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How Manchester United can beat Barcelona

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 19:27 UK time, Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Winning the midfield battle will be the determining factor in the 2011 Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United, just as it was when they met in 2009.

Two years ago, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson left the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, plotting how his team would avoid riding the Barca "carousel" next time they met.

Now he has his chance, using the lessons learned from a demoralising evening when Lionel Messi shifted to the centre of the pitch and was instrumental in causing all sorts of bother for Ferguson's side.

The problem now, though, is that the Scot believes the Catalan side are even better, so how does he go about plotting their downfall this time?

Line-up and formation
Darren Fletcher missed the 2009 final, and his suspension was viewed as a contributing factor to Barca's midfield dominance. On that occasion, Anderson played alongside Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs in a 4-3-3 system, with Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Park Ji-sung ahead of them.

That was an attempt to flood the midfield and match Barca's formation but once they had taken an early lead, Pep Guardiola's side passed it around the United players, aided by the deeper role Messi took up that evening.

Although David Villa and Pedro have since replaced forwards Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o, Barcelona's midfield will again feature Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, so Ferguson faces the dilemma of drafting in Fletcher or Anderson to play alongside Carrick and Giggs, or sticking with his most recent incarnation.

The potency of Javier Hernandez this term has shifted Ferguson's tactics so that Rooney has adopted a deeper role, thereby dropping into midfield to help out Carrick and Giggs, while Park and Antonio Valencia patrol the wide areas.

The line-ups in the respective Champions League semi-finals give an idea of the kind of shape each team might employ.


The line-ups in the respective Champions League finals give an idea of the kind of shape each team might employ.  <br />

 

Playing four in midfield with Rooney dropping deeper might represent a gamble, but if Rooney can negate Busquets it will allow Hernandez to keep Barcelona's defence occupied, even when the Catalans are on the attack.

On the other hand if Ferguson goes for a five-man midfield he could even choose to place Rooney up front on his own, as he did so successfully last season.

"I think Wayne can play anywhere as he has shown over the last few years. He's such an enthusiastic lad," says former United midfielder Nicky Butt. "With his work ethic he will work back and defend as well so I don't see why the manager will not stick with the same line-up. Hernandez has been brilliant all year as well.

"Obviously United will try to stop Barcelona's top names playing and that will be part of the plan, I'm sure. But they have to go out there and impose themselves on the game to have any chance of winning. They didn't do that two years ago."

Defending against Barcelona
Ferguson, like any other opposition manager facing Barca, has to accept that there will be periods of the game when Guardiola's side will dominate possession. Their average ball retention in the Champions League this season is 62%, with Manchester United second best on 58%, but too much relevance can sometimes be placed on this statistic.

Arsenal had only 39% possession in the first leg of their last-16 tie with Barca this season, yet the Gunners won the game 2-1.

The value of possession to the Spanish side, though, is that they use it almost as thinking time. The first instinct of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta is to pass, get it back and use that time to see what is developing in front of them.

The other benefit is that while the Catalans keep the ball, United will be using energy to win it back, so Ferguson might ask his team to only press the ball intensely in certain areas.

Passes to Busquets and Messi from the second leg of their semi-final against Real Madrid show the areas that United will have to marshall.

Passes to Busquets and Messi from the second leg of their semi-final against Real Madrid show the areas that United will have to marshall. <br />

 

"The difficulty of defending against Barcelona is getting the ball off them so your starting position is very important," says former Arsenal full-back and Match of the Day pundit Lee Dixon. "If you go chasing the ball early you are in big trouble.

"Messi likes to drop into that hole just in front of the back four and behind the midfield so somebody in midfield needs to be aware of that and the two centre-backs need to govern when they go in and when they stay as a back four.

"Against Arsenal in the first half of the first leg, Barcelona were absolutely outstanding and Messi was picking the ball up all the time. Arsenal midfield Alex Song didn't know whether to drop back, the centre-half didn't know whether to come in and mark him and Messi tore Arsenal to pieces in that area."

There is an argument in favour of playing a high line against Barca as Real Madrid did in their 1-1 draw in La Liga on 16 April. But that will only allow space behind United's defence, and between their centre-backs and full-backs, for Villa and Pedro to run into.

Key to all this will be Rooney's role against Busquets. The England striker struggled to pick up Song in their recent Premier League game when he was asked to do a similar job, so that may influence Ferguson's thinking.

United will also be heartened by the best defensive record in the Champions League this season. En route to the final they have conceded only four goals.

Transition from defence to attack
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the game on Saturday will be how well United hold onto the ball once they have won it back.

Nothing frustrates players more than, having spent two minutes pressing the ball to win it back, it is then given away at the first opportunity. Messi's goal in the 2009 final came from Patrice Evra's clearance which went straight to Xavi.

When Barca lose the ball they press in packs to regain it, a tactic that is often successful. The reason? As Steve McClaren explained recently, courtesy of Johan Cruyff, several Barcelona players are never more than 10 yards away from the ball because they only tend to pass it that distance.

This is where fitness kicks in. United's players must be able to concentrate on maintaining possession straight away even though they may have been chasing the ball intensely. Dixon believes you can beat the Barca press if a longer pass out of the danger zone is employed quickly and United will want to avoid the same number of misplaced passes as in the 2009 final (see table).


United will want to avoid the same number of misplaced passes as in the 2009 final

 

"Everyone knows how Barca are a free-flowing team and such good passers of the ball but United have got players with a lot of energy," adds Butt, who won the Champions League with Manchester United in 1999.

"Look at Park, Ryan is still going strong, and Fletcher and Anderson can all get about the pitch. So they have the players to stop Barcelona, but also to break forward once they win the ball. If they can win the ball high up the pitch, and win it early, they can then break off and it could help United win the game.

"Manchester United are better on the front foot and I'm sure Ferguson and the coaching staff will have been studying how to break Barcelona down. United have so much pace in midfield and on the wings with Nani and Valencia so if they can break off into space then they will cause problems."

This is where key decisions will come into play: when do United concentrate on maintaining possession and when do they break quickly? The experience of Giggs may help in this process after recent displays where he has dictated the tempo of United's play.

Attacking Barcelona's weaknesses
"If Manchester United can get past Barca's first phase of closing the ball down, they certainly have the players in wide areas who can hurt their two full-backs," Dixon states.

"I don't think they are the best defenders. They like to bomb forward and they do leave gaps at the back so I think it's important that United are in the right area of the pitch, are together when they win the ball back, and then hit them on the break."

Even though they may not start, Anderson and Fletcher could be key men in boosting the energy levels in United's midfield as the game reaches the second half.

And if someone is needed to switch the ball quickly to one of United's wide men behind the likes of Dani Alves or Eric Abidal, then who better than Paul Scholes to do it?

