other half.

    and Alic, what are you on about? shouldn't have lost? they systematically took you apart. good job Rafa didn't say that eh Phil?
    _________________________________________________________________________

    I reckon what SAF means by that is that he believes his team should never have let Barca systematically take them apart in the first place, that Man Utd should've raised their game.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think Arsenal can beat Barcelona... Barcelona may well play the 'Arsenal' way even more effectively than Arsenal themselves but if Arsenal can get the upper hand, and can defend competently of course, then they have a very good chance. A match against Inter Milan could be trickier for Arsenal in some ways if that happens because of Mourinho's record when he managed Chelsea - he's know how to beat Arsenal unfortunately.

  • Comment number 51.

    What is the crack with this moderation malarky?

    Are you just picking random numbers out of your head to moderate! Surely you should moderatein the order they are posted.

    Phil I think it's time you employ post moderation. I think you write generally a great blog which sparks good banter between opposing fans, but because the moderators are so laxidasical, it destroys the opportunity to have a debate.

    For instance my comment 1, (first time ever I made add) was posted at 1.51. (13.51) and it it still hasn't come up.

    It certainly wasn't off topic so I can't see why.

    I am also dissapointed when I sent your blog team an e-mail in reply to their e-mail regarding my comment being removed for being off topic it wasn't replied.

    Quite rude really and dissapointing. As I said in t hat e-mail houserules must be revised. To have a comment removed for making a throw away comment which you seem to view as off-topic is marginally short of ludicrous.

    If I am going to have my coments removed for that I might as well 'get removed in style and be rude with it. But no that's not me or the way I write.

    Just a bit naffed off as you can tell!

    Man U for CL and PL double, giving us a second rate treble!

    Bit better than Liverpool's claimed treble however in 2001 (although they won more than 3 trophies in that year). Thier treble comprised of the Uefa Cup, FA Cup and the Worthington Cup.

    Happy days!



  • Comment number 52.

    My prediction is Bordeaux vs Moscow in the final, with Rupert the Bear referee'ing the match infront of 72,000 Lady Gaga's!!

    You have heard it here first people!

  • Comment number 53.

    looking forward to a great tie btn the gunners and barca.
    tell me phill,do u think the catalans have any weaknesses as a team? if so,what are they?

  • Comment number 54.

    So, Man Utd once again get an inordinate amount of luck in the champions league draw.......I think we can almost guarantee they'll be in the final come May.

    Yawn....... Wondered who would be the first for this comment. We have been to 3 finals of the champions league. Car to name the teams we had to beat along the way??? And not to mention we have had to dispose of AC Milan to make the draw - Thought not.

    Anyhoo, yes this is a mouth watering prospect that we may make 3 finals back to back, can't remember this being done in the champions league format. But Real would have been delighted to draw Lyon in the last 16 and look what happened. Bayern shouldn't even be in the draw so it goes to show that its not all about the players that determine who goes through. I am not talking about a conspiracy but with refs you just never know. We certainly have enough in our locker to beat Bayern, Lyon and Bordeaux but whther we will or not, we'll see.

    C'mon United!!!!

  • Comment number 55.

    I would hate to see an all English final (or an all Spanish or Italian one for that matter even though that couldn't happen this year) as it tends to make it feel more like an FA Cup final albeit in a foreign stadium.

    Why not change the seeding for the quarter (and semi) finals so clubs from the same country have to play each other thus ensuring that the final is played by two teams from different countries?

  • Comment number 56.

    All of this talk of 'easy draws' is misleading.

    Besides, I think a two-legged tie against Barcelona, as Arsenal have got, represents a much better chance of beating them than in a one-off encounter. Despite the platitudes heaped upon them, and despite how fantastic they look at home, Barca have struggled away from home in the competition this year and have only just managed a goal-per-game. Also remember that the year before Barca won the final against United, they were beaten over two legs by United in the semi-final and couldn't even score a goal. I predict Arsenal v Barca will be a really close tie.

    When United won the cup in 99, they had to beat the creme de la creme of Europe and when Liverpool won it in 05 they had to beat the best too. Wins over the biggest clubs definitely give momentum so, if you want to win the competition, what's the use in hiding?

