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Vidic calls for calm & courage

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Phil McNulty | 20:36 UK time, Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Nemanja Vidic's gladiatorial status among Manchester United's followers will be elevated to new heights if Barcelona are beaten and he lifts the Champions League trophy at Wembley on Saturday.

The Serbian has established himself as a cult figure at Old Trafford for his no-frills approach to the defensive arts and inspirational leadership that persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson to hand him the captain's armband earlier this season.

And as hundreds of the world's media flocked to United's secluded Carrington training headquarters ahead of Saturday's showpiece, Vidic set the tone for the task of avoiding a repeat of Barcelona's victory in the 2009 final in Rome.

Vidic belied his abrasive image by delivering a measured message focusing on four key components. Calm. Courage. Concentration. Commitment.

He recalled with a grimace how Barcelona's win in the searing heat of the Stadio Olimpico wrecked his summer, an experience made more painful by the memories of Samuel Eto'o's easy escape from Vidic's attentions to score the goal from which United never recovered.

"We had won the Club World Cup, the Premier League and the Carling Cup, so to get to the Champions League final and lose was so disappointing. You think about that all the time on your holiday. It is not a nice feeling to have."

Schalke's Brazilian striker Edu and Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic

Vidic won the Premier League player of the season award - photo: AFP.

Now the Barclays Premier League Player of the Year wants to set the record straight and delivered a clinical assessment of how a team often derided as lacking United's trademark fantasy could yet deliver one of the greatest campaigns in the club's history on Saturday.

Body language speaks in many forms, and as Vidic outlined his Wembley demands a sullen figure passed quickly behind his back. It was Dimitar Berbatov, silent and with a cap pulled down low, sliding out of Carrington's indoor pitch to his waiting car.

As the captain bristled with determination, the Bulgarian looked every inch a man who would not be called upon to start against the Catalans.

Ferguson will expect Vidic to set the example and he insists United know exactly what is required to avoid another head-spinning trip on Barcelona's famous passing "carousel" that left them dizzy and defeated in Rome.

He said: "The players have to have courage and belief. We have to show commitment to believe in what we are doing in the game. We have to think about how to stop Barcelona but also how to score ourselves. It is one game where anything can happen and concentration is crucial.

"Concentration is vital in every game but in a Champions League final against Barcelona this is even more important. It is the biggest game of the season and it is important we also stay calm."

Vidic swept aside any lingering questions about the quality of United's squad - and it is worth a reminder that even the glittering talents of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez were no help in Rome.

I asked Vidic if he felt this team, with its different and more disciplined qualities, was perhaps better equipped to cope with Barcelona's expansive attacking approach.

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Champions League: Ferguson moves to ban Giggs questioner


He said: "I don't really like to compare the two teams. We are missing two or three players from that team and we have three or four new ones. That side and this side were both good teams in terms of quality but we will see what the performance and result is on Saturday."

What Vidic was happy to do was launch a stern defence of the latest United side to roll off Ferguson's assembly line of success, saying: "Barcelona are a great team. It is nice to watch them and everyone who watches a Barcelona game will say they enjoy it.

"But look at our team. We have won the league four times in five years and we have been in the Champions League final three times in four seasons, so we are not bad either.

"I think we have proved to everyone we are a good team. If you play 38 games and finish nine points ahead of the team in second place then you deserve to win the league. We don't need to prove we are a good team because we did it already."

Vidic mirrored a mood of quiet confidence as United's players faced the media and there was also complete respect for Barcelona and the danger they pose. Not a hint, however, of awe or fear.

United's mask of concentration and commitment cannot slip for a second against the side many regard as one of the finest in the game's history - but Vidic's final words underlined his faith in the players who will file out behind him at the scene of the club's emotional first European Cup win under Sir Matt Busby in 1968.

"We don't have any doubts about any players," he said. "We have high trust in each other and we play for each other. No doubts about any players in our squad."

Vidic and Manchester United will hope this enough to bring the giant trophy back to Old Trafford for a fourth time. And ensure a happier holiday than in 2009.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I'm also quietly confident about Saturday's game, from a Man United fan's perspective. I feel the quality is there, but the media are portraying the team otherwise. This team has a determination like no other Utd side, which is why I predict us to be losing at half-time, but to win the game in 90 mins. 2-1.

  • Comment number 2.

    tbh i think that barca are too over rated and man utd will win. if it goes to penalties then definetly man utd because they have the advantage of van der sar

  • Comment number 3.

    Ha, whether Barca are overrated or not, the same stuff was said about them in '09. I can see United absolutely outclassing them and again losing 2-0. Obviously hope they dont because I want to see English footballing style prevail.

  • Comment number 4.

    That headline again- "Serbian defender labels Champions League final at Wembley as Man Utd's "biggest game of the season"

    Really? Not the Blackpool away league match? Thank you again BBC, for sifting through the dross and, without fear or favour, getting at the gems.

  • Comment number 5.


    Phil be careful what you ask Ferguson in there else he may not let you in next time.

    So don't be naughty ok? Good boy.

    Everywhere else in the world the managers & players are afraid of the press because their questions challenge them and their writings criticise and open eyes, here you are their puppies and unofficial PR's.



  • Comment number 6.

    3. At 00:05 25th May 2011, daggersfan3 wrote:
    Ha, whether Barca are overrated or not, the same stuff was said about them in '09. I can see United absolutely outclassing them and again losing 2-0. Obviously hope they dont because I want to see English footballing style prevail.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    barca are Favorites this time the pressure will be on them not man utd
    chicharito will make puyol think about retirement
    watch puyol will end up getting a red card hes going to be tired of chicharito and going to end up fouling him or something

  • Comment number 7.

    I just typed out a massive bit on what I thought and the bloomin site crashed on me. Cant be bothered to type it out again. Man U will win, Sorted! Im not telling you why though, Take THAT BEEB!!!

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    Was at OT on Sunday for the game and there is a huge belief that we can beat Barca. Fergie will get his tactics spot on as usual and Man U will win it! 2-1

  • Comment number 10.

