BBC BLOGS - Phil McNulty
« Previous | Main | Next »

Can Ferguson ever climb Barca barrier?

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 01:11 UK time, Sunday, 29 May 2011


Sir Alex Ferguson hoped Manchester United's history would repeat itself when they faced Barcelona in the Champions League Final at Wembley. It did - but got the dates horribly wrong.

Instead of evoking memories of United's emotional first European Cup win against Benfica here in 1968, this was the misery of Rome 2009 revisited as Ferguson sat and suffered a re-run of the horrors of the Stadio Olimpico.

Barcelona do not do destiny. At least not the sort of destiny that forces one of the finest club sides in the game's history to stick to a sentimental script casting them as victims of the latest chapter in Ferguson and United's success story.

As in Rome, Barcelona spent 10 minutes getting the dust off their boots before inflicting a 3-1 defeat that was even more emphatic, even more brilliant, than the masterclass that descended on United two years ago.

Ferguson, understandably, announced he took no consolation from United's status as the second best team in Europe. He will take even less comfort from the fact that the best team is not merely a dot on the horizon, it has disappeared out of sight.

"It's the best team I have faced in my time as a manager," said a philosophical Ferguson in scenes eerily reminiscent of Rome. "Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that. No-one has given us a hiding like that."

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his assistant Mike Phelan

Defeat at Wembley gives Ferguson and Phelan plenty of food for thought. Picture: Getty Images

Ferguson's pain in defeat will be even more acute because he has consistently stated he knew exactly what went wrong in Rome. He has spent two weeks plotting behind closed doors on the system he felt confident would throw a crowbar into the smooth workings of Barcelona's passing carousel.

And yet, once again, United simply had no answer to the mesmeric brilliance of Lionel Messi, the uncanny accuracy in possession of Xavi and the range of Barcelona's attacking options. It is one thing knowing what went wrong against Barcelona and another fixing it successfully.

Statistics can lie, but on a chilly night at Wembley they spoke the truth. Barcelona had 19 attempts on goal to United's four, 13 on target against one and United did not win a single corner. Barcelona committed only five fouls.

Manchester United's supporters took defeat, painful though it was, with resignation. Indeed some set aside their disappointment to applaud in admiration of the exhibition they had witnessed from masters such as Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

In another Roman echo, United actually made the better start but soon there was that ominous rhythm to Barcelona's play, rewarded by Pedro's goal. United's response was better than on the banks of the Tiber - then they collapsed but here Wayne Rooney equalised before the interval.

It was a small shaft of light amid almost total darkness and second half goals from the magical Messi and David Villa did little justice to Barcelona's dominance.

Ferguson's tactical approach and team selection could be dissected for days to little effect. He may have populated midfield more with Darren Fletcher's selection. He may even have put Dimitar Berbatov on the bench instead of effectively consigning his top scorer to Old Trafford's dustbin by leaving him out altogether.

He may have bricked up Edwin van der Sar's goal but all arguments are invalid. On this night United were given the most comprehensive going over by a sensational team - and in that there is no shame.

Mismatch though this was, to snipe at United is to dilute Barcelona's mastery and they do not deserve that.

This was not about tactics it was about talent. No-one could have touched Barcelona on this evidence. Indeed United barely touched them at all. This was the footballing equivalent of trying to control wasps.

Rooney was the one United player to emerge with credit from a tireless performance, but all battles elsewhere were lost. In the preliminaries, potential Barcelona weaknesses were sought and ring rustiness from recent inactivity, plus Javier Mascherano's lack of stature in defence, were jumped on.

Not a bit of it. It turned out to be optimism gone mad as, Rooney's excellent strike apart, United did not lay a glove on Barcelona as they sailed serenely to their fourth victory in the competition.

The problem Ferguson faces as he talked defiantly of his next challenge in the bowels of Wembley is that it is hard to see how he will meet it. United's domestic domination is reflected in a deserved and historic 19th title, but how can they add to three victories in this tournament while Barcelona remain in their current, peerless, guise?

United will rebuild and regroup to add to their honours at home but it will take another special effort from Ferguson to fashion a side that can discomfort Barcelona. He has tried with a team containing Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez and then with a more workmanlike and disciplined line-up - with equally painful results.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Ferguson always intended to rebuild this summer, but the scale of Barcelona's superiority and the obvious gulf in class between the two sides will crystallise his thoughts even further.

Goalkeeper Van der Sar made an undistinguished farewell in his final club game, wrong-footed for Pedro's first goal and slow to react as Messi's second - viciously struck admittedly - flew past him.