  • Comment number 57.

    Can't see an all English final happening - although United would walk it. Barca to win against the Gunners by an own goal and then nick Fabregas on their team bus.

    Bayern have to rely on Robben -sick note - and Ribbery - great when not sulking. Over two legs fancy United to take them. Shame that Lyon or Bordeaux aren't in other half of draw as a United /Bordeaux final would have been good. CSKA could do someone damage at least in one leg and then there's Inter of course with Samuels laying in wait to judder the bones of whoever gets in their box. Preference would be United v Barcelona and without the sleepwalking performance but I've a feeling it'll United v Inter.

  • Comment number 58.

    What a great draw.

    United with the not so easy task of defeating Bayern Munich, with all of the England vs Germany conatations that go with it.

    Arsenal playing Barca with the victors having to face Mourinho.

    I'm going to be glued to my telly for all of this. Really, can't wait.


    Got a hunch on Arsenal doing Barca but falling to Inter the semis.

    United Inter final on the cards I think (as others have already said)...

  • Comment number 59.

    Wow, I didn't expect the two French sides to play each other. Man Utd got an easy fixture tbh. Arsenal v Barcelona should be interesting because they both play an attractive style of football. Inter got it the easiest and thats what irritates me the most because, we (Chelsea), could've been in their position because we would've had that dream semi-final revenge agianst Barca. Thanks a lot Ancelotti...for nothing!!

  • Comment number 60.

    It's a very intriguing draw, but, as with everybody else, I'm going to try and make some (very vague) predos.

    Firstly, the Man Utd-Bayern tie. I think that Bayern have some quality players, and their height could cause United some issues at the back. However, if their midfield isn't firing, or is nullified by good defence, then they can be easily stopped. Bayern will put a couple past United, but I fully expect United to get past the Bavarians. They're similar types of sides, but United have the edge due to the fact they play in a much better quality of league, and have arguably better players at their disposal.

    I'm really happy that two French teams managed to get through to the QF stage of the Champions League, especially after both teams have promised so much in previous competitions. Both these sides are on top form, with Bordeaux heading the Ligue 1 table, and Lyon not far behind them. I expect it to be very tight, but Bordeaux should edge it, which'll set up a Man Utd-Bordeaux Semi Final.

    Inter Milan and CSKA will be an interesting affair. Teams from Southern Europe never really regard Russia as a happy hunting ground, so CSKA will inevitably have the upper hand when they play in Moscow. However, I just think that Inter have too much quality not to go through, and although CSKA are very good at upsetting great sides this season, Mourinho will be defensively-minded enough to ensure that the Russian club don't get past his team easily. I'll vouch for an Inter win, though I'm not expecting the most exciting game.

    In stark contrast to this, the one that I'll be most interested in, Arsenal and Barça. Two very similar sides, with great attacking options, a fluid and, frankly, beautiful style of play, with players that could potentially match each other up and down the park. Given some of the Group Stage results that Barça have thrown up (the 2-1 defeat to Rubin Kazan at the Camp Nou, for example), you could say that Barça are beatable, but Arsenal will have a relatively tough time getting past them. Pep Guardiola has really improved the defensive side of the club's game, and Arsenal may well struggle to break it down through their usual style of play, like they have against Chelsea and Man Utd. However, if Wenger can produce an ever-elusive Plan B should Plan A not work, then anything's possible. All the same, as much as it pains me to say it, Barça should this tie, to set up the second of two very good Semi-Finals.

    The only thing I hope for, should Barça and Inter Milan in the Semi-Final happen, is that it's more interesting than the Group Stage encounters they had. For the most part, I was bored out of my skull!

  • Comment number 61.

    "17. At 2:17pm on 19 Mar 2010, Rahim Sadiq wrote:

    The one caveat I would put on that prediction is that Inter need to keep Cambiasso and Sniejder fit throughout that run."

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

    Spot on there mate - Sniejder was in a league of his own the other night.

  • Comment number 62.

    Phil McNulty, Fergie's right - you wouldn't understand. I base this on the amount of times you have been spectacularly wrong this season alone.

  • Comment number 63.