    As a Manchester United fan, I'm terrified. I believe 100% in our quality, but it wasn't our quality that let us down in 2009, it was our form. We played well below our usual standard that game, and I am terrified that the same will happen this year.

    However, if we play at the level we played across both legs of the Chelsea game, and if the match is refereed fairly, I imagine we will win. People like to talk about the cultured football of Xavi, Iniesta and the like because there is an established tradition of doing so, but Rooney's play in the latter third of this season has been absolutely world-leading - short passing, long diagonal balls, clever link-up play, beautiful assists, and incredible goals. If his form didn't fluctuate every few months the way it does, he'd be widely recognised as one of the top three in the world.

    As for Park, he's been an absolute revelation. All the repetetive 'work ethic' talk utterly fails to consider that he is also incredibly technically gifted, intelligent on and off the ball, and seems to pack a pretty impressive shot too. He will be our most important player on the pitch against Barca, without a doubt.

  • Comment number 11.

    IF Ferguson gets his team selection right, then United will win. This team is different because Ronaldo and Tevez played for Ronaldo and Tevez. It's pretty clear from trophy celebrations they didn't fit in. United players like Giggs, Valencia, Scholes, Ferdinand, Van de Sar know they are good players but they are not great at blowing their own trumpet and are somewhat uncomfortable with those that do. If one of the Brazilians is playing I fear a red card, If scholes is playing I fear being over run. I know Ferguson has played Hernandez all through the campagin so Phils observation of Berbatov is a mute point, however....Berbatov is actually the type of player who could prove the key against team like Barca.
    I think United are a stronger Unit, this time out, and my Barca buddies tell me United are the only team Barca fear in Europe, maybe it's politeness. But I can see United shocking the English journos and winning 3:1. To be honest I have no idea how Barca are at chasing a game, But these United boys are either out for revenge, out to prove something, or even out to save their careers....

  • Comment number 12.

    talk of Park as revelation is just laziness on the part of anyone who clearly hasn't bothered assessing the player before this season, he is no better this year than last, he is just getting more plaudits

  • Comment number 13.

    Ferguson got the tactics wrong in 2009, a fact that is overlooked by many. Brought on Tevez at half time and by the hour-mark United had four strikers on the pitch against a team where the midfield battle was key. I hope on Saturday he does get it right. Rooney dropping deep will help to an extent but overrated or not, this Barca team know how to keep a football. It will be very tough for United, going to need lots of energy chasing the ball and then enough venom to hurt Barca.

    I'm going 2-1 to Barcelona.

  • Comment number 14.

    The same side did loose to Real Sociedad this month so this talk is hearsay.
    Also lets see how Barca react to the heavy Wembley pitch.

  • Comment number 15.

    Love how all the people are saying Manu will win, even someone predicting a 3-1, it's not just the attacking play that Barca work on.. how many times have they conceded 3 goals in 1 match?

    Pique will come back to haunt Utd with the winner, or am I just being a romanticist? Either way, I predict a Barca masterclass.

  • Comment number 16.

    I really do feel that the media is being somewhat unfair to this current United side.

    While it's often claimed that the football United currently play is not "easy on the eyes", this is in fact not 100% true - it's true sometimes, but not others. Sometimes this season United have carved open defences with almost ridiculous ease, especially at home - and especially in the Champions League.

    And, in contrast, Barcelona are not always fantastic to watch. Sometimes, they are, in fact, quite boring. They suffer from the same fate the Spanish national side do - not exactly surprising considering the number of players the two sides share - one of overpassing dreary boredom. The only difference between the Spanish side and the Barcelona side is one Lionel Messi, who adds a spark of scintillating brilliance to the dreariness of ten thousand passes often going absolutely nowhere.

    Not merely with his own play, either. A player of his magnitude inspires those around him to perform similar feats - see Cantona in United's history for an example of that - and that is partly why Barcelona are so dangerous. They can be quite dull, in terms of overpassing - but their movement, spilling over from Messi into the players around him, can be sublime.

    But most of their threat is carried in the channels, and United are rather strong there defensively. Barca may very well struggle to break down United. On the other hand, Pique is absolutely immense at the back for Barca, and in my opinion, almost single-handedly kept United at bay the last time the two sides met in the Champions League final.

    Whether Pique and Co can shackle the pace and movement of Hernandez, should he play, is another matter entirely... and a totally different proposition to shackling Tevez or Ronaldo.

    No predictions as to the result from me; they're impossible to make regarding one-off games, because you never know how the teams are going to actually play when they turn up. Barca could have a man sent off inside twenty minutes and the tie be as good as dead; United could concede early and the tie be killed off just as surely. Or nothing could happen for 120 minutes, with a dramatic but slightly unsatisfying penalty finale.

    You never know.

    But I will predict that that 120 minutes of nothing won't occur - it'll be damned interesting.

  • Comment number 17.

    @3

    "Obviously hope they dont because I want to see English footballing style prevail."

    Er, Manchester United don't play the "English footballing style" - they play a much more continental style of play, developed over the years through competing in the Champions League. This, indeed, is why United are more successful in Europe than other English teams - and is the real reason why the mid noughties weren't terribly successful: the transition that occurred there was from playing in a more English-oriented style in England, and a European style in Europe, to playing a European style across the board.

  • Comment number 18.

    @2 its only right that people who support Man Utd should feel their team can win,but to make a comment about Barca being overrated is asinine.you may not like them or you may not like their style of play but any knowlegeable football fan would have to admit that they are a very very good team.4 straight CL semis ,3 finals in 6 years.2 titles(could be 3 on Saturday) plus with about 7 of their players starting for Spain they are basically World and European champs..have some respect.they are a great team. results dont lie

  • Comment number 19.

    The thing that killed us in 2009 was Ronaldo, I love the kid but he was so dead set on proving that he was better than Messi that he hogged the ball barely passed and definitely played zero defense. He did spend a boat load of time rolling around on the floor.

