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Can Manchester United beat Barcelona?

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Phil McNulty | 01:39 UK time, Thursday, 5 May 2011

Old Trafford

Sir Alex Ferguson expressed a preference for facing Brechin City as opposed to Barcelona in the Champions League final - instead realism and romance dictates Manchester United will jump aboard the Catalan carousel at Wembley.

It was Ferguson who coined the term "carousel" to describe Barcelona's passing, movement and mastery in possession, and United's last ride resulted in head-spinning humiliation as they were outclassed in the 2009 final in Rome.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola's presence at Old Trafford on Wednesday was almost as academic as Schalke's as United completed a trouble-free passage into their third Champions League final in four years with a 4-1 win that sealed a 6-1 aggregate victory.

The question that hung over Old Trafford's celebrations was not could United beat Schalke - this was answered by an atmosphere devoid of tension and Ferguson's selection of his second string - but could they beat Barcelona?

Ferguson has bullishly insisted ever since that balmy night in Rome's Stadio Olimpico that he knows exactly what went wrong with a United side that walked out as favourites and walked back well beaten at the conclusion of a chilling exercise in ball chasing.

He now has the perfect stage, the very place where United won their first European Cup against Benfica in 1968, to put his theory to the test. And he can be assured Barcelona will present the most searching examination.

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Ferguson was pleased his decision to rest players against Schalke worked

I asked Ferguson if his belief that he knew the precise points where United's game plan came apart in Rome increased his confidence that the outcome will be different when they confront Barcelona again on 28 May.

He said: "I don't think we should be going there lacking in confidence. We are playing a fantastic team but they shouldn't hold any terrors. We can't be frightened out of our skins because of that. Our job is to find a solution to playing against them."

Guardiola will have gleaned little from his spying mission to Old Trafford as there was nothing to spy on. Ferguson made nine changes from the team that won in Gelsenkirchen, with Wayne Rooney given the night off, and it was still more than good enough to beat a Schalke side who gave a very bad account of themselves in this semi-final.

Darron Gibson, despite recently leaving the Twittersphere, gave eloquent answers to the critics with a decisive early contribution to snuff out any lingering aspirations the Bundesliga team had of overturning a two-goal deficit.

He set up the first for Antonio Valencia and scored the second himself, aided by a dreadful error by Schalke's coveted keeper Manuel Neuer - who looked as bad at Old Trafford as he looked world class in Gelsenkirchen.

Jose Manuel Jurado's goal was a minor inconvenience and Anderson restored reality to the margin between the sides with two late goals.

So United's thoughts turn to Wembley, a happy destination for Barcelona also as they secured this trophy for the first time underneath the old twin towers with victory against Sampdoria in 1992.

And a player who may just figure prominently in Ferguson's thinking will have delighted his manager by making a 17-minute comeback as a substitute following an absence through illness.

Darren Fletcher is one tool Ferguson may use to try to dismantle the carousel, badly missed when suspended in Rome and a character his manager trusts on the big occasion - and do they come any bigger than meeting Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley?

Ferguson said: "Some players are big game players and Darren Fletcher is a big game player. A perfect example is Mark Hughes, who was one of the best big game players in Manchester United history. He never failed in a big game and that's the type of example we can see in Fletcher."

United's manager must decide whether to stick or twist at Wembley. Rooney and Javier Hernandez have formed a fruitful partnership, but dare he risk playing both against Barcelona and risk the prospect of being outnumbered in midfield?

Manchester United's starting XI from the 2009 Champions League final against Barcelona

United have lost Cristiano Ronaldo from the 2009 final line-up. Picture: Getty Images

United were run into the ground in Rome, a task always made more painful when it is done without the ball, and the general opinion is that Michael Carrick is only just completing his footballing rehabilitation from the trauma visited on him by the brilliance of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Ferguson's default option, the one that makes him a worthy member of the ranks of all-time great managers, is a natural instinct to attack but pragmatism will also play on his mind also as he formulates his plans.

He may, in his ideal scenario, wish to fight fire with fire and take Barcelona on. This is a strategy with high risks attached as few sides have ever been as well-equipped to take on such a task as one with Lionel Messi at its heart and master finisher David Villa added since their victory in Rome.

Patterns must be broken and flowing football snuffed out. It may go against the grain for Ferguson, but packing bodies around Barcelona in midfield and stifling them in heavy midfield traffic is an obvious option to deny Guardiola's gifted ones the time and space to toy with United as they have done with so many others.

This may mean a lone role for Rooney and a heavy reliance on his recent rejuvenation and the return of his inspiration. United have lost Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez since Rome - although they did nothing to influence events then - and Dimitar Berbatov does not appear to be fully trusted for the biggest games.

If Guardiola did gain anything from his night in Manchester, it was an illustration of Ferguson's trust in his squad and an impressive show of strength. Schalke played like one of the poorest teams ever to reach the latter stages of the Champions League, but they were impressively dispatched by United's Mark One and Mark Two in these ties.

And Ferguson will be encouraged by the slightest, and by this we mean very slight, slips showing in Barcelona on occasions recently. Many of their most influential players have had a taxing schedule over the last two years and United will hope the exertions may just be catching up on them.

He is also expected to pick the brains of Madrid's mischief-maker-in-residence Jose Mourinho on how to halt Barcelona - although Ferguson is unlikely to take such a passive, negative approach as witnessed in Real's semi-final first leg against Barcelona at the Bernabeu.

Ferguson has domestic matters to attend to first, and the business of winning United's record 19th title - but anyone who saw his combustible after-match reaction to defeat in Rome will know he will regard Wembley as a very public chance to set a record straight, to wipe a blot from his record.

And prove conclusively that the carousel can be stopped.

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Comments

Page 1 of 7

  • Comment number 1.

    Barca are beatable, Arsenal shown this at the Emirates.
    Good luck Man U.

    Oh man feels weird saying that.

  • Comment number 2.

    loving this, alex ferguson has set himself up for a major fall by saying that he knew what went wrong..... though thats not to say united cant win. Real have shown that it is possible to stifle Barcas creative talent (unless you all get sent off!) so it is possible.... Man Utd need to hope they beat chelsea at the weekend though because then they are almost assured of the title and they can rest key players for the final!