Paul Scholes may well have made his final appearance as a brief substitute, while Michael Owen's 90 minutes on the bench may also have concluded his Old Trafford career. As for Berbatov - Ferguson's decision to go without him at Wembley told us all we need to know about his future.

Ryan Giggs, 37, has had another fine season but was ill-equipped to cope with Barcelona's mobility and speed in possession while defender Rio Ferdinand is 33 in November.

Antonio Valencia was disappointing while Javier Hernandez did not get the service to demonstrate his quality but, along with the likes of Chris Smalling, they are fine investments in the future.

Hardly a team in crisis and all criticism of United must be placed carefully in the context of Barcelona's stunning talents.

United are good enough to already be next season's Premier League title favourites, but Ferguson will not be fooled into thinking this current crop can overcome the obstacle presented by Pep Guardiola's purists after a second chastening Champions League Final experience.

Ferguson has already lined up Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea to replace Van der Sar while Aston Villa's Ashley Young is touted as an attacking re-inforcement. But are they of the quality required to bridge a gap that was as big and imposing as Wembley's arch on Saturday?

With Scholes on the way out and the likes of Michael Carrick and Ji-Sung Park over-promoted in the task of tackling Barcelona's midfield, Ferguson must inject world-class players into this department.

Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder is in the frame and Tottenham's lack of Champions League football may just make the wonderfully inventive Luka Modric an inviting, and vulnerable, target.

Rooney and Hernandez is a partnership of rich promise but a high-class striker may also be a priority unless Ferguson feels Danny Welbeck has bloomed to full maturity or Federico Macheda returns from Sampdoria closer to the finished article.

"We don't enjoy being second best," Ferguson added and in Premier League terms there is a very good chance they will not have to cope with that burden. The Champions League paints a different picture.

It is hardly the time for mass reconstruction after winning the title by nine points and Ferguson has the foundations of a title-winning side on which to build.

The latest punishment meted out by Barcelona, however, was a brutal illustration of how far United have to travel to another Champions League triumph.

You can follow me at and join me on Facebook.


Page 1 of 10

  • Comment number 1.

    Bitterly dissapointed, but the best team won.

    I also would say that I expected Barca's usual antics, but I thought it was a well played game in that regard by both teams overall, and had I been a netural I am sure it was a fantastic match to watch. Unfortunatly I am not so it was painfull :/

    However as I said, the best team won and credit where it is due to them they completly outplayed us.

  • Comment number 2.

    Do the Glazers have the required money to bridge the gap & where do you get the players to get near them?

    Ronaldo is the next best players after Messi & Xavi but he has been tried by Alex, Sneijder couldnt get near Spain in the WC Final & has shown little appetite for moving to England (tax man puts a few off) and the style of play over here is not for players like him.

    I think Fergie missed a trick in not pursuing Silva when City got him, capable of playing in that Barca side & I think City's finest player.

    Rooney wont get any better & a few Utd players will only get worse (Giggs, Scholes, Carrick) and all the talk about the size of the squad looked a bit redundant.

    I feel sorry for McNulty, you tried talking Utd up but they were worse than 2 years back, did Fergie actually have a plan???????

  • Comment number 3.

    Real Madrid exposed many chinks in the Barcelona armor in their recent battles. Ferguson did not pack the midfield and man-mark and consequently lost out to Barcelona yet again. All top teams such as ManUtd, Chelsea, Bayern, Milan and Real Madrid have rise to Barcelona's challenge again next year but Mourinho may already have the solution. The Laliga duels between Real and Barcelona next year will be fascinating again. For ManUtd they definitely need fresh blood in their midfield.

  • Comment number 4.

    Really sad that we couldn't win. Barca cruelly denied us of a victory after that European triumph in 1968 in Wembley, 10 years after we lost most of our first team

  • Comment number 5.

    Terrific performance from Barca - United outclassed is the only way to describe it.

  • Comment number 6.

    The simple fact of the matter is whoever utd played from the current squad in the midfield they were destined to be outplayed. Whereas barca have two truly worldclass midfielders in Iniesta and Xavi, utd have none with Scholes of 5 years ago not having yet been replaced. Hard work can get you so far but but unless barca didn't really turn up the midfield battle was never going to be won.

    Oh and small point Phil but I doubt Fergie will be spending too much time ruing the non-selection of an unfit Darren Fletcher. If he wasn't fit to play in the testimonial I doubt he could be expected to last 90 (or even 45) minutes against the best midfield in the world.

  • Comment number 7.