    This time around we have no "super" star just a very solid group of stars that play for each other and know how to win!!!! And win we shall!! Glory, Glory Man United!!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    As a United fan I do believe we can win, but it will be tough. The lads need to have 100% concentration. If United score first it will be very interesting to see how Barcelona react. Will they panic and throw players forward to quickly, or will they have patience. We know United can play with patience but my fear is that if Barcelona score first then they will kill the game with overpassing, and then it will completely destroy the game as a spectacle.

    For it to be a good match United have to be the ones to score first, because we all know United don't settle for 1, they will always go for more, I don't think barcelona are the same. We need to have players who will run their socks off and chase them down constantly, not giving them room and time to get a rhythm going. I completely agree with RooneyToons, Park will be vital. United just need to do the basics right and they will have a good chance. I'll be brave and pick 2-1 to United! Come on you Reds!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    I agree with dinojong, #19, the 2009 Final for Ronaldo was all about "me, me, me", and did I see a repeat in SA last year, though with the approval of the management I suspect? Have said it before, this game reminds me of the 96 Final, where many were talking about Ajax like White Star talked about the Titanic, but Juventus did them on Italian soil. Barcelona are a great team, but I don't think it's the foregone conclusion some people are saying, and United don't have those players playing for themselves rather than the team this time. Don't know what the score will, and neither does anyone else, but I think home soil and the pitch will be factors.

  • Comment number 22.

    OK, let's face the reality. No one here knows what the result will be. It's entirely based on a mixture of guess work and desire. Even those people who guess right, what does that mean, really? It's a 50/50 chance. That hardly sets you up as a gateway to the truth. Armchair activism, what's the point? Everyone thinks they're an expert. Yet they continually work little jobs they hate rather than the premiership management role they KNOW they deserve. Hmmm, I wonder why. If anything on this forum was serious I'd cry, instead I laugh. Enjoy...

  • Comment number 23.

    I notice no one has mentioned how well this Barca team press the ball when they don't have it. This is one of the reasons why they dominate possession so much. They just never allow even a good ball retention team (Arsenal or Madrid) to keep the ball. The other factor is Messi. If he is really on top form United could be in a lot of trouble.

  • Comment number 24.

    Barcelona are way the better team - and that's why they will lose. Used to having their way with teams, they will not know just how determined this gritty United team are. And it's at Wembley.

  • Comment number 25.

  • Comment number 26.

    This is the one match that could go either way, although Barcelona should win it. United are probably the highest quality opponents that Barca have played all season, and they (United) sould be able to score on the break and put Barca under pressure.

    On the other hand, and this is something that many don't want to hear, if Barca score in the first 15 minutes, United could suffer a heavy loss. This Barca side is good enough to dish out 4 or 5 goals to anyone.

  • Comment number 27.

    Barcelona are not invincible.

    In la Liga they only won 3 of their last 7 matches and also lost to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey in the same period. And only one of those draws was after Barcelona had clinched the title with a draw at Levante. They did get revenge over Real with two wins in the Champions League in that period too. They were untouchable in the middle part of the season, but they have struggled for rhythm in matches towards the end of the campaign.

    They have an aura about them now going into this final, but that is as much because of what happened in Rome in 2009. But people forget how competitive the game was.

    But it started quite even last time around, with United creating more pressure in the early stages. The goal gave Barcelona huge confidence. Second half, United reorganised their formation and periods of good possession, but couldn't find their final passes. Eventually SAF changed tactics again and brought on Berbatov for Park, leaving the defence more vulnerable. The gamble didn't pay off. And with a two goal lead, Guardiola put Keita on for Henry and swamped the midfield.

    It was then that Barcelona strung some 20 passes together in one spell of possession and that is what people remember. But there was plenty of United attacking before and after that spell, but attacks broke down, mostly because of an uncharacteristic lack of ball control by United players. Barcelona were good, but United were not at their best.

    So, I expect a good game again and past glories count for nothing.

  • Comment number 28.

    Barca have already paid the ref. If Barca are losing the first half a Man U defender will be sent off.

  • Comment number 29.

    Loads of nervous pundits - what if Ferguson's supposed worst side of all time (like you and many others have been telling us it is) complete another European/League double, against none other than the supposed "greatest club side of all time"? Could there be a better illustration that the press make it up as they go along?

    Gary Lineker's article is the biggest pile of rubbish I've read so far. "barca, oh they're too good, so good, incredible, amazing" - what an insight into the professional game! I could just read the comments in the blog and get a better understanding.

  • Comment number 30.

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

  • Comment number 31.

    Packing the midfield with 5 players is just going to allow Barca to press forward - and no one is going to want to have to deal with that. Playing Hernandez up front will keep the Barca defence more than occupied, while Rooney dropping deep will also provide the extra body in midfield should it be needed. Park and Valencia are great defensively when need be, and they're also quick to get forward on the break... and that could be the key to beating Barca. Sure, Barca are great at pressing the ball when they don't have it, but United move the ball very quickly once they get it, and Barca's pressing might not work so well against that style of play.
    It's going to be tight; perhaps to tight to call... As a United fan I'm obviously going for us to win, but don't ask me to bet any money on it.

  • Comment number 32.

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

  • Comment number 33.

    Looks like Fletcher won't make it, giving Fergie two options.

    Draft in Anderson in his place, alongside Giggs and Carrick.

    Or bring in Hernandez up front and let Rooney drop deep.

    Can Fergie really go into a match against Barca with only two in the centre of midfield?... It could be suicide.

    But then it could take Barca by surprise.

    Who knows?...

  • Comment number 34.

    If United beat Barcelona, cue all the pundits saying Barcelona had an off day-even if they didn't. And of course the ABU's claiming United bought the ref (even though UEFA-lona directly contradicts that).
    People need to give United more credit-having no stars is perhaps what won us the Premier League title.
    Not always looking to play it through one player, one side, it does help.

  • Comment number 35.