"It's hard to find weaknesses in the Barca team but every team has them," Butt adds. "Gerard Pique is a top player but Carles Puyol dives in a lot and, although he is a top player too, he can give away silly free-kicks which players like Nani will thrive on.

"The weaknesses that Barca have at the back are United's strengths: Rooney running into the channels on the left then cutting in and shooting, Nani dribbling down that side, or Valencia on the other flank. They have a lot of pace on the wings to counter-attack what Barcelona are going to do."

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Ferguson has an almost fully-fit squad to choose from and may also have learned the lesson of keeping his team in tune rather than giving his players an 11-day gap between their penultimate Premier League game against Arsenal and the 2009 final.

But more than anything he will have a team that will be desperate to make amends after failing to show Manchester United's attacking ethos in Rome.

"Ferguson has enough in his team," Butt concludes. "They are probably the most successful team in Europe over the last six years. They have won four titles and this is their third Champions League final in four years.

"They have got to be very confident going into it and I'm sure the minute they walked off the pitch two years ago the manager was thinking about what they had to do to beat Barcelona next time.

"He's had a long period to mull it over and I'm sure the team know exactly what they need to do. Mark my words, over the last six or seven weeks he will have been getting the players ready."

You can also discuss more tactical issues and follow me on Twitter

 

Comments

Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    Either Rooney or (I know im going to get alot of stick for this) Berbatov have to play as a lone striker. I'd go Berbatov as he's much better than Rooney or Hernandez at holding the ball up and laying it, which is going to be very important to keep possession unless it's simply a full out counter attack system which means Hernandez would have to play. I hope Valencia and Park start as we seriously need their work rate.

  • Comment number 2.

    A much better analysis than poor Lineker's "if Barca turn up, they'll win" thing.
    More in alliance with Alan Hansen's analysis, in terms of Rooney's role in Saturday's final.

    What surprised me is non of the three (Hansen, Dixon, Lineker) mentioned the differences between United of today and United of 2 seasons ago (and likewise for Barcelona).

    Two seasons ago, the most important player for United was Ronaldo. Barcelona overran the midfield and Ronaldo looked like a ferrari in a race without petrol in the tank. This time round, you can talk about most important players, when it comes to United. Also, Xavier Hernandez is the surprise in the package, Valencia has been introduced, while Nani has risen significantly since two seasons ago.

    I do not want United to start with a 5 man midfield and Rooney lone striker because this could easily turn up to a 4-6-0 for United. When you pose no threat up front, the opposition can pack the midfield even more and you're in trouble. Especially when the opposition is called Barcelona.

    I want all of Rooney, Chicarito and Valencia or Nani - preferably Valencia due to his willingness to defend. Sir Alex Ferguson has surprised us all, many times and I wouldn't be surprised if this was one more of those.

    If there is one thing that is comforting the mind, regarding the final is the knowledge that, throughout his career, SAF has always corrected wrongs of the past. One thing I know for sure is he's having the team well prepared for the final, looking into every single detail, thoroughly.

    It's a final. It's one of those games used to write history. And it is in Wembley.
    I want to see United playing their game, trying their best. I would be pleased.

  • Comment number 3.

    VDS, Rafael/Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Fletcher/Anderson, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez

    Need Rafael or Fabio to handle Barca's pace, and Valencia and Park have good work rates to support the full-backs. Need Fletch or Anderson in midfield bcos of their energy, depends who is fitter at present, but if they were both fully fit I would go for Fletch. Also think his place in the team will be influenced by him missing out last time round in 2008 and (as we've seen with Scholsey in 2008) Fergie's got a heart and will want to give Fletch his chance. Giggs will provide that creative spark in midfield and will be helped by Rooney dropping into midfield. Hernandez to constantly pester Puyol and Pique, don't think they can handle his turn of pace and he will be key.

    Got a good feeling about Saturday, really hope the lads can do it. Key is to maintain concentration, esp when we haven't got the ball (bcos there will be long periods of that), and then when we do have the ball, to not give it away cheaply and use it wisely. Hernandez to score and United to win 2-1. C'MON YOU REDS!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    #2

    "Xavi hernandez is the suprise package"

    WHAT!!!?!??! You been on the moon for 5 years?

  • Comment number 5.

    My own theory on how Manchester United should go about this final:

    Number one, start Park Ji-Sung in the middle and move Wayne Rooney to the left. Some one has to sit on Busquets - who sees an awful lot of the ball - and Park is the only one with the energy to tie him down for ninety minutes. Obviously, this means Rooney could be marginalized but that's just a risk that has to be taken if we are to have some decent possession.

    Number two, Paul Scholes must start. He may be on his last legs as a player but he is still the only one in the squad who has a tendency to attract the ball and who you can be sure won't surrender possession cheaply.

    Number three, Ryan Giggs must start on the bench. From a purely footballing standpoint, Giggs will be a spectator if he plays. This I'm sure of.

    Number four, Javier Hernandez must start as the lone striker. It's a guarantee that United are not going to be dominating play on Saturday so we need someone who will chase every lost cause. Hernandez is the man for the job.

    I do agree with the crux of this blog though. United must try to impose themselves as much as possible for the full 90 minutes on Saturday. String a few passes together, be patient, and give Barcelona something to think about, instead of lumping long balls towards whoever plays upfront.

  • Comment number 6.

    # 4,
    It's called waking up syndrome, missing the 'e' key on the keyboard :)

  • Comment number 7.

    I agree with Linekers comments, i think if Barcelona play to their potential they will win simple as, i mean Real Madrid are a much better outfit than United and have more experience playing Barcelona and still came up way short.

    A concern of mine is the immobility of Uniteds centre backs, Vidic is a red card waiting to happen gets caught to many times on the back foot, if he gets an early yellow against the likes of Messi, Villa and Pedro running around him it could be a long night. Neadless to say Rio hasnt got the legs of 2009.

    I think United will get stuck like Arsenal between a rock and a hard place, wether to sit back and defend and counter or try at least to go for it and have more of the ball than most against this Barca side.

    2-1 Barca for me

  • Comment number 8.

    # 4,

    at least, you can say I took you for granted. Spelling was right!

  • Comment number 9.

    oops... Javier, yeah :)
    I have to use surnames only, early mornings!
    (didn't have a clue Xavi's name also had a "Hernandez" bit) LOL

  • Comment number 10.

    Barcelona this, Barcelona that...........But could they do it on a rainy night against Cinderford Town? No is the answer, they'd struggle in the 'home of the brave'.

  • Comment number 11.

    Barcelona can always revert to plan B if you manage to contain them. This involves running into players then going down as if you've been punched, surround the ref keep up the ply acting until the opposition is down to ten men to give Messi room to perform his magic. I am not exaggerating i've just watched clips of the first leg against Real Madrid in the Semi Final.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think he meant Javier Hernandez, United's Hernandez, not Xavi.

  • Comment number 13.