  • Comment number 3.

    On the face of it looks as if United are completely overmatched given the lack of heights they are perceived to have hit this season, however personally I draw comfort from the 1994 final when a supposedly 'overmatched' Milan destroyed the much fancied Barca 4-0. For Daniele Massaro read Ryan Giggs?

  • Comment number 4.

    Phil, I often wonder how qualified you are to write about football as opposed to anyone else. I read this blog and I read your match report and I saw the match while following the online report as well. The question on every sports page was indeed could Uniteds second string beat Schalke. Schalke who tore Apart the last team Benetez Managed have in turn been torn apart by Man Utd bit part players.
    I don't agree with your description of Neuer, he made some brilliant saves last night. I think if Rooney had scored that Gibson goal you would have been waxing lyrical. The goalkeeper failed to stop it because of the immense power plus the deflection it took on the way in. If you look closely at Gibsons reaction you can see his goal was a huge moment for him, in my opinion he was almost in tears. I think he was vindicated last night as a good player in the making. Many people form opinions on players from what you write, without actually looking at the player themselves. It's no accident that John O Shea is another to suffer the same fate of being tarred with the useless brush as Gibson as was Fletcher at one point in his career. United last night mixed it up. Against Barcelona they will have the most experienced back 4 available. Valencia Giggs and then anyone from Nani Park Fletcher Scholes Anderson in the middle and I think Ferguson might spring a suprise for the journo s up front, by leaving Hernandez on the bench... Owen did nothing last after replacing Berbatov, which in my opinion shows how important Berbatov is and how over rated Owen is. Barca are very beatable, they are not the same team as two years ago, and United wont' have to play with 10 men as Ronaldo twaddles about on the half way line waiting for a pass.

  • Comment number 5.

    You have to say Barca are favourites - their confidence must be at an all time high - but football has a habit of tripping up the favourites so although they are probably the best team of all time you wouldn't put your house on them winning. I have to say too that Barca are lucky that Messi hasn't been injured over the last few seasons; with all the attention he gets from defences that must rank as a miracle.

  • Comment number 6.

    What the hell is Steve McClaren on about..........? "but he must get his tactics absolutely spot on if he wants to lift the trophy for the second time in his managerial career."...............Sir Alex has already lift this trophy twice and he was there for one of them. Looks like the dementia has set in early?

  • Comment number 7.

    Well anything is possible in this world - including Man U lifting the Champions League trophy on May 28th - but given Barca are better than two years ago and United are worse, it's unlikely.

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm more than certain that the question that hung over celebrations at Old Trafford yesterday wasn't if United can beat Barcelona but it surely was about how Chelsea feel now, having to visit Old Trafford, with almost the entire first XI rested, with the club in the euphoria of reaching the Champions League final, by playing a B' team in the semi final, resting all key players but the keeper and winning comfortably 4-1 on the day.

    Last season, Chelsea beat a tired United side that played a part of their semi final against Bayern Munich with 10 players, having Rooney out, injured by van Bommel. Chelsea were fresh as a spring morning, while United players were seeking the extra breath that would carry them a few yards away.

    This season, United were lucky in having to face Schalke 04, allowing SAF to make the brave, I have to admit, decision to rest almost his entire first team. At least, if Manchester United lose on Sunday, football fans will know that this was because Chelsea were better and not because United were tired.

    The biggest game of the season is on Sunday for United. Then, if Chelsea are still a danger for the title, the biiggest game of the season is at Ewood Park. Then, if it's still important, the biggest game of the season is against Blackpool. And when the season ends, the biggest game is at Wembley. And this is truth said simply.

    Last night was a night of celebration for Manchester United. It felt like a privilige to support this club.

  • Comment number 10.

    Barca are working with a defence from their trainees

  • Comment number 11.

    7. At 08:56am 5th May 2011, sagamix wrote:

    Well anything is possible in this world - including Man U lifting the Champions League trophy on May 28th - but given Barca are better than two years ago and United are worse, it's unlikely.


    I would hardly describe United as worse than 2 years ago Saga.I also question the hyperbole surrounding Barcelona.Arsenal demonstrated how to beat Barcelona at Ashburton Grove,Barcelona aren't as solid at the back as United and the two goals Arsenal scored showed them to be quite flat footed.


  • Comment number 12.

    I suppose the big question is whether to play 1 or 2 strickers.

    V D Sar, Da Silva, Vidic, Rio, Evra. Valencia,Fletcher, Carrick,Giggs, Park, Rooney.
    or
    V D Sar, Da Silva, Vidic, Rio, Evra. Valencia, Carrick, Giggs,Park. Rooney, Hernandez

  • Comment number 13.

    Man U have no chance against Barcelona. Arsenal always dominate possession against Man U but end up losing because we are rubbish without the ball and we don't take our chances. Barcelona are terrific without the ball and have the best finishers in world football in their team.

    Ferguson will attempt to stop Barcelona playing, that's standard and it might work for 20 mins, but the volume of passing and thrust from the Barcelona team and the speed at which they win the ball back will have Carrick and the other water carriers surrendering possession with alarming regularity.

    This is far from a great Man U team, but this is a great Barcelona team. 2-0 or 3-1 to Barca, Fergie's negative football will be thwarted and I don't see Man U fighting fire with fire ! If they don't have the stomach to play that way against Arsenal they certainly won't against Barcelona.

  • Comment number 14.

    In answer to your headline question: in one word "No" - Barca will pass through them in midfield and if SAF leaves Rooney on his own up front to pack the midfield, he will see so little of the ball he will end up being sent off. For Rome, read Wembley - Barca are simply the best I've ever seen watching the game for over 50 years.

  • Comment number 15.

    #1 is on the right track.
    Arsenal showed how you can beat Barca, and that is by defending well, keeping them working and holding on until their pressing game begins to run out of legs. Arsenal did this, and Real did the same in the Copa del Rey. If you go after them too soon, as RM did in the first leg, the pace of the game drops because of all the stoppages and that plays in to their hands.
    ManU could be in the best place to carry out the plan. Barca don't play wide (which could expose manu) so force them to play through Fletcher, Vidic and Ferdinand. Then make sure that any ball won is worked fast going forward.