    People never stop talking about Tevez and Ronaldo.. and how Man Utd are much the weaker without them. But few mention how Eto'o, Yaya Toure and Henry have moved on.. and I genuinely think that this Barca team is much weaker without them. As a United player I'd much rather see a 3 pronged attack of Pedro, Messi & Villa than Henry, Eto'o & Messi.

    Barca have had it pretty much their own way all season. Madrid's attempts to fluster them have been nothing short of feeble (barring the 1 occasion in the Copa del Rey final). I think the physicality of United will offer a different challenge than Barca have faced all season. A lot may hinge on how much the ref allows Barca to roll around the ground everytime somebody lays a finger on UEFA's little darlings.

    If the game is locked at 0-0 or 1-1 with 70 mins gone look at the teams benches, United will probably have Nani, Anderson, Berbatov, Owen and One of the Da Silvva twins to call on to try and change the outcome... what about Barca? Affelay, Adriano, Bojan.. etc.

    Make United underdogs at your own peril.. we are more than capable of dispupting Barca and have the firepower to ask serious questions of their defence.

  • Comment number 36.

    Madrid were said to be the quickest counter attacking side in the world. Going from one end of the pitch to the other in 3 seconds. They seemed to cope with them pretty well. If Carrick or Park or Valencia start panicking with 3 Barcelona players breathing down their necks then you wont get a chance to counter.

    ===


    But Carrick, Park and Valencia are much better than that - they don't just panic as soon as they get pressed. They are key players in a side that has just walked the league.

    Barcelona have had a long couple of seasons, their squad is also not as big as United's, the fresher players are in United's side, so I don't think there's going to be any problem in dealing with the high pace of the game. United are used to that

  • Comment number 37.

    Kapnag

    I agree with you generally, but Carrick's only regained his cool head recently. Will he be able to keep it on the biggest stage?

    Even in the FA semi against Citeh he have the ball away in a silly place and look what happened.


    Mr Chelsea, seeing 'Valencia' and 'panicking' in the same sentence made me laugh. Doesn't happen. He's the iceman.

  • Comment number 38.

    Can Fergie really go into a match against Barca with only two in the centre of midfield?... It could be suicide

    ==

    The same thing was said with the recent games against Chelsea. If United move the ball quick enough, it's out wide, or Rooney's carrying it forward, all the time Hernandez is making himself available. There's always a chance to score with Hernandez and Rooney on the pitch.

  • Comment number 39.

    @Kapnag

    Yes, but Chelsea's midfield was Lampard (who's showing his age) Essien (who was horribly out of form) and Ramires (who's showing his inexperience) or Mikel (nuff said).

    Not quite Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta, is it?


    I do like the idea of Hernandez up against captain caveman though. Could cause him problems.

  • Comment number 40.

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

  • Comment number 41.

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

  • Comment number 42.

    Not as good as Barca's midfield, but not that far off, Chelsea were the defending league champions with that midfield, and United took them to task over the recent 3 games playing 4-4-2, a formation that was regularly spoken against because it would give the advantage to Chelsea in the middle. The threat from United more than counteracted that.

    But when you say "that was only chelsea though", it kind of sums up what it's been like listening to others describe Untied's season. It's always been about the opposition not performing or not being good enough.

    And Carrick's kept it on the biggest stage before, he was great in the '08 final. He was unlucky in the semi, but Carricks mistakes are always held in the memory. I've always rated his role in the team, but he has an army of anti-followers for some reason. I've got faith in Carrick.

  • Comment number 43.

    We were rubbish in all the games against you except for the second half of the league match.

    ==

    you were made to look rubbish. 1 game, an off day, 2 games, well it was the champions league, the third time round? Time to give United credit isn't it?

  • Comment number 44.

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

  • Comment number 45.

    Not realy. Utd deserve plaudits. Rightly so, but you won the league by 9 points. Kinda indicates how no one really tested United.

    71 points this season came second.
    Last year it would have JUST scraped 4th


    ===

    Not this one again, I've grown tired of discussing it. What about the fact that 39 points last season would have had you finishing 14th, not relegated? 31 points (more than the bottom club) would have been enough to stay up

  • Comment number 46.

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

  • Comment number 47.

    45.
    At 10:15 25th May 2011, Kapnag wrote:

    Not realy. Utd deserve plaudits. Rightly so, but you won the league by 9 points. Kinda indicates how no one really tested United.

    71 points this season came second.
    Last year it would have JUST scraped 4th

    _______________________________________________________________

    Let's not also forget that the team that DID come 4th this season were a laughable red card and a Bendtner cock-up away from knocking Barca out of the Champions League.

  • Comment number 48.

    From a neutral point of view I think that the match could go either way. Back in 2009 United had Ronaldo and Tevez but Berbatov has proven himself a worthy goal scorer, and Nani may not be as fast or skillful as Ronaldo but he is still a great addition to United's squad. Overall I think that the United team has improved in terms of how they play. Barcalona are a great team with great chemistry, Messi is obviously the main threat but even without him they are still a strong side with the likes of Xavi and Pedro. I myself am exited for the game and we can only wait and see who will lift the cup.

  • Comment number 49.

    On the day the best team will win. If barca lose the press and so called pundits will say barca did not play well. If that is the case then man u made them not play well and vice versa.

  • Comment number 50.

    I know that this is almost blasphemy, but I think that John O'Shea should play at full back. He's an absolutely awful player, but much less likely to get a red card than one of the the Da Silva twins (as somebody commented earlier), which could be pivotal.

    Anyone agree?

    If you want to borrow Barry Ferguson from us to rough up Messi a little bit then feel free

  • Comment number 51.

    I have to agree with Kapnag with regards to the Chelsea comments. Chelsea were NOT awful, they were undergoing their end-of-season revival. United simply never allowed them a foothold in those games because of the sheer pace and intensity with which they came out of the blocks. They made Chelsea look awful. As for the idea that the nine point gap suggests that United haven't been tested... have you actually watched United's matches? I don't think we've been tested quite so strenuously in recent history. That's why parroted talk that this United team are weak is completely baseless - we beat the most difficult league I can remember, and, at home certainly, we did it with some real style and flair at times.