    I have to partly agree with The_Right_Boot_of_Suarez. When I read about Vidic and Ferdinand playing high on the pitch, my first thoughts went to a Vidic red card and Ferdinand outrun for pace. If I remember correctly, Arsenal tried to defend high on the pitch and we say Ibrahimovich receiving long balls and scoring with ease. Also, Barcelona are excellent playing a speedy player on the shoulders of defenders. If the defense is high up, it's invitation for trouble.

    I see more viable a Carrick role, similar to Xavi Alonso's in Real, supporting the central defenders.

    # 11. What plan B'? Teams playing the Barcelona way have no plan B'.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm a united fan but over here in France people think it's already in the pocket for barca! they see united as a much more defensive team than the one that met barca in the final 2 years ago ! I don't think either rooney or hernandez are the key players! important yes but key to united's strategy no, i think the key man will be carrick! he showed against chelsea & shalke that he can actually raise his game with great positional & intercepting play, a real quarter back role! United need to get it out to the wings as soon as they can with fabio and evra overlapping ! carrick will lay deep and protect and let giggs move forward just as he did against barca! the best way to defend against barca is to attack on the wings! barca love to play it though the middle ! as good as fletcher is at recuperating the ball he isin't the best with the ball at his feet and it's the rapidity in which we get the ball out to the wings that will have barca defending and vacating their more natural central positioning on the pitch ! i can see the game having a slow build up with barca obviously having most of the possession and united spring their excellent counter attack when in control of the ball!! everything has to be perfect for united, if they start the game in the same fashion they started against chelsea in the league and maintain that focus and determination then i can see united snatching it! i can see the same result as in 91', united to go 2 up and barca to pull one back and to pile on the preassure! if barca score first then game over ! i believe man utd can do it !

  • Comment number 15.

    13 The dark side (play acting) of Barcelona was there for all to see. I do not think we will see this from them unless Man U can frustrate them.

  • Comment number 16.

    It's simple, they cant.
    they r crap and if they cant beat a team like
    wolves when Man Utd were first in the league and Wolves were last, they have no chance whatsoever. If Wolves r too good for u then so r barcelona. Should b Wolves v Barcelona really.

  • Comment number 17.

    There's only one way for United to beat Barcelona and that's by not letting them have the ball. They need to be super-energetic in midfield...I'd be tempted to play two holding midfielders in Carrick and Park, with Rooney in front of them, Valencia down the right, Nani down the left and Hernandez up front. It is vitally important that the wingers tuck in tight when United don't have the ball, for that reason I'd probably go with O'Shea at right back - Rafael might be too headstrong for such a big game.

  • Comment number 18.

    As a neutral, althrough slightly weighted to Barcelona (we cant let United get our European cup crown as well as the leagues!) I just want want a clean well contested final, no barracking the ref, no play acting, no diving no waveing of false cards in air etc.........i know Barcelona have been accused of this in the past however, if they are to win then do it as professional sportsmen like we all know they can. Barcelona dont need to bring all that gamesmanship to the table just let the football talk.......

  • Comment number 19.

    Frankly, I'm fascinated by all the analysis going on about Utd's line-up. I mean we're barely at post no.15 and one of my fellow Utd fans above has suggested that Brebatov play as the lone striker and Rooney on the left, while another insists that Scholes must start! I mean....what????

    Fergie has prepared for this final. In the 3 games against Chelsea and the away semi against Schalke the front 6 were Carrick, Giggs, Valencia, Park, Rooney and Hernandez (except for 1 of the Chelsea games where Valencia was rested and Nani played). All were impressive wins. I think it's a given (if there's ever such a thing with a Fergie selection) that this will be the starting line-up.

    It's hugely dependent on Rooney and Park. Both put in a huge amount of work and effectively make it a 4 man midfield when Utd are defending. This gives Carrick and Giggs more time to get on the ball and pick a pass which is why they have looked a lot better in this system.

    Fletcher won't start. He's not fully match fit and has only had a couple of games since being out for 2 months. Anderson won't start. If Fergie intended using him he's have used him more in the big games recently. Scholes is an accident waiting to happen in these sort of games. Nani won't start over Valencia and it's too risky to put him on the left where he is less effective and can't be relied on to defend. For this game it will definitely be Park.

    The only other thing I'd add is that I'd have Owen on the bench. He's looked very sharp coming on lately and could be key late on if Utd need a goal.

  • Comment number 20.

    #16 joe_Wolves

    Didn't Barca lose to Hercules? Therefore the match should be Wolves vs Hercules. I'll ring the powers that be and change the teams.

  • Comment number 21.

    Oh and on the team, he'll play the team that's been winning the important games for us. Surely you play to your strengths rather than the other teams?

  • Comment number 22.

    Chizzle - Rooney cant drop back into a central midfield 3 and act as a ball winner, playmaker. This was shown against Arsenal and i fear agains Barcelona this could be a disaster, hes much better int he Trequartista role in the middle between midfield and attack bringing wingers into play and trying to find Hernandez with that killer pass, if he starts dropping too deep and start chasing shadows in the middle which i do get infuriated with in his game then i fear Hernandez will cut a lonely figure up top. I think Anderson and Fletcher needs to sit deep one keeping a close eye on Messi in a deep 4-2-3-1 for me, but Park and Nani will have to have lungs of steel to keep running up and down as they will need to defend and try to attack all night long.

  • Comment number 23.

    #20

    But by that logic, Wolves lost to Blackpool so it should be Blackpool v Hercules.

    I'm sure Ian Holloway would be up for such a herculean game.

  • Comment number 24.

    Agree that United retaining the ball is key to winning. However too much, as usual, is being made of Messi - I'm predicting a United win, perhaps in extra time, with Messi being anonymous as usual away from the Nou Camp. First goal will be key - going a goal down to Barca makes for a long match chasing the "carousel" but United have this season been starting games with a bang (as per Chelsea match) and I can't wait to see what Barca have to offer when chasing the game. United 2-1 AET and Messi not featuring. You heard it here first!

  • Comment number 25.

    #19 - Words of Wisdon - I have to say I agree with pretty much everything you've said there which is rare on one of these blog comments! I think Rooney though will take up the attacking left position rather than "in the hole" and Park will play in the centre with Giggs and Carrick. Fill the midfield, destroy them on the break....Can't wait!

  • Comment number 26.

    #19

    Yeah what he said...

  • Comment number 27.

    It is good for English football if United win this final.
    Chelsea, Arsenal, City, Liverpool would look at this and, if they use any superlatives when thinking of Barcelona and Real Madrid, they'd concentrate on improving, to get past this achievement.

    On the other hand, it would only help the trend for Premiership football becoming even more desirable abroad, with all the positive financial implications for the rest of Premiership sides.

  • Comment number 28.

    Also I disagree with the analysis in the main entry.