    If that encounter that pitched Arsenal against Barca failed to provide the anticipated 'drool', boots would be eaten along with hats.

  • Comment number 64.

    Arsenal have plan A. If plan A works does not work, as we have seen on many an occasion, they do not have a plan B. The problem is if they use plan A they will be marmalized.

    Barcelona have lost one league game all season and in Messi have a talent so pure, that he will cut to ribbons the concept of Wengers beautiful game.

    Not sure that I buy into Man Us 'easy' draw. Outside of Barcelona I think they are the strongest team. There is no good in having an ok semi draw if you loose in the quarters.

  • Comment number 65.

    In response to Arthur (37)

    Arthur wrote:

    arsenal have a chance top get to an all english final..

    My response:

    Arthur, - without being rude here, - I can now award you the title of 'Today's most blatantly obvious comment.'

    Everyone team still in the competition has a chance to make the final. That's how a football draw, and practically and more generally life works.

    If you are in a competition i.e. the lottery you have the chance of winning it, (however small that maybe), hence the phrase 'got to be in it to win it.'

    All you've done is state the obvious which is if both teams win their matches, - they will meet in the final.

  • Comment number 66.

    There is no shame in losing to Barca last year. Thats the best team the world has seen for a while. They may not be as strong this year but nor are United who are almost a one man team.

  • Comment number 67.

    #40 the Chelsea getting older thing is largely overblown i think. And while Arsenal lost Toure and Adebayor, the former has been replaced by a better player and the latter was pretty poor last year. I never really understood why people thought Arsenal were a lesser team this year. very little change and the pplayers are that bit more experienced, which was what was lacking.
    I also think Campbell coming in is a good thing for facing off against the more physical teams int he Permiership.

  • Comment number 68.

    There seems to be a lot of talk of Barcelona "demolishing Stuttgart 4-0". I seem to remember Arsenal beat Porto 5-0, and if anything Porto have a significantly better record in the competition than Stuttgart. I think Arsenal with their style of play are actually one of the teams best placed to stop Barca, provided the team does not seize up on the big occasion like they have done against ManU and Chelsea in the Premiership.

  • Comment number 69.

    To woodsforthetrees, Yes and No.

    I wouldn't have picked Barcelona by any means and my initial reaction was a bit of a sigh. However you gotta beat the best teams to win the champions league and im quite looking forward to it now.

    Should be a great game and Barca will want to play football and that suits us nicely, on our day I think we can def do enough to beat them. Would have preferered the second leg at home though.

    Also looking forward to Thierry coming home!

  • Comment number 70.

    Yet again Fergusson will be pinching himself at the ease of the route to the final. Same as last year but I bet he still complains

  • Comment number 71.

    Phil,

    Can you write about Arsenal without patronizing comments about Wenger. "Obviously Wenger has supreme confidence in his team, unshakable confidence, unreasonable confidence..."

    Also, assuming a Barca-ManU final? One game at a time young padawan.

    Fulham-Juve the real story of the week, second only to Liverpool just managing to get past Lille, regardless of the scorline.

  • Comment number 72.

    guyastral wrote:

    Good blog but not sure oneMAN Roonited will make it as far as the final though
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You are the kind of person that would have written oneMAN Roonaldounited last year. Boring!

  • Comment number 73.

    The word revenge only applies if cheating had taken place in their previous meeting or if a close match when against them, Man U were completely outplayed in all facets of the game. Redeemption is a better word in this case, anyway there is NO guarantee that it will be Barcelona and Man Utd in the final

  • Comment number 74.

    I think the winner of Barca v Arsenal will be who does the vilest goal celebration. Messi is great but his hair is something to be frowned upon, he shouldn't be seen in public celebrating with that barnet. However, straight in at number one of putrid goal celebrations is Arshavin. Can't players just be happy to score without punishing us with some pre-determined numbskull ritual? Fans should demand refunds from Sky.

  • Comment number 75.

    your moderation takes toooooooooooooooooo long

  • Comment number 76.

    I find it rather rediculous how you suggest Bayern will be looking to 'avenge' their 1999 defeat as no one in the current squad actually played in that final!

  • Comment number 77.