    @12 Ok, perhaps revelation was too strong, but Park has undeniably improved this season. I have been a huge fan of his even since before he came to United, and have always believed he is underrated, especially by those who say 'Park is underrated... look at his work-rate.' But the stats alone back up my argument that he has found a new gear this year, particularly in the Chelsea games and others this end of the season: he has scored more goals for United this season than ever before, off approximately the same number of performances. Add to that how undeniably vital he has been in so many matched, especially later in the season, and you can't argue that there hasn't been a marked improvement in him.

    Two quick things about Barca's play that people don't always notice (or maybe just don't mention, so I will!) They always, always, no matter how well they go on to play, take approximately ten minutes to settle into their tika-taka game. That's why even an under-performing 2009 United team outplayed them in the first ten minutes and could have scored early. And the Liga matches where Barcelona have looked unimpressive or toothless (it might surprise his Grace the Earl of Lineker to know that they are occasionally boring or unthreatening in Spain, just like any other team) are when a team has got their teeth into the match in those opening ten and refused to let Barcelona recover from that. Now combine that tendency with the way that United came flying out against Chelsea, and we really have a game on our hands...

    @22 Calm down, dear. No-one is claiming to know what will happen, we're just enjoying talking about it, looking forward to what should be a great game of football. What a sad little life you must lead...

  • Comment number 52.

    @32
    Madrid were said to be the quickest counter attacking side in the world. Going from one end of the pitch to the other in 3 seconds. They seemed to cope with them pretty well. If Carrick or Park or Valencia start panicking with 3 Barcelona players breathing down their necks then you wont get a chance to counter.

    ======================

    Park and Valencia don't panic... Park doesn't give the opposition any time on the ball, and United have been a better team since the return of Valencia. Carrick has only just started to impress again (and I still think he should go this summer) but he is playing well alongside Giggs... if Fletcher was 100% I'd play him alongside Giggs tho, because he's better at breaking up play in the area of the pitch Barca like to operate.

  • Comment number 53.

    My team for Saturday would be:

    Van der Sarr

    Fabio/Rafael - Ferdinand - Vidic - Evra

    Valencia - Giggs - Carrick/Fletcher - Park

    Rooney
    Hernandez

  • Comment number 54.

    a few words
    chicharito (Hernandez) will make puyol look the age he really is
    thats what he done to raul against shalke
    puyol wont be able to cope with Hernandez and Rooney at the SAME TIME and pique and Dani alves will not be able to cope with the quality of park and valencia.
    nani will come on in the 60th minute or something and rip one of them apart because he knows how to go past players but tbh i do think that he is a little greedy
    and come on van der sar will be better than valdes if it goes to penalties man utd will win
    messi will have his penelty saved so will xavi or iniesta

    OVERALL IT WILL BE MAN UT WHO WILL WIN

  • Comment number 55.

    Hi guys i think those who gave barca d champions league in 2009 are no more in the team,player like Eto'o is a treat 2 any team in d world.In dat same year Manutd were playing individual football,d likes of Ronaldo,Tevez plays individually & dey contributed 2 d defeat in 2009. Now Man u play as a team.Man u 3 Barca 1

  • Comment number 56.

    #54 hasan

    that could be the case, but how often is hernandez going to get chances to run onto balls threaded through the Barca defence? Utd will have a job on their hands trying to win the ball from Barca don't you think?

  • Comment number 57.

    #56, so you reckon Barcelona are guaranteed to have about 80% possession for the entire match? They're hyped to mythic proportions, but it's more hope than expectation.

    People are desperate for Barcelona to win this one, how sweet is it going to be for United to win this one?

  • Comment number 58.

    #56 kit
    ------------------------------------
    united will play as a teamwile barca will be too confident
    puyol is too old yes he used to be good but not any more tbh
    the way hernandez moves about no one in the barca team can do it not even messi

  • Comment number 59.

    I catch myself these days remembering a match of the past decades: a flamboyant Ajax beating Bayern Munich 4-0 in a European Cup Quarter final ( http://timhi.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/aja-1973/ ). That Bayern Munich team had Beckenbauer, Muller and Breitner. They were solid in defense and lethal in attack, yet they were embarrassed by the best team in the world at the time. This is going to be a difficult final for Manchester United.

    Two seasons ago, United had an off day in the last final against Barcelona but it will remain speculation whether it was (or not) because of Barcelona's game. This time round, the positive for Manchester United is that they will be defending with 11 players, by not having Ronaldo waiting to get the ball. It's going to be a great game for sure: the best player in the world on display, the best team in the world, undoubtedly against the best counter attacking side (in my opinion) and a team that can match Barcelona at moving the ball at speed.

    I believe it will be vital who will score first. If Barcelona score first, I can see them winning comfortably with something like 2-0, 3-0. If Manchester United score first, I can see them winning 2-1, 3-1.

    Barcelona need to have a good game to win. Manchester United will have to be at their very best. It's two elements that are comforting me, as a United fan: having SAF as a manager, knowing he leaves nothing to chance and the fact that the final will be at Wembley. This final is going to be a treat curtains to a glorious season of football.

  • Comment number 60.

    Phil... why bring up Berbatov's posture? What was he supposed to do, a cartwheel past his captain as he was being interviewed?

    It is sloppy journalism.

    Berbatov, over the last few days has made it perfectly clear how happy he is with his role at UTD and will be geared up to play some part on Saturday. Let's not forget he has scored 7 match winning goals this season, more than any other premier league player. He is a match winner and will be in Fergie's plans, even though he wont start.

  • Comment number 61.

    In 2009 I was nervous, but for some reason I am not this time. All the hype is about Barca, they are the team expected to win because of the way they play and the players they have. On their day they are formidable. United were too cautious in 2009 and I just feel that this time round we are going to hit them with pace and power. United will win against the odds.