    I don't think Utd will sit back for the start. I predict a very high tempo start from the Reds to try and get the game won early doors; like we did against Chelsea.

  • Comment number 29.

    "Nani won't start over Valencia and it's too risky to put him on the left where he is less effective and can't be relied on to defend".....although its hard to disagree with that, I think Nani should play as you say he could be key in winning free kicks and getting in behind the full backs and imo he has the ability to do something special which will be needed against Barca.

  • Comment number 30.

    If there is any justice in the world of football then the best team will win. Let's hope it's not a repeat of the 1999 final.

  • Comment number 31.

    Loving all the united team selctection predictions but I have to agree with comment 19 (my new favourinte number) United will either play the same 4-4-2 that they plaed against schalke or possibly fergie might be more cautious and play 4-5-1 with Rooney upfront.

    The optimist in me hopes we go 4-4-2 and go for it. Like the article says we've had an average of 58% possession v's Barca's 62%. Surpising stat given that United don't get any where near the type of praise for keeping the ball that Barca do.

    Maybe if we limit Barca to least 60-40 in their favour we might have enouhg of the ball to expose their defence!!! Barca are favourites but probably not by as much as everyone thinks.

  • Comment number 32.

    If Man Utd win Gary Lineker will be getting a lot of stick and may mean the end of is match of the day position. I think he was very unwise being so pro Barcelona , it was close to a Ringo moment.

    I can see Man Utd winning it will be like a home tie for their southern supporters and their form is relatively good.

  • Comment number 33.

    @24, Messi being anonymous away from home as usual? - Did you miss the semi final where he destroyed madrid in the bernabau? Dream on.

    Uniteds only chance is if Barcelona have a poor night, otherwise it will be a comfortable night for them just like 2 years ago. United dont have the pace and mobility in central midfield to be able to stop Barcelona playing. If United play a high line like some are suggesting it just leaves more room for the likes of Villa, Pedro etc to get in behind them which is what they are so good at.

  • Comment number 34.

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

  • Comment number 35.

    #23

    But Blackpool lost to United, so it should really be United vs Hercules

  • Comment number 36.

    19**

    A good point about Owen , OK it was Blackpool but his run and finish were first class . Could be Man Utd "super sub".

    I hope man Utd do it , but I strongly disagree with Ferguson's approach to the media , he's a Bully and he should no better . Despite this flaw, still got to be considered the best manager ever in the UK.

  • Comment number 37.

    "But by that logic, Wolves lost to Blackpool so it should be Blackpool v Hercules." - 23
    On that note, Blackpool lost to Man united twice, so...
    Man united vs Hercules!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    I have been thinking about this for weeks even before they both got in and i have my own views:

    1. Barcalona are not as good as they were in 2009, for a very simple reason. in 2009 they played etoo, henry and messi who can all play central and all play wide meaning everyone can move about and cause defences problems just like in 2009 when messi played central. Now they are much less versatile as villa is a centre forward and pedro only has one foot so they front 3 always play the same.

    2. Man Utd have to play 4-4-2 its the only way to win inter milan under mourinho did it and im sure thats what SAF has been studying they played two solid lines of 4 close to each other not allowing the space between that messi likes to move in cutting him off from the game. also one striker drops off and covers busquets.

    3. team line up is simple no da silva brothers they will be good in the future but too inexperienced espically if the divers are playing( the whole team) its best that o shea plays at the back. I think midfield shoud be if possible valencia,carrick,fletcher and park as park on the left will annoy alves as he will track back all day but still run back up and valencia is much more direct than nani. Upfront has to be rooney and hernandez anyone saying berb has to play is ludacris saying he hold up the ball.Man U cant afford to play hold up ball game its a simple defend and counter system 4 man counter(wide men and strikers) the movement of hernandez on an aging puyol will make him get sent off he will be soo pissed but thats how united have to play

  • Comment number 39.

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

  • Comment number 40.

    #37

    Also, Hercules lost their home game against Barcelona, so...

    Man Utd v Barcelona!

  • Comment number 41.

    "Statistics damned statistics"

    The bottom line is, goals come through mistakes and both sides are capable of errors, the one with least will win. Its only a occasionally that a "Super goal" makes the difference.

  • Comment number 42.

    5. At 08:24 26th May 2011, ScholesLegend wrote:

    Finally someone agrees with my view! Strongly agree with Park, Rooney and Chicarito's roles.

    Scholes or Giggs arguement is agreed to a certain extent. Scholes is the only one who doesn't waste hard won possessions against Barcelona... But does he have the legs and discipline to dominate the midfield (not passing wise we all know he's the best in the respect but physically positioning, building the first line of defence etc)

    Giggs, does not neccessarily bring that physical aspect too but his condition is probably better than Scholes'. What Giggs does bring is traveling the ball in the middle and attract opposition to commit tackles before passing the ball. This works so well for us in the past few months as this basically help the forwards or wingers to lose one of the markers and loosen up the opposition's defence. However, against Barcelona, you do wonder whether this works... They gang up when closing down and it is to be see whether Giggs can beat that first hurdle...

    To be honest though, I rate Carrick highly (many disagree!) and if Fletcher is fit, I would say Carrick Fletcher and Park in the middle. Essentially trusting Carrick to step up and provide what Scholes can do and be encouraged to make more forward passes. Not through the middle though, but down the wings or preferably switch side diagonal to expose Barcelona's fullback.

    Essentially, we defend against their strongest department (centre mid) and break them on their weakest part (wing). The wingers (Valencia and Rooney) should only come in and help out when the attack is down his side ie covering fullback. If, for example, Rooney is cut in the close down on the left and helping out, Valencia should stay on the halfway line on the right, and waiting for the cross field ball and break.

    Something like that but doubt would happen and this is a bit too defensive for everyone's liking haha

  • Comment number 43.

    #19 couldn't be more correct! I am absolutely baffled as to how little so many people on here know about football and man utd in particular....

    Firstly people bashing uniteds 4-4-2 shouldn't pay any attention to Arsenal, that was a blip with most of our players absolutely knackered from that epic night in Schalke, how about we pay more attention to how we tore apart chelsea?

    As for those of you predicting fletcher and anderson in the middle and nani playing, nani will not start in a million years over valencia... simple as! valencia has been unreal since he's come back from injury both defensively and attacking wise i expect him to give abidal real problems, lets not forget how he ripped ashley cole (the supposed best left back in the world) to shreds the other week! Anderson will never start either, and fletcher I highly doubt as he's been out for ages and his energy levels won't be what they were due to the weight he's lost! The only real debates are at right back, whether o'shea or one of the twins starts and whether we play hernandez or fletcher in the midfield!