    Obviously the mods can't take a little criticism ... or the truth.

  • Comment number 78.

    TOSH Phil, well the first paragraphs andyone who knows about communication knows you have to capture the readers attention early hence Twitters appeal this year.

    Barcelona were infact wonderful last year in Rome, but that is not what Fergie said, or implied and we ALL know UTD did not show up that night. They were not the team that played to reach that final.

    This is a funny season there will be a few steps of Joy maybe in the draw, but there are no easy teams.

  • Comment number 79.

    Ugh, more with the 'Bayern luck'? I guess as a Bayern fan I'm biased, but I don't understand this line of thought. Yeah, Klose was offside, everyone knows this, but why does nobody talk about Fiorentina's luck?

    What about the goal they got in Munich from Kroldrup? The same Kroldrup who fouled Ribery in the box and should have been red carded and long gone before that equaliser? What about the 2nd goal scored in Florence by Jovetic? Did nobody see Gilardino clearly offside on his 'assist'? Obviously the linesman at the time didn't. The Klose goal was a travesty for sure, but I find the media are taking the whole thing too far in saying Bayern had luck on their side. Over the two legs, Bayern had more possession, more shots, fewer fouls, so how is that luck? The matches were even and Fiorentina had one leg in the quarters. They gave up the 2 away goals and thus were deservedly put out. End of story.

    As for the Bayern/ManU matchup, I'm looking forward to it. Only Fiorentina has scored more than 2 goals in a match vs. Bayern all year, in all competitions. Let's see if ManU can match that.

  • Comment number 80.

    Write a comment, wait an hour for it to be moderated. After another hour you see someone responds to that comment and so on... How do you get a debate going - It's every time Phil!

  • Comment number 81.

    I really hope that Man Utd get to play Barcelona in the final, and I say this as a Barcelona fan. I watched last year's final in a Catalan-speaking part of Spain, and loved it - we took Utd apart after ten minutes of sparring, neutralised the gelled tumbler, and gave Fergie a red face (well, an even redder-than-usual face, so to speak). For once he actually admitted losing to a better team (though he could hardly do otherwise).

    This isn't just a matter of Barcelona being a superior side, mind, though they are. Barcelona is far a better club, in my opinion. Why?

    Well, no Glazers for a start - we're owned by about 170,000 members, and get to vote for our president and board. We're not in debt. We have an awesome home-grown pipeline, a high proportion of our players are Catalans, and others are Spanish. We don't even accept commercial sponsorship - rather, we sponsor Unicef.

    And, of course, Barcelona play sublime football. Putting four goals past Stuttgart was quite possibly something that Utd might have done. But not, never in a million years, in the style that Barcelona did it. In fact, if you were looking for a UK team that plays like Barce, it would have to be Arsenal. So the QF should be one for the purists!

  • Comment number 82.

    The BBC’s Man United Love-in continues!!

    Are we going to get a regurgitation of this blog if the United-Barca Final happens?

    There’s no doubt what the tie of the round is, yet it only gets a passing mention. If you’re going to write about United, why not about the tie they will face next?

    Why do all writers feel the need to obsess over every sentence out of Ferguson’s mouth?? So he doesn’t have an excuse for last year’s final…so what? What did he say about drawing Bayern?

    Would echo #23 Phil, I normally look forward to your blogs with interest, but the choice of subject matter baffles me in this instance.

  • Comment number 83.

    Very disappointing blog Phil. I find it extremely strange that the main point of your blog is that Man Utd are happy because they might get to have a replay with barca. Talk about jumping the wagon, there's 4 (four) games left before the champions league final, in which 8 clubs are still in the run for, and you're already discussing how man utd can get revenge on barca?

  • Comment number 84.

    No mention of the Fulham and Liverpool results and their respective draws.

    I was going to make a longer comment but can't be bothered to wait over an hour for it to pass moderation. Surely it's better to allow all posts and then remove comments if a complaint arises, but its that simplicity that is over-rated by Phil and histeam of cronies.

  • Comment number 85.

    'There's a surprise ... another thrilling subject and all debate is killed by the slovenly mods. '

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

    'Sup mods? Can't take a little valid criticism?

  • Comment number 86.