  • Comment number 62.

    SAFs_Hairdryer

    One of the big problems in 2009 was the way we completely failed to recover from Eto'os goal. We'd been commanding up until that point and for some reason Barca's goal caused utter panic to set in, and we never looked like recovering.

    Strange as it sounds, Fergie needs to encourage his players to contemplate the possibility of falling behing, and playing from a losing position. It's happened enough this season (albeit against teams not of Barca's might), so hopefully there wont' be that psychological flaw that seemed so evident two years ago.

  • Comment number 63.

    For all the latest chapter of hype on this Barcelona team, They are beatable any day, and Arsenal with all their mediocre talent almost scale through against barca, But barca play acting should be a source of concern for Man u players because they seems to thrive when playing quality opposition with a Man less for there opponent....

    However, No team has got the divine right to win every Match, so this gonna be a case of who want it more with a little bit of luck...

    Goodluck to eventual winner on Saturday and Best of Luck to the loser

  • Comment number 64.

    @60.

    i noticed that too. it has literally nothing to do with the point of the article, and actually seemed to be a dig at the player. theres no solid evidence of anything there. all you said was berbatov left carrington. those are your solid facts, then you editorialised to have a go at the player, as if by his stance, hes sulking already.

    phil, you really do need lessons in journalism. as it stands, stevo is leagues ahead of you in terms of writing. maybe you should read his blog on messi for tips on how to write a professional article?

  • Comment number 65.


    The situation is tragic, the above piece could have been written, word for word, by United's PR office and, apart from Phil's smug face at the top right, you wouldn't even know.

    But I can't get my head round this particular bit of sensationalism:

    "Not a hint, however, of awe or fear."

    Everyone knows that managers & players tend to big up opposition before games, even if they are to play the worst team in Europe, to show respect, to prevent underestimating and to make themselves look less bad in case they lose. And if they are underdogs they'll say they believe and do their best.

    But can anyone show me one player in a press conference who has ever shown "awe" or "fear"?

    Who is Phil, the great psychologist and mind reader, who examined Vidic's body language and reached his soul?

    I mean, in the event Nemanja Vidic was indeed feeling "awe" and "fear" yesterday, how would that demonstrate itself different to how he actually behaved?

    -Would he be shaking like a leaf?
    -Would he start crying?
    -Would he have black circles and bags under his eyes from not sleeping?
    -Would he actually say "we are afraid!" "we are not good enough!"

    Can anyone please explain.



  • Comment number 66.

    I'd definitely go with

    VDS
    Rafael Vidic Ferdinand Evra
    Valencia Giggs Carrick Anderson Nani
    Rooney

    I just can't see Utd getting any of the ball with just two of those central midfielders, and I also don't think Rooney would be able to have his usual influence if he plays behind Hernandez. Valencia and Nani could be the keys- Anderson and Carrick are used ot nullify Messi, Xavi et al as best they can (basically keep them outside the box, you can't stop them playing), Giggs is the playmaker with Rooney and Nani the main attacking outlets particularly with Barcas attacking full backs. I think Valencia is the key in many ways. His work rate and pace sums up the only way in which Utd can beat them.

  • Comment number 67.

    jimim22

    Nani over Park?!

    Not. A. Chance.

  • Comment number 68.

    Not going to make a prediction but an observation. Some United teams of the past have had the unfortunate 'ability' to play like rabbits caught in the headlights. I choose my words carefully: 'ability' in scare-quotes, not "habit". This 'ability' has affected the greatest United sides in recent (I.e. SAF) history. Recall the first 85 mins of the 1999 European Cup final. Recall Monaco dumping us (I'm speaking for United fans) out a quarter-final. It's not the result: Trezeguet scored the only goal in a game United really should have cruised but played terribly in. We moaned about the 'car-park' of a pitch. Other examples could be added. But THIS side is different I think. OK, there was Marseilles away: SAF's tactics perhaps. There was the 3.1 loss to Liverpool (Ouch!). But that was the league. That happens.

    My own view is that United will play well. I'd put Rooney in midfield, just behind Hernandez. But I doubt Hernandez will start. Anyway, I'm confident of a good United performance. That means we'll score. As for Barcelona - and this where my theory comes to a halt - they'll play well too.

    As A United fan I want a performance that puts us in with a chance. From there it's in the lap of the gods. (Hernandez to score winner as sub, that'd be sweet.)

  • Comment number 69.


    Back to the game.

    Guys sorry to spoil your optimism, but you know all so well that the following are true:


    - Ronaldo & Tevez were your best players in 2009 and better than what you have now instead

    - They didn't play for themselves in the final, they played just like they had done with success for the whole season, they were simply the only ones with the individual class to get you out of trouble which they tried but weren't good enough

    - You didn't have an off day in 2009, every team can claim that when they lose, you played at your maximum but came up short

    - Ferguson didn't get any tactics wrong it was down to the players

    - Rooney & Ronaldo who were running riot in the PL also Giggs were marked out of the game by a supposedly "poor" Spanish defence (see comments beforehand), which compared to Saturday had Toure CB Puyol LB and SYLVINHO

    - Overall you were much better in 2009 than you are now, with Ronaldo & Tevez 2 world class players, also other players Rio Vidic Evra Carrick were at their peak or on top form unlike now, and finally Giggs Scholes VDS O'Shea were 2 years younger

    - On the other hand Barcelona apart from the makeshift defence were carrying Henry who was a MASSIVE weak link

    - Of course you are not the best equipped team in Europe to match Barcelona quality-wise and system-wise. This is Chelsea (only joking!) Of course it is by far Real and Mourinho who tried it and did very well (1 win 2 draws in four) and also just 4 points behind them over a whole season, outcome way better than any English teams would probably manage, but still came up slightly short

    - The fact that yourselves aren't sure which players to pick in several positions (even Hernandez isn't an absolute certainty, Nani maybe your best player may miss out) is an admission that whilst you have good depth see Schalke game, none of these has the ultimate quality for this stage


    You can say you believe and you'll always have a chance, you may win the game, but I'm afraid all these claims you make are wishful thinking.