    Personally i hope o'shea gets nowhere near the game because he will be made to look a fool, he's simply too immobile to cope with the pace and movement barca have! As for the fletcher hernandez debate there is only one winner... hernandez has to start because he stretches their defence... rooney can sit behind and act as another man when we're defending, just as long as we have valencia for that quick out ball and then rooney and park charging up to join hernandez!

    Lastly anyone who so mentions barca's victory over arsenal is again an idiot, arsenal may have beaten united recently but arsenal cannot defend for the life of them and are nowhere near the levels united are on there day! Hence why we finished 12 points ahead of them despite throwing away all those draws at the start of the season!

    anyways so here is my team:

    Van Der Saar, Rafael/Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez

  • Comment number 44.

    "However too much, as usual, is being made of Messi - I'm predicting a United win, perhaps in extra time, with Messi being anonymous as usual away from the Nou Camp"

    You obviously didnt watch the final two years ago. Im also gonna presume that you think Messi has scored 52 goals at home this season. Typical guy that only watches the Prem and thinks they know about every player in every league

    You are going to get beat by at least 2, Messi is going to tear you apart

  • Comment number 45.

    is it just me that finds barcelona a boring and frustrating team to watch for 85 minutes of a match? they pass it around their back 4 and midfield 3 for long periods of time until either, they manage to finally pick an attacking pass, or they manage to get somebody booked.

    there is too much hype about them being a great 'footballing' team. i really hope man utd can "knock them off their perch" as well.

  • Comment number 46.

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

  • Comment number 47.

    You are going to get beat by at least 2, Messi is going to tear you apart

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

    Maybe he will. Barcelona start as favourites as they do against all teams but sometimes the favourites don't win. If United play well and still lose to Barca then fair enough. I'll still be happy knowing that my team is better than everyone in England and better than the whole of Europe bar one exceptional team.

    Should we win though, my god there'll be some bitter people on here.

  • Comment number 48.

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

  • Comment number 49.

    "Van Der Saar, Rafael/Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez"

    Largely agree with what you say Guy Sinclair. Although playing Carrick is a huge mistake. The guy will be a passenger. You wont get more than 35% of the ball. Carrick is only good when in possession, when he hasnt ot the ball he has no idea whats going on around him. He'll be left dizzy by the movement of Barca.

    This does leave a problem. You have to have a good defensive mid but Fletcher isnt fit. Id stick Park in the middle with Giggs and Anderson. Anderson will need to sit, Giggs can hold the ball and Park can bring the energy to the team.

    I think your best bet is to look to counter and contain them for an hour. They always tire in the latter stages, at that point get Nani on and go for them.

    Id start

    VDS
    Fabio
    Rio
    Vidic
    Evra
    Valencia
    Giggs
    Anderson
    Park
    Rooney
    Hernandez

    443

    You need to pin Alves and Abidal back a little. Rooney and Valencia can do that out wide. Hernandez can stretch Puyol and Pique. Play a high line and hope that everyone has a top game like we (Arsenal) did in the first leg. If everyone plays out of their skin you might just nick it. If you go 442 or play Carrick youll get murdered

  • Comment number 50.

    We are united.

    I was more responding to that guys complete loads of rubbish about how Messi goes missing. Probably the same kind of person that thought Rooney was on a par with Messi before the world cup.

    I think you have a slight chance but personally i just dont think youre that great this season. Champions of our league yes, but ourselves (Arsenal) and Chelsea have been poor. Barca are beatable but it takes luck. We rode it a lot in our first leg game. Youll need to do the same

    I will stand by it though. I think youll get beat by 2. Youre midfield just isnt good enough to cope. Youre overall team is stronger than ours but our midfield tends to control yours and lets face it we couldnt contain Barca

  • Comment number 51.

    Totally unscientific, but I've just got a feeling United are going to put in a massive performance on Saturday. Had the same feeling before the 7-1 Roma game a few years ago. United played with such an amazing controlled intensity that night that Roma were swept away in a red tidal wave; that's the spirit we need to channel on Saturday. Obviously Barca are not Roma, but... well, we'll just have to wait and see!

  • Comment number 52.

    43.
    At 10:00 26th May 2011, Guy Sinclair wrote:

    Van Der Saar, Rafael/Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez

    Well said... I have to go with this team as well. The RB is between O'shea getting skinned and Raphael being hot headed. I would have to go for Raphael and hope he has learned his lesson from last year....

    On a side note - I am down in London for the final, ticketless unfortunately, and still looking for a good place to watch it. Sports cafe is the obviousplace but any suggestions would be very grateful?? I will be heading to the Torch for the pre-match build up and then off to a good pub?

  • Comment number 53.

    #19 is the only person to have made much sense at the moment, sorry to the others, I would normally appreciate a bit of "outside the box" thinking but they're not playing against a pub team here fellas.

    First of all, playing high against Barca would be an absolute nightmare. I live in Spain and nobody does that against Barca, nobody. Mourinho tried it and lost 5-0. Everyone watching was gobsmacked at how wrong Mourinho got it, including the "special one" himself. Never been done again.

    In a way I commend Mourinho for trying something different, but it simply backfired.

    If you want to beat Barca then you need to shelve the experiments. Play a fairly deep, disciplined back four. No heroics. When i've seen Barca at their most dangerous they get Messi wide right with Villa/Pedro wide left both cutting in when they have the ball and when they don't have it, moving around dangerously waiting to receive it from Xavi/Iniesta when the time's right (and believe me, they can wait!!). United's fullbacks will have to man-mark the wideboys but pass them over to the CB's when they come inside which will need discipline. CM's harassing Xavi and Iniesta/Busquets.

    As for united... try and catch Barca out on the counter. Sounds too simplistic? well it is but that's because utd won't have enough of the ball to try anything else. Also, utd are pretty damn good on the counter.

    Unfortunately I can see utd giving away a fair few free-kicks, No real threat in itself but I wouldn't be surprised to see them go down to 10 men in the second half. Just a thought but watch this space.

    It's gonna be very tough for utd but not impossible, Lineker's got a point but it's a little too bold for me. United's well documented determination could well see them through!

  • Comment number 54.

    #30

    Although my nerves may disagree, come sunday morning i'd certainly take a repeat of the 99 final,

    but utd have to play thier own game, i (and this is why i'm at the office right now at not any sort of football manager) would pla y a 5 man midfield including rooney, with chicharito up front, puyol must be older than sin now and couldn't cope with his movement, park and valencia on the wings, fletcher and carrick in the centre leaving rooney with the freedom hes had most of the season

  • Comment number 55.

    Whenever my mind goes to the last final against Barcelona, I keep wondering how a goal changes the flow of a match. In the first 10', United were all over Barcelona then. After the E'too goal, against the run of play, Barcelona dominated the match as very rarely seen against United.

    I'm wondering how desperate this passing game of Barcelona would become if United score first, this time round and Barcelona play the possession game in full knowledge that they have to produce or else. It's a totally different picture against a side that excels in counter attack.