    #4 completely disagree about Berbatov. He is skillful but languid. ManU's best chance is to score fast and incisive goals before Barca are organised. Rooney up front with Nani and Giggs is a far better bet.

    So, although I still want Barca to win I think it could go either way.

  • Comment number 16.

    They can be beaten and Manchester United can do it. Barcalona are a very good side, no question, but are certainly weaker at the back. The major problem for me is going to be the referee; I know they are softer in Europe but we need someone who won't pander to their pathetic diving and feigning injury all the time. The Clasico at the Bernabeu was testament to that- Spanish football is over-rated and its about time Barcalona got beaten with the eyes of the world on them.

  • Comment number 17.

    Why a blog about a match happening in 23 days' time?

    Why not save such a blog for the eve of the final?

    Why not a blog about last night's match?

    Why not a blog about Utd's strength in depth that was so in evidence last night?

    Why lazily refer to Villa as a 'master finisher' and neglect to mention his one goal in his last 14 games?

    Why refer to a 2-0 scoreline as a 'humiliation'?

    Why state that United were favourites for the 2009 final? I don't remember this.

    Why the apostrophe in 'United's Mark One and Mark Two'?


    So many questions.

  • Comment number 18.

    No. Next question.

  • Comment number 19.

    We can win this.. Yes barca are the favs and we may not have the best midfield but boy we know how to win! Somehow, we'll manage.. Fletcher & Valencia will win it for us

  • Comment number 20.

    I think United will surprise the doubters 3:1 to United, they win the league and Ferguson to Retire.

  • Comment number 21.

    This reminds me of the 1996 Final. Juventus were playing Ajax, the reigning champions, and even though it was in Rome, most Italians I was hearing seemed to think Ajax were unbeatable. Juventus won the trophy on penalties.

    This year's final's at Wembley, and even though United and Barcelona have been given the same number of tickets, I think playing in England will be a factor. That's not to say Barcelona might not win, but I don't think it's as cut and dry as some people would like to believe.

    You might be right with those tactics Phil, but Ferguson, playing on British soil, I think will be using that energy to attempt to play more in the style we're used to seeing them play at Old Trafford. I'm not a fan of Steve McLaren's but I have to say I enjoyed reading his analysis of what United have to do, particularly what Johann Cruyff was telling him about the 10 metre maximum passes meaning Barcelona didn't need to run very far to get the ball back.

    If I were a betting man, which I am, I would go for United to beat a rattled Barcelona.

  • Comment number 22.

    Answer to the Question is YES ..
    How?

    .............Van Der Sar ................
    Oshea...Ferdinand.....Vidic........Evra
    ..... Carrick... Fletcher...
    Valencia.....Giggs...............Nani(Park)
    ..............Rooney...............

    Win the ball in midfield and counter attack .

    And make the most of set-pieces.. Barcelona don't have a lot of good headers at the back ..

  • Comment number 23.

    Good game last night, and Man u played really well, making Schalke look like a part time team again, how they ever got to the semi final stage was a complete mystery to me and my mates in the pub last night??? However Barca are definite favourites for the cup. I hope I'm sorry Man u, but just can't see you getting anything out of that game.

  • Comment number 24.

    While I would love for United to show that Barca arent all they are cracked up to be I can't see it happening unless they beat chelsea this weekend. And although they have a rested team, Chelseas is more rested and they also only have one chance for a trophy.... that match is chelseas entire season and while SAF is a brilliant manager, you cant help but think he will have one eye on the final a couple of weeks later..... If Utd win, the league is almost certainly theirs and then I suspect they can challenge barca.... if they lose to chelsea, then I suspect that not only will they lose to barca, but the blow will cause them to lose the league to chelsea aswell

  • Comment number 25.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 26.

    Manchester united will ONLY win if they play with 11 men.Coz Barcelona's game is always perfect when a team is one man less. I predict Man utd 3:0 Barcelona.

  • Comment number 27.

    kanchelskis_legend: the apostrophe in "United's Mark One and Mark Two" implies ownership. They are the first and second team OF the club Manchester United. Similarly, you would say "They were dispatched by Manchester United's First Team and Second team."

    As for the rest of your questions....I kind of agree....!

  • Comment number 28.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 29.

    Barcelona can, of course, be beaten, especially bearing in mind that they are effectively the away team in a one off match. I feel, however, it will take a lot more than the inclusion of Darren Fletcher to achieve this. Somehow, I do not see Xavi, Iniesta and Messi quaking in their boots at the prospect of having to overcome Fletcher.
    Ferguson says he knows what went wrong during their last meeting with Barcelona. That is all very well, but knowing what went wrong does not necessarily imply that you have the means to put it right. If Man U are set up with some new and untried formula to stifle Barcelona, Guardiola's work will already have been done. Barcelona will go out at Wembley to play at their own pace in the manner that has worked so well for them. Man U should do the same and, if that fails on the night, then they will have the small comfort of knowing that their best was not good enough against the best club side around at the moment.
    Mourinho went for the negative option and it got him nowhere, except a seat in the stands. If Man U are anything other than positive in their approach, both on and off the field, they will have lost this tie before a ball has been kicked. Team selection will be critical, but leaving Rooney alone up front to fight for scraps like a headless chicken is more likely to lead to a sending off from frustration than a match winning goal. Man U are not Steau Bucharest or Red Star Belgrade, who were able to win this final by boring everybody into a trance. On this occasion, Man U are the underdogs, but every dog has its day. Hopefully May 28 will be Man U's.

  • Comment number 30.

    Barca have had (another) brilliant season, but they are used to thrashing sub par opposition, with the Spanish liga being about as competitive as the Scottish Premier -after Villareal and Valencia where's the quality? And lets not forget RM did manage to grind out a win in the Copa del Rey against this Barca side.English Premier League has been extraordinarily competitive this season and United (mostly) have shown their mettle when it counts. Last words - Wimbeldon vs Liverpool 1988 anyone? Best Liverpool team ever, and best team in the World at the time?

  • Comment number 31.

    Of course ManU can beat Barcelona. ManU have a 'Barca can be beaten' or 'anything is possible in football' chance of winning it.