    Firstly I thought the game was a well played and fairly contested game which was pleasing to see after the theatrics of the Barca-Real Semi. In the second half it looked as if Barca turned it up a notch and Manchester united didn't seem to be able to have any meaningful possesion at all, and whenever they did have the ball there were to many passes that were hit and hope (I won't go as far to suggest United resorted to Big Sam's Long Ball game) that just conceded possesion. It was scary how much space the Barca attackers always seemed to find and the lack of closing Messi down for his goal was suicidal.

    I was surprised with Fregie's lack of tactical substitutions and lack of ideas on how to change the way the game was going in the second half. Fabio for Nani was an enforced change due to injury and Carrick for Scholes was pretty much like for like. Which brings me to my final point for the moment, why upset Dimitar Berbatov by not even putting him in the squad and then just have Owen sit on the bench for the whole game. If Berbatov had been left out because Fergie thought that Owen had something in his locker to upset Barca then fair enough, but it seemed silly to have Owen on the bench and not introduce him especially when United were looking for two goals and were hitting balls forward. Maybe an extra striker for the last ten minutes may have kept Barca's back five tied up for the remainder of the game. at 3-1 United had nothing to lose by just attempting to go forward.

  • Comment number 8.

    This game exposes the gap between the "Premier" League and the Spanish league.

    It was a complete mismatch.

    The 19 times EPL champions given a masterclass in how to play proper football.

    Hope EPL managers watch and learn (and Sky commentators too!).

  • Comment number 9.

    There were some bad performances for Man Utd most notably,Evra,who I have never seen have such a bad game but the alarm bells were ringing as soon as it was confirmed that Carrick and Giggs were to be entrusted with the role of containing the Barca midfield.Xavi and Iniesta passed Carrick by as if he wasn't there and the lack of energy or challenge by either meant Park was doing the work for all of them.
    What on earth has SAF got against Anderson who might at least have made a credible attempt at matching his opponents.
    It was also noticable that when Nani came on he gave Barca something to think about and Rooney was able to give more support to Hernandez.

  • Comment number 10.

    Man Utds midfield was poor. That's why they lost. No creativity in whole game and no closing down in second half. No width, Valencia out of his depth. Fergie needs a new midfield of actual talent. Bale, VDV, Sneijder, Modric would all perhaps need to come in to replace, Carrick, Park, Scholes, Giggs, etc.

  • Comment number 11.

    The capacity of the media to delude themselves about English football never ceases to amaze me. Before this, "United have a good chance of winning". Not true. Before the World Cup, "England have a good chance of winning". Again, not true. We have to ditch the complacency and start to look at how the Spanish (and South American) production lines produce so many good home-grown players.

  • Comment number 12.

    The result was never really in doubt, was it? and its not often that Man u take a hiding but as SAF has admitted, that is exactly what they received last night. However, no shame in losing to the best side in Europe, but I just would have liked Man u to take Wiltshere's advice and get stuck in a little bit more, Man u were simply too standoffish.

  • Comment number 13.

    Montegooner @12

    Do you think they may have stood off a bit too much because of what they had seen in the semis?

    Friendly Card @11

    I'm not sure that the teams in the Premier League feel they have the time to bring through lots of Home Grown Players due to the worry of "how will these players effect our performances whilst they are still bedding in/Developing" do they worry too much about dropping out of the CL spots or dropping out of the Leadue completely (See my team Boro for what happens when you try to bring through too many acadamy players at one time)

  • Comment number 14.

    #4, I hope you were still hungover when you wrote that.
    Cruel was what happened to Bayern & Chelsea in the final.
    Your team got humped!

  • Comment number 15.

    Leadue!!!!! lol!

    I meant League.

  • Comment number 16.

    No team on earth could have lived with Barcelona last night, except maybe the 1960 Real Madrid team, and even they would have struggled with the pace. Barcelona have taken their skill and allied it to unrelenting speed without losing any control, and when they need a breather they can play keepball. United were simply outplayed but then so were Real Madrid and every other team Barcelona have faced in this season's Champions League.

  • Comment number 17.

    Wholly unsurprised by the result. Ferguson has a poor record in this competition considering United are virtually guaranteed safe passage to the last eight every year(2 in 18). With less luck, Ferguson would now have no champions league trophies. Outplayed by Bayern in 99, and only won because of a slip by John Terry in 08 . United rely on consistency and occasional flashes of individual brilliance none of which was on display in Wembley.

  • Comment number 18.