    I believe the first goal could be defining for the match.
    If United win, I'm expecting the Lineker comment about "if Barca turn up they win" to become the next famous catch-phrase regarding United and I can see Lineker being wound up by his fellow pundits many times, asking him which Barcelona turned up in La Liga that weekend.

  • Comment number 56.

    "Van Der Saar, Rafael/Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez" is the way forward. Playing with both Rooney and Hernandez up front occupies Barcelona's back four and doesn't allow them time to find the midfielders who can then do the damage. Although Berbatov was top scorer we have looked toothless with him upfront especially in games such as City and Blackburn.
    We shouldn't fall in the trap of trying to adapt to play against Barca, be aware yes but Arsenal managed to keep them at bay at the Camp Nou until they were reduced to 10.
    1-0 utd with Owen getting the winner and a bonus to see Alves carried off on a stretcher he represents everything bad in the game a pathetic human being I would be embarrassed, if you're going to give it out Mr Alves take it as well !!

  • Comment number 57.

    #24 That's got to be the most inaccurate comment here. Do your research man!

    #46 you're spot on

  • Comment number 58.

    Lets be honest, all Man Utd will do is "park 11 buses" and hope to nick a goal through a corner, free-kick, longball, etc...I can only see Man Utd playing anti-football like all English clubs do when they play any decent European oppositions!!

    I just hope for the sake of football Barcelona wins!!

  • Comment number 59.

    "Should we win though, my god there'll be some bitter people on here."

    I keep having this thought every day this week.
    I'd love to read their responses, the day after.

  • Comment number 60.

    "Playing with both Rooney and Hernandez up front occupies Barcelona's back four and doesn't allow them time to find the midfielders who can then do the damage"

    Have you ever watched Barca play? All of their players are superb at one touch passing. Rooney and Hernandez would be chasing their tales all night. Plus one less in midfield means that when the ball gets into the Barca 3 of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta you have nothing to stop them with. 442 is suicide. 451, play tight and hope you can nick a goal. Any team thats tried 442 this season against them has been murdered

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 58, Messi4LFC,

    You miss a point here: Manchester United have no Rafa Benitez as manager.
    Your heartfelt wish for a Barcelona win is very narrow, club-level related. Isn't it? :)

  • Comment number 62.

    Can see Barca winning this game without breaking sweat to be honest. Also wouldn't be at all surprised to see a v defensive manu line up and a robust attitude against the flair players like Messi and Villa.

  • Comment number 63.

    You can talk tactics all you like, fact is Barcelona will have minimum 60% possession for the game, they will pass the ball better than United and they will have more chances than United because they are the much better side. For United its just about defending well because it will be one way traffic for most of the game. I'm not saying it as a put down to United because Barca are better than everyone by a distance. The beauty of football is its unpredictability, anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Arsenals game is the blue print for success v Barca, simply put, defend well, ride your luck and take your chances. If United do that they can win and lets face it there is not better team at riding their luck than Man Utd!

  • Comment number 64.

    It makes me laugh all the comments from Man U supporters about Barca surrounding the ref. You want to look at your own team occasionally.

    Post 24 - "Messi being anonymous as usual away from the Nou Camp" - I think you're confusing Messi with Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 65.

    Last time we played Barcelona (in the final) our weakness was Ronaldo. He took the role as the player that can do everything by himself and failed miserably. Now we are a much much better team. I say again we are a much much better TEAM! This means we will unite against 'super duper already going to win it' Barcelona. Everyone will be willing to work hard in the midfield which is needed. The striker that plays, I say striker because I want it to be a lone striker preferably Rooney, has to put the centre backs under pressure to force the long ball. In the first half Barcelona like to pressure the ball rapidly. So in the first half we should opt to counter attack only. Then in the second half we should start to retain the ball by using Ferdinand, Vidic and VDS. Once we can control the ball at the back we can play the way we play and I don't think Barcelona can handle that. Hernandez to come on in the 60th minute as a super sub and then we shall prevail as the winnersssss!!!!

  • Comment number 66.

    United to win on Saturday n shut up all the haters...

  • Comment number 67.

    You would have to choose Park over "An Unnamed Footballer" here because of the work rate, Barcelona's possession will dominate but if they can be caught on the break, it could become an interesting game.

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm very happy for Park that he can be involved this time; a real unsung hero for United, especially in big games, and he's missed out through injury in the past. He displays the kind of attitude and work-rate that every United player should hope to match.
    Personally I think the key to United's chances lie in the first few seconds after they win the ball back from Barcelona ...... it is absolutely vital that as soon as we get possession, team-mates give the guy with the ball an easy option. I've seen so many teams play Barcelona and fail to do this, and end up chasing the ball again - heads drop, legs get tired. Far, far easier to bust a gut to provide a passing option than to win the ball back once it's lost. This is simply a matter of United being switched on when we get the ball. No laziness, guys!!!

    I'm also praying that Carrick brings his best form - he's appeared nervous on the ball in big games before, and given the ball away cheaply.

  • Comment number 69.

    The most telling stat that has been ignored is that in the past 6 seasons the team that beats Chelsea has the won the competition 5 times, that's got to count to for something. That's why I honestly believe United will win, history has a habit of repeating itself.

    United will line up as exactly as they did against Chelsea and go for it. Man Utd have the toughest defence Barca will have faced this season coupled together with the pace on the counter attack that are two of Uniteds biggest strengths. Also, after Barca's farcical semi final will hopefully mean they finally will get decisions go against them.

  • Comment number 70.

    fergie_time - are the haters just the people who believe that Barcelona have a better squad of players who play a higher level of football?

  • Comment number 71.

    this is all very well and interesting, but the tactical positions shown are united playing against a poor shalke team and barca against a well organized real madrid team.

    I wouldnt say this article is pointless, however discussing how united can beat barca is somewhat wrong. They only way united can win is if barca dont show up & united play outstanding. If barca are at the peak of their powers on saturday united dont have a chance - simple. No matter how good giggs is, or how influential rooney is or how pacey hernandez is...

    Barca to win 2-0 again, messi & villa

  • Comment number 72.

    If elephants can paint, Manchester United can win on Saturday.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He7Ge7Sogrk

  • Comment number 73.

    Magic Hatter (#30) - "If there is any justice in the world of football then the best team will win. Let's hope it's not a repeat of the 1999 final."

    The beautiful thing about football is that the best team DOESN'T always win. If it did, then there would be no point supporting a club or even going to a match - the result would be known in advance.

    No one can reasonably deny that Barcelona have better players overall than United do. Does this mean that United should simply concede the final? No, you play and you play to win and even if your opponent should beat you, there's no guarantee that they will and that is why football is exciting.

    If United are to win I feel they have to score first, and probably take at least a two-goal lead before defending like heroes. If Barcelona score first then getting back into the match will probably prove beyond us.