    As usual, the English will do the talking and the Spanish will do the playing. I still remember in 2009 when jokes were made in the ITV studio about Messi's height and the boys enjoyed themselves to it. Terry Venables said we (United) will win becuse we are dominant in the air. Messi could never score with his head even if they put a hat on it!"
    Well, Mess scored. With his head!

  • Comment number 32.

    2009 Teams:

    GK Víctor Valdés
    RB 5 Carles Puyol (c)
    CB 24 Yaya Touré
    CB 3 Gerard Piqué
    LB 16 Sylvinho
    DM 28 Sergio Busquets
    CM 6 Xavi
    CM 8 Andrés Iniesta
    RW 10 Lionel Messi
    LW 14 Thierry Henry
    CF 9 Samuel Eto'o

    Substitutes:
    GK 13 José Manuel Pinto
    DF 2 Martín Cáceres
    DF 46 Marc Muniesa
    MF 15 Seydou Keita
    FW 7 Eiður Guðjohnsen
    FW 11 Bojan Krkić
    FW 27 Pedro


    GK Edwin van der Sar
    RB 22 John O'Shea
    CB 5 Rio Ferdinand
    CB 15 Nemanja Vidić
    LB 3 Patrice Evra
    CM 8 Anderson
    CM 16 Michael Carrick
    CM 11 Ryan Giggs (c)
    RW 13 Park Ji-Sung
    LW 10 Wayne Rooney
    CF 7 Cristiano Ronaldo

    Substitutes:
    GK 29 Tomasz Kuszczak
    DF 21 Rafael
    DF 23 Jonny Evans
    MF 17 Nani
    MF 18 Paul Scholes
    FW 9 Dimitar Berbatov
    FW 32 Carlos Tévez


    For me, take Ronaldo and Tevez out of United's squad and they're weaker straight away. Hernandez redresses the balance slightly, and I suppose they've got Fletcher this time who will be an important player in this game. Giggs, Scholes & Ferdinand are all a couple of years older, and have been looking it recently (maybe with the exception of Giggs). On balance, I'd have to say they're a poorer team than they were in 2009.

    I don't think there's a single area in which Barcelona have not improved however. Valdes is a better keeper now than he was then. Defensively Abidal or Adriano are both better than Sylvinho, Dani Alves is a massive improvement, and this also allows Puyol to push inside to strengthen centre half. In midfield Mascherano is a straight swap for Toure in the defensive role they are/were expected to perform and Busquets has gone from strength to strength. Up front, for Pedro has also come on massively and is a big improvement on the Thierry Henry Barca had. Messi is even better now than he was then (I remember the media laughably giving it "oooh, y'know he's never managed to score against a team from En-gur-lund!") and Villa for Eto'o is at worst a straight swap, although for me, Villa fits in with Barca's style slightly better.

    I think Fergie has 2 options: 1) Have a go at them, press high and attack - play them at their own (and to be fair, Man Utd's own) game and may the best team win. 2) Drop

  • Comment number 33.

    Its stating the obvious but Barca are clear favourites, however United are no mugs and if they were playing anyone else at Wembley for the final we'd probably be favourites.

    I think what makes this exciting is that everyone who is enjoying Barca's football and talking about them as the greatest team ever at some point wants to see them challenged, they want to see them pushed to their limits and like it or not many people believe that United at Wembley will pose such a challange.

    I'd like to add that I've not been impressed with the playacting that the Barca players carry on with and I think its really poor sportsmanship for a team that good to carry on like that.

  • Comment number 34.

    If SAF decides to play a certain Paul Scholes, be rest assured of a red card. Carrick will be a passer bye if fielded as well.
    The game is a one off match which anyone can win. United's best oportunity will be to get the 1st goal (and defend for their lives). If its a late goal coming after the hour mark, then they have a great chance, but if Barca should get the 1st goal, we could call it game over, as Villa will be a torn for Ferdinand, Pedro will keep Evra at bay, while Messi, will put the firhgts on Vidic all night long

  • Comment number 35.

    I know that it's the final and that it's just one game etc etc. But why are people making the same mistake as two years ago where they think man utd have a good chance. Don't get me wrong, hernandez could get a goal in the final, but i would say that the percentage of barca winning is 75% in their favour. What people did not see two years ago is that outside britain, everyone knew that barca would win, honestly, everyone could see their quality and i think that they are also a better side from two years ago and they do not have any suspended players like they did two years ago. But people thinking that man utd can go their and get their fair share of possession must be delusional, either that, of they haven't watched barcelona at all this season. If man utd try to press barcelona, then they will get torn to shreds and barca will just play triangles round them. Teh best chance united have of stopping barca is to play park on one side valencia on the other with rooney just off hernandez, and hernandez will have to work off scraps, as rooney park and valencia will all have to drop very deep to nullify the attacking fullbacks and to make the central area more congested. But yes at set pieces and possibly on the break, man utd may have a chance, but a very slim chance, man utd's midfield are is going to be vital, and i do think that barca will control that area, meaning that they will kill united all over the pitch, because xavi iniesta busquets messi pedro and villa are in a league of their own and with the attacking fullbacks, they have a great out ball and that is why i think united must start park and valencia because they will track the runners better than nani. But yes my prediction is for barcelona to run out 3-0 victors.

  • Comment number 36.

    It is really difficult to look past Barcelona for this one. Two years ago everyone said that the difference between between the two teams was Ronaldo, and look how that turned out.
    The only significant differences in this Barca team is that they have Busquets in for Yaya Toure and David Villa up front, if anything they have gotten stronger and Man Utd look a much weaker side than the team that lost in the final in Rome.
    On the bright side Utd do have their ace in the pack; Hernandez! That lad has just the kind of awereness and movement that the Barca back four hate to play against and if Fergie plays him I think he may be pleasently surprised.

    It all comes down to how Messi is feeling on the night and whether or not Man Utd can get a cheeky Hernandez goal from somewhere. Good luck to both teams as it is sure to be an immense final.

  • Comment number 37.