  • Comment number 70.

    It will be somewhat unusual in that United will start Saturdays final as the underdog; however in what is sure to be a highly charged atmosphere, where both sides are capable of giving the other a game, the one side that wants it more usually prevails... on that basis I believe United will win, as long as (according to Steve McLaren) they don't run out of time!

  • Comment number 71.

    I'd like to see possible for United to have on the pitch:

    van Der Sar
    Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra,
    Valencia, Giggs, Carrick, Fletcher, Park, Nani,
    Rooney, Hernandez.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because it broke house rules.

  • Comment number 73.

    I'd like to see possible for United to have on the pitch:

    van Der Sar
    Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra,
    Valencia, Giggs, Carrick, Fletcher, Park, Nani,
    Rooney, Hernandez.
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    here yu got 2 extra btw

  • Comment number 74.

    @71.

    Would that be enough!

  • Comment number 75.

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

  • Comment number 76.

    haha

    To be honest, with 2 extra midfielders, United can definitely overcome Barcelona in midfield. (Mr Chelsea, thanks for the assistance) :)

  • Comment number 77.

    here btw think about it this way man utd will want it more than barca will
    SO MANCHESTER UNITED WILL WIN

  • Comment number 78.

    Quote from Alan Hansen,

    'if Rooney can stamp his authority on the game, Manchester United's chances of victory against Barcelona will soar.
    =====================================================
    Rooney won't be able to stamp his authority on this game, how long will it take the Match of the Day pundits to realise he fails at the very top?

    Two poor games in Champions League Finals and two terrible World Cups are sufficient evidence. This is not West Ham, Wigan, Bolton or an average Chelsea.

    Rooney is the 'invisible man' for the big occassion.

  • Comment number 79.

    In 2009 United went to pieces after Barcelona scored and didn't manage to get the ball back. The longer the game goes without a goal, the better United's chances. I think they'll set up defensively and pack the midlfield (Hernadez on the bench or Rooney very deep) to try and settle in to the game, then change tack int he second half.

    To be honest I'm just happy United are in the final and want to see them make a game of it. If they have a go and then get beat - fine.

  • Comment number 80.

    @ 78, Sams Town,

    I think Alan Hansen was quite right, actually.
    You're wrong on your quick assessment on Rooney. He's scored a number of crucial goals for United, including the one regarded as goal of the season, in a nerve breaking match against City.

    Don't down-talk Chelsea so easily. United had to be at their best to get past them.

  • Comment number 81.

    @nibs

    - Ronaldo was our best player. Tevez wasn't. He'd had a dreadful season. As he was then, he was worse than any one of Rooney, Berbatov and Hernandez are now.

    - Ronaldo was playing for himself at times. Lots of long-rangers when there were good passes on. Nobody's accusing Tevez of doing the same. When he came on, he simply played as he had done all season, ie badly.

    - I'm not sure how you can watch either of Barca's goals and claim that Utd's defence were playing 'at their maximum'

    - Ferguson put Ronaldo at CF, Giggs behind him and Rooney wide left. He had not started a match like that once in the whole season. It was an attempt to wrongfoot Barca tactically and it failed. I call that getting tactics wrong.

    - Rooney wasn't running riot in the PL that season.

    - We are far more of a team than we were then. Less individual brilliance, but more diligence (much needed v Barca) in the form of Valencia. Also, Vidic is better now than he was then, and Carrick (at the moment) about the same. O'Shea's going nowhere near the starting lineup.

    - Yes, Barca's defence was makeshift, but the midfield never let us near them. To describe Henry as a weak link seems like wishful thinking.

    - The only reason we don't know our 'front six' is because of the doubts over Fletcher. I can guarantee that if he's ready it will be Park-Carrick-Fletcher-Giggs-Valencia-Rooney. And if he's not, swap Hernandez in for him, with Rooney dropping deep.

  • Comment number 82.

    You didn't have an off day in 2009, every team can claim that when they lose, you played at your maximum but came up short
    ---------------------

    Anyone who saw that game will no that United performed badly, let themselves be dazzled by Barcelona.

    The big call is on whether Hernandez starts, and I can't make up my mind on what I think. In a weird way, playing him may ease some pressure on the midfield. Too often teams play one up front, which means it's easy for the centre backs and Busquets/Xavi can get into more advanced positions and start popping it around. Rooney just off Hernandez would potentially give them something to think about and may help to split the midfield a bit.

    Either way, the key is to use the ball effectively when we have it - too often teams panic when they finally have possession and just give it straight back by playing it long. We need to attack with pace, get it to the wingers or Rooney and give them something to think about.

  • Comment number 83.

    The biggest weakness for Man U is Vidic. He has been very lucky this season in not receiving many more red cards than were actually given. he is rash sometimes and will not be able to cope with the pace or trickery of Messi. Messi is renown for his fair play, so if he goes down it is unlikely that play will just be waved on by the ref.

  • Comment number 84.

    @69, nibs
    totally agree...

  • Comment number 85.

    @ 83, Bob Taylor,

    I thought Vidic was the Premier League Player of The Year, this season.

  • Comment number 86.

    On Vidic, in a way the key to stopping Barcelona is not really in the tackling. They move the ball so quickly that very rarely do you get a clear chance and win the ball before it's shifted on. The real key is to keep your shape and not leave gaps, make them try and pass through spaces that aren't really there.

    I'd be worried if we start trying to tackle them too much, any excuse and they're on their backside

  • Comment number 87.

    When I watch Barca play I can't believe what I am seeing. United don't have a hope of winning. This Barca team is being talked about the best team in history and this United team is being criticized compared to former United teams.

  • Comment number 88.

    Cannot help but think this game has got another twist in the tail.
    Barca this n Barca that!!!
    It's going to be tight, very tight but would go for a utd win just 1-0.
    What a send off for VDS!!!!