    So bring it on. I'm not expecting a United victory but it is absolutely possible, so let's go and give it our best shot.

  • Comment number 74.

    It makes me laugh all the comments from Man U supporters about Barca surrounding the ref. You want to look at your own team occasionally.

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

    You've hit the nail on the head. 'Occasionally' our players have surrounded the ref, such as at Blackburn when the ref bizarrely took an age to give one of the most nailed on penalties of the season.

    Barcelona do it for pretty much every decision in the big games, and not just for big decisions. Innocuous trips on the halfway line will result in mass card waving, surrounding referee and linesman and general intimidation to get an opponent wrongly sent off, especially when the game isn't going as they planned. They did it against Arsenal and they did it against Real. They did it against Inter last season and in the Spanish Cup Final, fortunately it didn't work for them in those.

  • Comment number 75.

    It doesn't matter who everybody thinks should start cos thats fergies job and to be honest he isnt that bad a manager is he?!!!!!

  • Comment number 76.

    I agree with WordsofWisdom. There is only one position up for grabs in United's starting 11 for the final and that is at right back and is between the twins. the team will be;

    Van der sar, evra, vidic, ferdinand, raphael/fabio, valencia, giggs, carrick, park, rooney, chicarito

    Personally I would edge with Fabio as raphael gives away too many free kicks around the box and is an accident waiting to happen. He still needs to mature a bit more but when he does he will undoubtedly be one of the best full backs in world football.

  • Comment number 77.

    @ 75, smithy,

    Perhaps the most accurate comment so far!

  • Comment number 78.

    @70 therooftheroof_theroofisonfire
    We have a much better squad than barca dats y this discussion is going on who to play...we all know the barca team that will play...we can make 9 changes & still win easily they cant...

  • Comment number 79.


    2. At 07:39 26th May 2011, Football_UK wrote:

    "If there is one thing that is comforting the mind, regarding the final is the knowledge that, throughout his career, SAF has always corrected wrongs of the past. One thing I know for sure is he's having the team well prepared for the final, looking into every single detail, thoroughly."


    Aye? Clutching at straws again I see?

    SAF "has always corrected wrongs of the past"???

    That's why del Bosque outfoxed him in 2000 and then again in 2003?

    And that's why Hitzfeld outwitted him in 1997, again tactically in 1999 (even though United fluked it) and then for a third time in 2001?

    So much for the "best manager in the world"...




  • Comment number 80.

    I have to say I'm a bit wary of the white-kit. Does anyone remember the last time Manchester United played well wearing white?

  • Comment number 81.

    @49.At 10:11 26th May 2011, Ichi_1
    You're wrong about Carrick. He was excellent in the 3 Chelsea games and against Schalke. Look what I said at #19. If Park and Rooney play like they did in those games and add the extra legs to midfield then Carrick and Giggs both get a bit more space and time on the ball to pick passes, which is why they looked so good in those games.

    @52.At 10:17 26th May 2011, Newbs:
    I agree with what you say about O'Shea and Rafael, which is why I'd go with Fabio. To me, Fabio is Rafael without so much of the hot headedness or inclination to dive in and make a rash tackle.

  • Comment number 82.

    So much for the "best manager in the world"...

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

    So who is the best manager in the world in your opinion?

  • Comment number 83.

    man utd wont be able to keep the ball though, do they do that in their away games? Utd weakness is midfield and barca will cease on that. Schalke didnt even press utd, they watched them pass the ball around, the were dreadful. Bayern outpassed utd in both legs last season and that fustrated utd.

    Lineker is being honest, but not disrespectful, if barca play to their potential they should win.

  • Comment number 84.

    Really good article in the first place. A lot of insightful comments here too, especially from the bloke #42 (LegendNo10).

    Against this Barca side, I think we need to play a simple 4-4-2 with someone in the team capable of making a decisive long-ball pass to a forward who can expose Puyol and Pique. That someone in my opinion should be Carrick and that forward should be Hernandez for the reasons that many bloggers have already mentioned here.

    The reason I'd love to see us play 4-4-2 is because not having much of the ball, high concentration is the key and the 4-4-2 gives you two lines of 4 who can play compact to each other.

    Play like this when don't have the ball:
    When we don't have the ball, the first line of 4 with Fabio, Rio, Vidic, Evra plays deep and does not move too high up in the pitch. This will ensure that the two wingers (or forwards, really) - David Villa and Pedro - do not run in behind the defenders. At the same time, the second line of 4 with Giggs, Carrick, Fletcher,Valencia stay compact and close to the back four line. Their job will be to limit movements of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. I think Valencia will have the busiest night, because I can see Abidal or whoever plays in his place to come forward a lot. Rooney should play as a forward but closer to the left wing to make sure that Dani Alves doesn't run forward all night. I would not want to see Hernandez drop back too deep to help out midfielders. In fact, his job would be to stay in the mid-circle and keep Barca's defenders and Busquets occupied.

    Play like this when won the ball back:
    The central midfielders, Carrick or Giggs, pick Hernandez or Rooney or Valencia with long balls forward or diagonal passes. The trio need to make sure they win plenty of balls in the air and hold up and wait for the second line of 4 to get forward and play.

    So it is similar to 4-5-1 suggested by many here, but I would argue in favour of Rooney play upfront.

  • Comment number 85.

    @ 79, nibs,

    Sir Alex Ferguson has won so much in an illustrious management career for longer than a quarter of a century that he's bound to have experienced defeats too, over 26 years in management.

    Tell me one occasion where he hasn't bounced back. Can you find any?
    (I don't want to start depositing accounts on trophies because they're so many I'm likely to forget a few)

  • Comment number 86.

    There is a lot of attention focusing on Iniesta, Xavi and Messi, but the Barcelona team is stuffed full of quality players from Valdez through to Pedro. Is there one player in the team who would not make it onto the United first eleven?
    On the other hand, how many of the United team would make it into Guardiola's line-up?
    This isn't just Barcleona v Man U, it's Spain, with some Argentine and Portugal thrown in.
    Man U to go down by at least 3-0.

  • Comment number 87.

    The most impressive aspect of Barca's game is how they always seem to have enough players in support whenever they're in posession of the ball. There's always someone available for the extra pass that sets them off in attack or redeems the ball for defensive safety. As mentioned in your analysis, "they never seem to be more than 10 yards away from the ball". They have become masters of retaining the ball by employing several players in close proximity to each other to ensure that posession is maintained. I believe that this is the key to breaking them down because the close passing tactics they use must be countered by the close man to man marking of their most effective passing players. So if United employ four players to concentrate on sticking like glue to four of Barca's most influential posession masters they could succeed in disrupting their fluid passing play. The decision of which four Barcelona players United need to constantly close down to make this possible could be determined by the stats that show which four Barca players have most contact with the ball. My guess is that Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and Messi are the main men involved in Barca's intricate passing play and if they are shut down by close marking whenever they have posession then their game will be far less effective. The four players United use to constantly shadow Barca's most dangerous men in posession will need to be four of their most experienced, these could be Nani, Valencia, Park and Fletcher. If this is achieved then United will effectively keep knicking the ball and improve their chances to impose their own tactics of quick counter attacks.