    Kanchelskis_legend has hit the nail on the head with one of his questions. United have been told all season long that they do not have the strength in depth of the other teams at the top of the premier league, yet they managed to contain and overwhelm the team that destroyed Inter last month with a largely second eleven. This is worth pointing out. Also it is worth pointing out that Anderson and Ginson had some great touches in the game and, along with Scholes, ruled the midfield. I think Gibson has much to learn but has shown he can do the job in spades and I can not wait to see him mature into a great midfielder. Anderson is starting to show what he is capable of too which is a welcome site.

    I know that Schalke are not the side they were the previous season but they were in the Champions League semi final after defeating the holders comprehensively so they are not mugs either.

  • Comment number 38.

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

  • Comment number 39.

    Barcelona has lost the following matches this season:
    Spanish Super Cup: Sevilla
    La Liga: Hercules, Real Sociedad
    Catalonia Cup: Espanyol
    Copa del Rey: Ral Betis, Real Madrid
    They can be beaten, with the right player plauing in the right positions with a sound strategy.Manchester United does have the right players, they do have a manager who has learnt his lesson and they certainly have better players than the teams mentioned above to get the job done at Wembly.
    There is no reason why we can not come out on top there, yes, Barca will start as favourites, but United has as good chance as any of those teams to beat them.
    Champion's League: Arsenal

  • Comment number 40.

    With the recent talk of referee's favouring Barca and Man Utd's reputation in a similar area this should be very interesting...very interesting

  • Comment number 41.

    people saying that arsenal showed how to beat barca is just wrong, the only reason arsenal did eventually beat them is because barca missed about 5 or 6 great chances,barca to win again 2-0

  • Comment number 42.

    The main problem in the 2009 final was that Fletcher was suspended. He is the ideal man for breaking up play in the midfield and he should be recovered and fresh come this years final after his recent illness. Anderson, who I imagine can only have made the starting XI as a result of Fletcher's absence was a sorry replacement - conceding possession too frequently. Also, Carrick, who should have been the one (in Fletcher's absence) breaking up play, looked like a startled bunny - totally uncomfortable in the pressure of the big game and not for the first time I might add.

    United can win but only if they can make the game dull overall by stopping Barca. Here's hoping for the most boring Champions League final ever. 1-0 United.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think Man Utd have the best possible players to shut out Barca. They have to work and close down as hard as Barca when they are without the ball. People often talk about the passing and attacking options for Barca but they forget how hard they work to win the ball back. Man Utd have Park, Fletcher & Valencia to close down the midfield and the wide positions. An ogre like Rooney to work the defenders. This should leave Anderson/Scholes & Nani/Bebartov to unlock Barca's defence. Man Utd beat Schalke with just 45% possession last night with their infamous quick counter attacks, the opposition supporters hate so much in the last 20 years.

  • Comment number 44.

    #38 - you are a bit of a sad chippie really aren't you. Chelsea lost the 2008 finbal because Anelka and Terry missed their penalties simple as that and Drogba was daft enough to hit Vidic. It was their own fault.

    If United press Barca they can win it

  • Comment number 45.

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

  • Comment number 46.

    #4 - actually Owen had an excellent shot saved by Neuer in about the 81st minute that the Schalke keeper had to tip over the bar at full stretch. Owen does offer a good option and he has scored more Champions League goals in the last 2 seasons than

    #2 - Fergie hasn't set up for a fall all he has done is admit that he has analysed the game since then and spotted mistakes that he made in either selection or tactics. He hasn't claimed that United will thrash Barca only that he has identified where he went wrong (remains to be seen whether that will help though).

  • Comment number 47.

    Last night when you saw pep guardiola on the sidelines was a real glimps that he does fear United and what they have in depth, compared to Barca, who just have a amazing first XI but coming off the bench they dont have anything that would worry Alex, (maybe Afellays pace in the latter stages of the game)

    but Untied need to look at what Arsenal did at the Emirates in the second half dont just sit back but go out and attack Barca, they are so used to teams sitting back and allow the pressure onto them, if Sir Alex can exploit those caps behind Dani Alves which he always leaves when he finds himself in the other teams half there is the key, also with there left back who ever that may be on the night.

    How old Scholes and Giggs may be, i think they could be the key in United winning this game, need some one like Fletcher to win the ball back in midfield and then Scholes to play those 40 yard paces that he is famous for to make Barca play to the tune of the english game.

    also another player that Alex MUST start in the final is Park! he doesnt stop running will win the ball back everywhere on the pitch and loves making those runs into the box. Alex always uses him in the big games so far since he has been at United and dont think he should stop now.

  • Comment number 48.

    haha sad chippie u crack me up! do u even watch football without ur rose tinted alex fergasun glasses on?? 4 pens denied against barca, 2 against inter, 1 against united, all which wuda pt them thru to the final practically! wake up sunshine

  • Comment number 49.

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

  • Comment number 50.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 51.

    Gooner8, I can agree with a lot of what you say...Barca are favourites, United have no chance of dominating possession, maybe there is nothing United can do to swing the game in their favour, but the one thing they have (like all english teams) is the ability to fight for a result.

    The way you talk, its like your suggesting United might as well not bother turning up!!!

    Even arsenal who are more known for their stylish football than there resolve, fought and fought fair in the two legs agaisnt Barca. The didn't have more of the ball (even at home) they had fewer shots on goal but they didn't give up and kept plugging away and believing. Had it not been for the Sending off who knows what might have happened. United will hopefully do the same and hope they can get something from the game. If united lose I want them to do so with people saying they gave it a go....I don't want a repeat of 2009 where they looked shocked and defeated.

  • Comment number 52.

    @22. I agree with your team mostly, though i think Park will definitely play as he provides excellent defensive cover. I think then it is a toss up between Nani & Valencia to who plays on the other wing, either will be a good option for the counter attack, but imo Valencia is better defensively which could be a deciding factor.

    I have thought for a while that Barcelona's defence is fragile if you can get at them (I have watched countless spanish league games and them in the CL). Even in La Liga teams end up having one or two chances in the game even when they are outplayed 90% of the time.

    If we can defend solidly as a team, use our pace on the counter and be clinical with our finishing i believe we have a great chance. Easier said than done however!

  • Comment number 53.