    This comment is ETERNALLY awaiting moderation.

  • Comment number 87.

    I am almost sure if there will be no major injuries to Arsenal they will beat Barcelona as:
    - they have nothing to lose;
    - Barcelona are prepared to play against teams who defend, but Arsenal is one of those few who attack; so it will be like playing against Barcelona B, but Arsenal is much better than Barca B and is on the brink of the title in a much speedier and stronger championship than that of Spain;
    - no title holder has ever retained its title in the CL;
    - at this level there are no teams that can be on top for more than 15 months and Barca is getting tired except Messi; :-)
    - the first leg will be at the Emirates and according to Barca's results Arsenal can beat them by a 3 or more goals margin.

  • Comment number 88.

    There'll be a repeat performance alright.

    Ferguson couldn't have had a much easier route to the final; just like last year. They'll meet Barcelona again, be surprised that another team is actually a lot better than them and Barca will destroy them once more.

    Then of course there'll be all kinds of theories abounding and excusing Man Utd for not turning Barca over like everyone else. There is only one answer to that question, exactly the same as last year, that is that Man Utd are not as good, anywhere on the field, as Barcelona.

    We understand loud and clear Sir Alex, Barcelona are better than you.

  • Comment number 89.

    I have objections to your blog headline

    Despite Arsenal v Barcelona being the hottest draw most of the footabll fans are awaiting, your title is still about Ferguson and Man Utd, who probably have the veg tasting quarter final draw where united are almost certain to pregress. And despite most of your texts about on Arsenal v Barcelona, what would have taken you to write the blog title for Wenger instead?

  • Comment number 90.

    i agree! Man Utd have a great draw, i can see them in the final. But i can also see Barca getting to the final. this is going to be a tight one. Come on Barca!!!

  • Comment number 91.

    My first ever post! As an Arsenal fan I'm actually really excited about this tie. Whatever the outcome, watching two of the most cavalier teams in European football over 2 legs can't be a bad thing.

    The return of Henry as well as Fabregas playing against the boyhood club he will almost certainly return to one day (though I hope not at the end of this season) will add an extra dimension. Think we will see very muted celebrations if either score.

    Also I don't really go for the "easy route" to the finals argument. As the cliche goes "to be the best you have to beat the rest" and as a previous post menioned if Arsenal win the cup having beaten Barcelona and then say Inter Milan and Manchester United, I don't think anyone could say they didn't deserve it!

  • Comment number 92.

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

  • Comment number 93.

    Starfire 6 Mods 0 Why bother posting mate?It'll only get taken down.Hopefully you'll see this in June next year!

  • Comment number 94.

    #46 It was a freak goal, and before that I thought Man U were on top. But after that, they never looked in it.

  • Comment number 95.

    As A United fan I actually wanted Barca, as strange as that might sound. Better to get that out of the way earlier and try to avenge last year over two legs.

    Still, if both do make it to the final then I hope we don't get suckerpunched early again and spend 80 minutes chasing the ball.

    Barca vs Arsenal is the purists tie though ... although I wouldn't get my hopes up of seeing loads of chances. The games will be contested in a packed midfield.

  • Comment number 96.

    Phil,

    how come no mention of the europa league draw in this blog?

  • Comment number 97.

    A repeat of last year's final but with Fletcher & Hargreaves in United's midfield would be interesting. They wouldn't let Xavi and Iniesta run things like they did in Rome and United would see a lot more of the ball.

  • Comment number 98.

    Phil, you should write a blog slagging off United for no reason, perhaps throwing in some personal abuse ... at least then you'd appeal to 90% the people who seem to read it (or rather, read it and then comment).

  • Comment number 99.

    Man U might get to the final, but that's as far as it would go if they had to face Barça. Far better midfield and Messi is a million miles ahead of Rooney, who can score goals, but has anyone on here seen Messi? Better than Maradona.

  • Comment number 100.

    A quick flick through the posts and most Utd fans are looking forward to a Barcelona final...... I utterly despise the arrogance that would post such a statement dismissing the best that Europe has, I truly hope you come a cropper, and what a fall from grace that would be...... starting with Liverpool on Sunday.......

 

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