    Whatever game plan SAF has in mind it will have to involve the intention of disrupting Barca's posession play, how he does that is anyone's guess but for a bit of fun this is mine.

  • Comment number 88.

    @ 86, Lufucme,

    Valdez?
    Without even thinking any longer.
    And I include the keeper that's expected to start next season.

  • Comment number 89.

    I don't normally add to these 'comment' things, but I feel the need to say something, as a United fan.

    First of all, Barca are the better team, player for player. However, player for player, United are a better team than City and look what happened in the FA Cup Semi. If United are united, we stand a good chance.

    Don't play Berbatov (loses interest too quickly), don't play Scholes (loses his head too quickly), don't play Anderson (loses the ball too quickly). Almost every single other first-team player we have play the way United should play - as a team. That's why we won in '99. That's why we lost in '09 (too much emphasis on Ronaldo).

    It's a big game, we have team players. If we play as a team, we stand a good chance of winning. I think Lineker got it only partly right - he forgot that if United turn up, they are a match for any team.

    My nerves are jangling already, but if we put in a good performance and still lose, I'll be happy. We are the best team in England, after all =D

  • Comment number 90.

    As everyone else is adding their tuppence in i might as well.

    I'm not too hopeful - growing up and supporting throughout the 80's has left me pessimistic, so many false dawns!!!!

    I do feel however, that we must play the team that played chelsea, and use valencia as an out-ball. Barca will have lots of possession it's the way they play, but with our 35% of the ball we must be positive with it - unlike real madrid. We can't play them at their own game as they are the better team - but the best team doesn't always win ('91, '99, '05)

    Pique driving the ball out of defence is a under-rated weapon in barcas armoury as it adds another man to their midfield, but the speed of Hernandez and Valencia is very important as it might discourage that. Valencia is very, very quick - he gave cashley a torrid time in the league last month.

    Lastly not having ronaldo might actually be a bonus - great player tho he is and i would have him back - but against barca we need all players to put in some effort (messi does), and not do a little 2 footed stamp with their arms in the air.

    P.S i'm also chucking on a few cheeky bets (barca to win, Barca 1-0, Man utd 2-1, and utd to have a man sent off). The first and last one is an almost nailed on certainty!

  • Comment number 91.

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

  • Comment number 92.

    @ Football_UK

    Dude we dont need to come out n explain to everyone what a great manager Sir Alex is....we believe he will do the job again on Saturday n thats important...rest just forget it...

  • Comment number 93.

    Nice to see the ABU and Messi-is-God campers out in force. Ichi_1, you are particularly silly really aren't you bringing up the world cup 2010 as proof of how good Messi is "Probably the same kind of person that thought Rooney was on a par with Messi before the world cup" - yes and guess what, he was on a par with Rooney in the world cup! I'm trying to remember how many goals Messi scored in that world cup but I'm drawing a blank....oh wait, so did he! But am sure he was very influencial in their 4-0 drubbing by Germany....best player in the world - yeah right. I think people obsessed with Spanish football are confusing Spain with the World.

    Mark my words folks - he will be anonymous on Saturday and all of a sudden the "Messi is God" campers will be nowhere to be seen either.....

    And answer me this, if Barcelona are such overwhelming favourites and United don't have a chance, why are the bookies only quoting Barcelona 0.6 of a goal ahead? Doesn't sound like the people putting their money where their mouths are agree....talk is cheap folks.

  • Comment number 94.

    I am really backing barca to win this but for united to have any chance i think that they have to start with hernandez up front, and then it is down to fergie whether he plays with 2 up front in rooney and hernandez and goes 4-4-2 which could inevitably prove to be a mistkae because then barcelona out-number them in midfield or he plays rooney on the left and goes 4-3-3 to even it up in the middle. Hernandez does provide that out-ball but i'm not sure how good his hold up play is considering the fact that if united do get it up front he will have to hold onto it, so that is why ferguson may consider playing 2 up front because rooney can hold it up and he has a good relationship with hernandez but i do think that ferguson may go for 4-3-3 and that might mean leaving hernandez on the bench and playing berbatov. However obviously the game will be won or lost in the midfield and i've heard people say that man utd players can't stand off barcelona they need to get tight to them and not let barca control the pace of the game, but that is the most ridiculous comment i've heard, this isn't english football man utd are playing the best team in the world and barc are going to have over 60% possession whether united like it or not, and if united do try and get tight then barcelona's players have the best awareness in the game and they will cut united open with ease, united players do need to get tight to a certain extent but they do need to back off and just accept that barca will dictate the game and man utd can't really do an awful lot about it.

  • Comment number 95.

    90.
    At 11:28 26th May 2011, Johnnyrichmond wrote:

    Fantastic input from a United fan
    "I'm not too hopeful - growing up and supporting throughout the 80's has left me pessimistic, so many false dawns!!!!

    What? like now being the most succesful English league team of all time... 3 Finals in 4 years.

    I know its a big ask but if anyone can then Fergie can. Enjoy the game, we may well get beat easily but we may win it as well.

  • Comment number 96.

    The Manchester United blogs this week remind me a lot of the ones regarding the Chelsea matches. Loads of none Chelsea fans seemed more fanatical about United losing than Chelsea supporters at the time.

    I'm wondering who is more certain of a comfortable Barcelona walkabout: Barcelona fans or non United, English fans?

  • Comment number 97.

    The 1st goal is all important, United score 1st and Barcelona won't be passing it around as much, they will be more direct which gives United a chance on the break, Barcelona score 1st and they will pass it to death and United will be chasing shadows, also for United to have a chance they must not concede a early goal this time.
    As for the team I wouldn't start Scholes as he would end up getting a Red, Fletcher is not fit enough and Park has proved he is the man for the big games, my big worry is that whoever plays (the twins/O Shea) will be targeted as the weak point in Uniteds back line, I think Barcelona will win it but as anyone who knows me will tell you I cannot predict anything so hopefully I am wrong again.

  • Comment number 98.

    Van Der Sar - Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra - Giggs, Carrick, Fletcher - Park, Rooney - Hernandez

  • Comment number 99.

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

  • Comment number 100.

    How Manchester United can beat Barcelona -

    Appoint Howard Webb as ref.

    fact is the only reason united have so much domestic success is because of the control SAF has over refs and that half of the premier league clubs are managed by SAF's mates. you'll see on saturday, Barca will destroy them!

 

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