    #46.... I realise he hasnt explicitly said it but you have to admit it does sound like a "I know what went wrong so this time I know how to beat them type thing"..... if you know where a football match went wrong then inevitably that implies that if you imporve on that then you will win..... I still think this weekend is what will decide the season for them though.... i reckon its all or nothing!

  • Comment number 54.

    barcelona are favourites for a reason. they are by far the best team in the world there is no denying that. there is nothing that suggests to me that man utd will win. come on barcelona!!!!! also barcelona are better than they were in 2009 and man utd are worse than they were then

  • Comment number 55.

    #16 - "we need someone who won't pander to their pathetic diving and feigning injury all the time."

    Probert then? He didn't pander to the pathetic diving from Nani & Hernandez against Newcastle.

    I cannot see Man United beating Barcelona, they wont be anywhere near as effective of breaking down play then Madrid and Mourinhos "kick anything that moves, then stamp on it when its down" tactics.

  • Comment number 56.

    48. At 09:45am 5th May 2011, leeds_leeds_leeds_bates wrote:
    haha sad chippie u crack me up! do u even watch football without ur rose tinted alex fergasun glasses on?? 4 pens denied against barca, 2 against inter, 1 against united, all which wuda pt them thru to the final practically! wake up sunshine
    --------------------------------------------

    Considering that none of those defeats were in a semi-final saying that you would have been in the final is premature. Fine you didn't get a penalty in some games but not all of them were straightforward and given the soft penalty Chelsea got in the league match, Atkinson's failure to send off David Luiz before he scored the 2nd goal and many other penalties that Chelsea have got through players diving evens itself out in the end. Bit sad that the only satisfaction a so-called Leeds fan can get is complaining when Chelsea lose really

  • Comment number 57.

    Phil
    I do not like to make undue criticism - but surely, the biggest question even for you was whether Man U would win with the team selection for last night. The finals is still a little far, IMO, and Man alto can happen before then.
    The saying anything can happen in football is true because its true. Last night showed that, Barca have been beaten in these lasf few games, and surely, Man u are not some team that cannot perform. that is something that any Man U fan knows and everyone else does.
    That said - it will be a cracking game!

  • Comment number 58.

    * 54. we may suport different teams but well both have a barca shirts on come may 28th!!

  • Comment number 59.

    The last time we played Barca the run-up was filled with pointless matches and player rotations this time the team and SAF have a title to win hopefully they can maintain some momentum through to the final.

    My biggest concern is still the quality of the Wembley pitch for this great match and the FA Cup semi-final performance of United on said pitch. It could be said that the pitch will suit neither side but United have struggled to play their natural game (for a full 90mins) on recent appearances.

    C'mon United...

  • Comment number 60.

    * 56. you really have no clue about football do u?? chelsea barcelona WAS a semi final!! hahaha

  • Comment number 61.

    Barca are a far more 1 dimensional side then they were in 2009, aside from Busquets and pique they have no height, people keep on about mourinhio's tactics being wrong but Barca didn't look like scoring until pepe was sent off. If you can close down space in the middle of the pitch they have no answer. They're also very vulnerable at the back against teams who break with pace as arsenal showed, lets not forget that despite hammering 10 man arsenal they could easily have been out if bendtner had taken his chance.

    People also keep talking about united being weaker because tevez and ronaldo aren't playing but numerous united players have improved especially Rooney and nani, while united have added the likes of Valencia and Hernandez and the team plays far better as a unit. Fletcher is also available this time which will be a major bonus in terms of closing down space in the middle of the park. Barca will of course be favourites but then united were in 2009.

  • Comment number 62.

    I actually think Man U will win this, and have even put money on it (only a tenner!). As a Gooner I watched both recent games, and the key to beating them is not allowing Barca any space, and picking the ball off when they try to advance forward. Let Barca have all the possession they want in the middle of the park, but stop them advancing. The commentators and media may well have a field day and say United are being completely outclassed (my advice would be to turn the volume down!), but you win football matches by kicking the ball into the goal, not by having 65% possession.
    The main problem I feel will be refs; every time Arsenal tackled Barca and won the ball, the Barca player would collapse on the ground and usually win a free kick. Therefore you have to allow them possession and try not to tackle them, looking more for interceptions. Fergie is a good tactician, so will already know this though!

  • Comment number 63.

    34. At 09:31fm 5th maj 2011, bdyke04 wrote:
    If SAF decides to play a certain Paul Scholes, be rest assured of a red card. Carrick will be a passer bye if fielded as well.

    _____________________________________________

    I hope that he does not play Scholes. Playing Scholes against a Barca midfield will he suicide. Paul Scholes will arrive a fraction of a second late for 5 of his first 6 tackles. An inevitable red card waiting to happen.

  • Comment number 64.

    #58 and you are both equally sad people. I'd rather see an English team than a Spanish one win the CL any day. You're just bitter that your 2 clubs never will.

    As for the game I think the return of Darren Fletcher will be key. A 4-5-1 with Rooney leading the line and a midfield of Giggs, Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson and Nani will be vital although Fergie may go with Scholes rather than Carrick as passing ability will be pivotal in the final but Barca are beatable (Arsenal, real in the Copa Del Rey and Hercules have proved that) and whilst it won't be easy it is possible. Although Ronaldo & Tevez are gone tevez didn't do much in Rome anyway and Ronaldo didn't have a great game either. A League & CL Double is still possible

  • Comment number 65.

    Surely Barcelona are a team tweaked from 2009 as much as anything. Sure, they have Villa now, but Eto'o is lethal as well, as he demonstrated in that final.

    Man U can win it, no doubt. They are the embodiment of 'team' at the moment (and indeed squad.) However, I suspect that by hook or by crook, Barcelona will win simply because of the game changing quality of Messi.

    I think Man U may have a problem with Vidic as well. He is a fine defender and he's not afraid to take a yellow as well if needs be, an old fashioned but admirable quality in some respects. However, Barcelona will come at Man U's defence from left, right and centre, in a way they haven't had to deal with in Europe so far.

    If Vidic does get a yellow (fairly or otherwise) I think that could spell trouble.

    Talk of Fletcher in big games though, with Ferguson usually employing what I call (rightly or wrongly) the destroyers of Park and Fletcher. Will Ferguson be bold enough to play Nani and/or Valencia (who has done well since his comeback).