    Now the twist

    SAF now acheived everything he set out to do quietly walk away?????

  • Comment number 89.

    Lakeland-Piker -

    You honestly think that Fergie would walkaway one CL short of Liverpool's total? No chance.

  • Comment number 90.

    @82, Frodo_MUFC,

    ---------------------
    Anyone who saw that game will no that United performed badly, let themselves be dazzled by Barcelona.
    ----------------------

    A very wishful thinking from your side and you will see the same thing once again in the final...


    @83, Bob Taylor
    "Messi is renown for his fair play"
    Yes, the commentators keep quiet and press is silent about it, but messi and his barca teammates are as much theatrical as anyone. i believe they are 3 steps ahead of what everyone believes Ronaldo was.

    But then the good thing is they play the game very well when they have the ball...

    Barca to win...


  • Comment number 91.

    I believe United need to pose an attacking threat. It's the final after all. I would like to see all Rooney, Valencia and Hernandez in the starting XI. Rooney and Valencia can drop in midfield and create a 5-man midfield but, when moving forward, these 3 look extremely dangerous.

  • Comment number 92.

    Thankfully for Man United, Barcelona have a totally average goalkeeper a gun-ho right-back and an aging centre back.

    We can definitely score past them.

  • Comment number 93.

    Much of this médiocre-United talk seems less compelling since the return of Valencia. His return has affected Carrick too, for the better. I don't recall the 1999 team being called great at the time. The last time a United side were called great in real-time was back in the mid-1990s and this was in part due to the efficacy of United's wing play (Giggs and Kanchelskis*). I couldn't give a stuff whether Valencia is truly stellar or not. He'll be handful for Barcalona, (reverts to SAF voice) 'there's noo doobt aba' tha''.

    *hope I've spelt the great name right. If so It's thé first time I've noticed the blue of chelski in the Red of United.

  • Comment number 94.

    I despair at the BBC. The tabloid press like to report stories such as the RG affair to increase sales, not because there is any news value in the story itself. Yes, there was some news value in the fact that an injunction had been taken out and yes there was news value when it was identified who. But that was it. But today I see this on the BBC Football site http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/13519717.stm.
    Why mention again this information in what is supposed to be report on a testimonial game?
    Why are the BBC aligning themselves with the tabloid press.
    Come on BBC, you are better than this.

  • Comment number 95.

    Hi? manutd are one special team on the continent they have nothing to prove, the mission is simple beat barca and become kings of europe,to do this close down busquests because he keeps opening the back four for messi,carrick and giggs keep stationed in the centre to intercept iniesta's short passes,and take care of alave's diving,attack pique and puyol ruthlessly to avoid build ups fom defence and valencia's efficiency will win utd a fourth champs league trophy.

    kateete james
    kampala uganda

  • Comment number 96.

    #94, BBC have been tabloid-esque for years. It's not just the bbc where the quality of their journalism has seriously dipped. The lowest common denominator stuff is easy to think up in 5 minutes

  • Comment number 97.

    I'm a Utd supporter and very nervous about sat night. Utd need to hit the ground running and score early on. In 2009 had Utd scored in those first 10 mins it would have been a very different game. Here's hoping for a classic at Wembley, hopefully the game won't be ruined by play acting (finger pointed at Busquets and Alves)!

  • Comment number 98.

    @81 Kanchelskis_Legend: Every single one of those points was absolutely bang on. Anyone denying that United played poorly as a result of the inexplicable formation and the psychological blow of Eto'o's goal when they had started so brightly, is a moron.

    Team-wise, I have to go for Hernandez' inclusion. Fit or not, Fletcher simply cannot play in a game of this magnitude and intensity having played only a few games in three months or so. Not when leaving him out is already a pretty convincing option. The team we played against Chelsea looked world-beating, so I think we have to go for that again. Bear in mind that Rooney is the ace up our sleeve, because if we have him on the pitch he can either drop very deep to help keep the ball and move it forwards, or, if the play is going our way, push up in support of Hernandez and give us a real 442/4411. If we leave Hernandez on the bench, we would have to make a substitution to change tactics, so surely better to choose the flexible formation.

    The other reason is that, good as our defence is, we always lose if we try and shut up shop. Inter showed the world (or those parts of the world who didn't catch on to the fact that Chelsea did exactly the same thing in 2009 and ought to have won by a mile - and this is from a Chelsea-hating Red!) how Barcelona can be overcome relatively easily by a strong defensive united. But United are not a strong defensive unit in that way, and setting up defensively would just let Barca come at us. United win when we are always looking to attack. The starry-eyed Barca fans may claim that no team can ever boss the play against their club, but a United team playing at the intensity they did against Chelsea - a Chelsea who, despite the ABU moaners, WERE on form and made it a hell of a fight - are irresistible, no matter who you are. And the attacking game doesn't have to last for 90 minutes. If you can burst out of the blocks and score early, then you can settle back. That's why we have to start with Hernandez, because Rooney can then shape our play according to the state of the game, dropping deeper or pushing forward as he (and Giggs) see fit.

    If both teams play well, I'm seeing it as something like 60/40 in favour of Barcelona. It would be churlish to claim that United are their equals in quality. But it is also naive to suggest that the Reds are miles behind. The thing that makes it more likely that Barcelona will win is that, no matter how boring their play sometimes is, they tend to be very consistent on the big game days. United, on the other hand, sometimes show up but sometimes, as in 2009, don't quite. Fingers crossed.

  • Comment number 99.

    In the second paragraph, that should read 'strong defensive unit', not 'strong defensive united'. I wish!

  • Comment number 100.

    I will be rooting and shouting for United all the way on Saturday and I really hope they get revenge for '09. But my head says otherwise - Lineker knows his football and it's difficult to disagree with his view that if Xavi, Iniesta and Messi are on song then it's hard to see anything other than an convinving Barca win. But I really hope I'm wrong..

 

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