    Man U fans. If the match was tomorrow, what would your starting 11 be?

  • Comment number 66.

    Come on United... all I know is that absolutely no way we are getting beat by Barca again. For all of Barca's so-called 'greatest team' tag, they have hardly come back from being a goal down in big games. I always just wonder what would have happened in the 2009 final if United had scored first when we made all the attacks in those opening minutes b4 their goal.

    Sir Alex and the lads have to go for it at the onset, let's score first and let Pepe Guardiola and his Barca come back and win it. After that, I can salute them because for all my United support, Barca are actually my 2nd team but United are FIRST

  • Comment number 67.

    #60..... you also have no clue about football..... its a game, sometimes you win sometimes you dont..... stop talking about another teams regrets from a few seasons ago..... theyre in the past and they arent your teams!!! If I were you I would worry about the huge problems at your club!

  • Comment number 68.

    *64. wed rather see teams tht deserve to be there rather than u lot! may i remind u the last time we met, fa cup third round, 1-0 leeds at old trafford! we'll b bck in the prem soon and we'l have u lot again

    barca have a much better footballing philosophy than you lot, they play attractive football and entertain, united r the oposite, so mebe ppl wanna c the better team win?? ever thought of tht? plus it wud be funny seeing little fergie face drop!

  • Comment number 69.

    They say 7 days is a long time in football terms for all the right reasons and the final is 23 days away. On top of that, the final is played in England and, if there is no result in 90 minutes, there is extra time and penalties. They also say that, in a final, underdogs tend to have their way not few times.

    What I see people not saying here is the main issue on yesterdays' match: SAF made another masterstroke of a decision in resting almost his entire first team. Schalke 04 would probably be beaten by West Ham, too. But how many managers would rest their entire first team in a Champions League Semi Final?

    There are always ways to play in a final and Manchester United do have options. Still, the most important match of the season, this season, is going to be played on Sunday 8th May, at 16:10 o'clock.

  • Comment number 70.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 71.

    @ 68, leeds_leeds_leeds_bates,

    Championship and Champions League Final may both start from "Champion" but you're in the wrong blog. Seek a Championship blog to sell brains, my friend.

  • Comment number 72.

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

  • Comment number 73.

    Man U will be destroyed by Barcelona and I wouldn't be surprised with 4 or 5-0. That is going to hurt at Wembley, and even more so as Chelsea will be league champions by then. I think a lot of Man U fans were hoping to go out in the semi to avoid a final humiliation.

  • Comment number 74.

    64. At 09:53am 5th May 2011, PetShopBoys_Forever wrote:
    #58 and you are both equally sad people. I'd rather see an English team than a Spanish one win the CL any day.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    id rather see the quality side with the best players win also the team that play quality football and football that i enjoy to watch which on this occasion is barcelona

  • Comment number 75.

    As a Man U fan, if they make it hard for Barca on the night I hope that they don't get sucked in by all the play acting and imaginary card waving shenanigans.

  • Comment number 76.

    #69 Football_UK

    SAF made another masterstroke of a decision in resting almost his entire first team.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    Masterstroke or gamble that paid off?

    I'm unsure what this semi-final result tells us overall. Shalke were pretty useless for a team at that stage it has to be said but they did the business against Inter so does it tell us something about them? Shalke are mid-table in the German league as well? Are Man U that good? Is such a stroll of a result good or bad?

  • Comment number 77.

    71 - atleast us fans stayed with the club thru the bad times, if united went dwn all ur plastics wud suddenly become city fans, leeds till i die and were gonna do u lot!

  • Comment number 78.

    Just want to highlight Darron Gibson's performance last night. He was outstanding in the first half and very good in the second. Delighted for him. Also great to see Anderson getting a couple of goals - I'm sure there is a really great player in there struggling to get out.

    Leeds_Leeds_Leeds_Bates - thank you for your classy contribution to the debate. Real classy!

  • Comment number 79.

    Valencia's going to be key in my opinion, loves getting out wide and swinging balls in, allowing more of an aerial threat in the box - he also works harder down the flanks and keeps possession well. Tough game, but certainly winnable

  • Comment number 80.

    Man United beat Schalke 6-1
    Schalke beat Inter 7-3
    Inter beat Barca 3-2

    By my maths that means a 21-1 victory for United...

  • Comment number 81.

    once a manc, never a red!!

  • Comment number 82.

    So is Fergie talking to the BBC now?

    Anyway c'mon Barcelona!

  • Comment number 83.

    #77.... again I wonder if you actually know anything about football (see comment 67)..... Leeds arent going up this season so give up on that..... their best players have shown they can cope at championship level and so will be poached by other teams..... and if you ever do get back up into the premiership I very much doubt that your team could "do" any of the teams currently residing in the league..... dont reach too high or I guarantee you it will hurt when you crash back down to earth!

  • Comment number 84.

    Phil, Why on earth do you think that Ferguson will seek out Mourinho's advice on how to stop Barcelona. Firstly, I reckon Ferguson has enough faith in his own ability and experience and secondly, in the light of recent events such a suggestion seems laughable.
    Real lost remember, and deservedly so, despite the spin he tries to put on it with referee, Unicef etc. conspiracies. Mourinho is damaged goods right now and his brains have been well and truly scrambled by Barcelona's "carousel""

  • Comment number 85.

    @ 76, MrBlueBurns,

    Are you aware of masterstrokes that don't involve risk? :)
    The point was that perhaps no other manager would rest almost his entire first team.

    This, by default, indicates vividly what is in SAF's mind and which match matters most until it comes and finishes. Again, a football related blog appears at the wrong time.

  • Comment number 86.

    United should copy the 3 striker formation used by inter in last year's semifinal first leg. Rooney, Berba, and Hernandez to swarm a vulnerable Barca back line.

  • Comment number 87.

    #70 - actuallu you are right it was the first but he still should have been off anyway.

    As for other penalties over the years there have been many that Drogba, Robben and others have got by going down a bit too easily or diving. A lot of players do it -Nani has been guilty of it this year and players from all teams have from time-to-time. The point was simply to say that bad decisions that go against you tend to even up over time due to bad decisions that go in your favour.

    (would take too long to go through every penalty Chelsea have ever had an analyse them I'm afraid)

  • Comment number 88.

    well...if they fear barca and sit back and defend with 11 men then they've already lost

    united should play english football. fast pace. physical. attack.

    they play in england not italy. the environment will favor them.

  • Comment number 89.

    83. HAHA we beat u when we were in league one, imagine wot were gonna do to u when were bck in the prem, the prob you lot have is u got no character, grow sum then mebe ull hav a chance but with diver like rooney and nani u got no chance, well jus dominate u physically!

  • Comment number 90.

    Have to play one of the Da Silvas over O'Shea, he is far too slow to cope with Barcas pace. Yes they may get sent off but they may get lucky and keep the likes of Messi (relatively) quiet.

    Can't play Scholes (wreckless), can't play Anderson (not good enough) and hoenstly i don't think we play Carrick as for all everyone raving about him lately i still think he gives the ball away far too often and allows players to simply run past him when he doesn't have the ball.

    Midfield of Valencia, Giggs, Fletcher, Rooney and Park with Hernandez upfront.

    Enough players in there to break up play and enough pace to break on them quickly. Yes underdogs, yes we should be bold and play Rooney and Hernandez and yes we can beat them

  • Comment number 91.

    #84 Big4r_a_bore

    Mourinho is damaged goods right now
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I agree. If he did leave Madrid, where would he go?

    Why can't Phil McNulty call a spade a spade rather than 'Madrid's mischief-maker-in-residence Jose Mourinho'?

  • Comment number 92.

    arsenal beat barca arsenal beat barca arsenal showed how to beat barca.....blah blah, coz of a dissallowed goal which should have stood. u go on like arsenal were better that day. jeez

  • Comment number 93.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 94.

    What went wrong in 2009? Ronaldo had a semi-off-day, he lost his cool quickly after Barca scored when he didn't. Rooney helped defence too much, instead of attacking. This really turned MU's balance and focus from attack to defence. Rooney plays best as attacker - where he showed brilliance-; when he plays midfield or goes defensive, the team is confused, especially if Giggs is not playing. Nani or Valencia can play better offensive midfield than Rooney, who has to learn something from Giggs (football is not always all-or nothing, it's playing your best while allowing your teammates to play their best). Fabio showed that so far he played much better than Rafael, especially in big games. Berbatov has to decide whether he can play or not that day; he or Giggs or both can make a difference in attack, especially if they make a "pack attack" like Barca. Having a very flexible midfield, which can both help defense and launch counter-strikes for 90 minutes is essential against Barca.
    And speaking about Barca: so far they are truly the only TEAM out there; the rest are groups of professional footballers managed to play together. This is truly Barca's "secret"; they can really play together and they are flexible. There's always 3 or more of them where the ball is, and most of their attacks are built with 4-5 men; other teams go attacking with only 2-3, and in rigid schemes. Barca doesn't look well when is forced to defend, but this has to be done for 90 minutes with a lot of effort (and maybe 14 men) and its counter-strikes have to be mitigated. MU has the men and coach to beat Barca, but they have to play truly together (help the player(s) next to him), otherwise will become one-sided sooner or later or at best an ugly win for MU. May we see great football on May 28!

  • Comment number 95.

    Number 41 - do you actually know anything about football, or do you just listen to what the media say and state that opinion as your own? You state that Arsenal only won the game at the Emirates because Barca missed 5 or 6 great chances, but if you look at the stats they show that Arsenal actually had more shots in total, and more shots on target. Which 5 or 6 great chances are you referring to? They had 7 shots on target and scored 1, so presumably all the others were great chances? Arsenal had 8 shots on target and scored 2, so by your rationale did Arsenal also miss 6 great chances?

    As I stated earlier, football is not about passing the ball around the middle of the pitch, it is about kicking or heading (or even handling if you can get away with it) the ball into the goal. Granted Barca had a lot more possession in Barcelona, but the game was a farce as every time Arsenal won the ball the Barca players would collapse and win a free kick, so Arsenal had to allow them to have the ball and stop them getting through. This is a perfectly valid and effective tactic, as Bolton have recently showed against Arsenal, and Arsenal were winning the tie so had no need to do anything else. To me this actually shows that Wenger can alter his tactics, and did so to great effect before the ref ensured Barca victory by sending off Van Persie when Arsenal were ahead and not looking too uncomfortable.

  • Comment number 96.

    YES… of course we can beat the.

    Last time I saw them play they all had 2 arms and 2 legs (which makes them human). Barcelona are a fantastic team don't get me wrong but don't believe the hype people, they lost to lowly Real Solciedad at the weekend.

    BELIEVE! Roll on 28th May… adios!

  • Comment number 97.

    No

  • Comment number 98.

    @89 Think we can establish just by you're grammar that you have little or no intelligence, never mind about football. You are just an example of why every other club's supporters dislike Leeds fans.

  • Comment number 99.

    I don't remember the last final being as much of a humiliation as Mr McNulty suggests. Had Utd scored in the first 15 as they probably should have the result could have been different. Yes Utd were beaten, but Barcelona have since shown they can be far more dominant than they were that night. The fact they were even in that final still wrankles with me - that Chelsea semi-final was the most farcical refereeing display I have ever seen.

  • Comment number 100.

    "Rooney and Javier Hernandez have formed a fruitful partnership, but dare he risk playing both against Barcelona and risk the prospect of being outnumbered in midfield?"

    That's a strange comment. Have you not been watching United at the back end of the season? Rooney has been playing in a number 10 role behind Hernandez. Almost a 5 man midfield.

    Hernandez for me is the key player. His movement off the ball causes all sorts of problems and he only has to get the faintest sniff to put it in the back of the net. But he also frees Rooney to play a more expansive game between midfield and attack. Throw in the sometimes unplayable balls from Valencia and Barca will be having their own problems to deal with.

    I hope he plays either Rafael or preferably the less hot-headed Fabio. That right wing may stifle Messi to some extent.

    Ferguson's biggest headache is in midfield. Valencia is a given but who else gets the nod? Carrick, Giggs, Park, Anderson, Fletcher, Scholes, Nani. A few more sleepless nights for the boss methinks.

 

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