    #11, You'll get the same BS in 2012. Engerlund are gonna win the EC.
    Not unless they get to play every game at Wembley, & even then, who'd bet on them to beat Spain, Holland or Germany?

  • Comment number 19.

    Undeniably, the best team won (and fair play to Sir Alex for actually acknowledging that - that doesn't happen very often). However, a few points (not that I believe that it would have changed the ultimate outcome of the match):

    1. Ryan Giggs - I'm sorry because he has been close to legendary but his failure to track Xavi and make some sort of challenge directly led to the first goal. You just cannot give players like that time and space. Additionally, Vidic got dragged inside and allowed Pedro to pull wider. Xavi sees things like that.

    2. Allowing Lionel Messi time and space, on his left foot, 20 yards out from goal - with Vidic partially unsighting Van der Sar, I could only see one outcome.

    3. Chicharito - offside FAR too often in the first half and thus prevented Utd having a decent out-ball to relieve the pressure. Simply gave the ball back to Barcelona meaning the likes of Park had to chase even more. Poor.

    I really thought that Man Utd would be able to play better than they did going forward. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I think that you have to concentrate on making the most of your chances but to only create one (which, to be fair, they scored) either highlights that Sir Alex got the tactics wrong or that Barcelona, despite their fantastic attacking flair, are one of the best defensive teams HIGH UP THE PITCH in the world.

    I can't see Man Utd being able to match this year's achievements next year as I think that Sir Alex has to be a bit ruthless and start playing, on a more regular basis, the players he has lined up to replace Giggs and Scholes in the midfield. It may take a bit of time to create another dominant team but then he has done that before.

  • Comment number 20.

    Great game. Liverpool and Arsenal are the only British sides that can live with Barcelona and I see them dominating for many years. United's trumpeting as a good side well and truly dismissed last night along with the Hernandez reputation and the older players.

  • Comment number 21.

    SAF: 2 wins in 25 years= 4%
    Guardiola: 2 wins in 3 years= 66.6%
    Say no more.

  • Comment number 22.

    4.At 08:43 29th May 2011, waloudi wrote:
    Really sad that we couldn't win. Barca cruelly denied us of a victory after that European triumph in 1968 in Wembley, 10 years after we lost most of our first team

    I do wish Utd fans would stop talking as if the world owed them something following Munich. The rebuilt team that won in '68 has nothing to do with the players out there last night - except possibly as an inspiration.

    Barca were clearly the better team, by some margin. TV commentator (ITV) was clutching at straws and suggested that the stats showed Utd had '..been on level terms for 2/3 of the game...', while it might have been technically true, even when they were on 'level terms' in terms of goals, they were hanging on by their finger nails and desparately fending off a more competent opponent.

  • Comment number 23.


    Wholeheartedly agree. United are a fine side playing in the Premier League, and against some of the lesse lights in Europe.

    But they were given a real lesson last night - high-quality football played at a high tempo is difficult to combat.You just have to admire Barcelona, as individuals and collectively. I think it'll be a long time before we see a side as good as this again.

  • Comment number 24.

    This Barca side are the best club team I've seen in my lifetime and I'm sure in years to come I'll be talking about them in the same way my Dad talks about the Liverpool and Ajax sides of the 70's and 80's. They are peerless at the moment and there is no shame in losing to them.

    United could replay that game 10 times and may not even win one, that's how good that side are.

    Interested to know what Phil thinks about Arsenal losing to them earlier in the tournament now? I seem to remember him giving them a bit of kicking for failing to match them and being Barca-lite. Doesn't seem so bad now does it?

  • Comment number 25.

    I think that a lot of people are missing the point. Most of Barcelona's players are home-grown, aren't they? The do buy players to fill the odd gap, but the nucleus are brought up to play in a particular style. Even Messi is a team player.

  • Comment number 26.

    Mr McNulty

    One quick question for you,

    Is this Barca Team the Best Team that you have ever seen in the flesh?

  • Comment number 27.

    Barcelona were fantastic last night. Not just their passing, control and pressing but their positioning and movement is so good. They always have someone in each 'zone' so if someone drops deep, then someone goes forward and vice versa, if someone cuts inside, someone moves out wide and again vice versa. It means that you pull midfielders and defenders all over the place. It also means that when they lose the ball, they always have players in each important zone so they can press quicker.

    This isn't easy at all and people say that their team improvises and each player plays to the best of their ability. I can tell you that these moves are all constructed tirelessly on the training ground and they are very hard to pull off. Each player has to be aware of the ball, space and players around him and has to know where he is moving next. They make it seem easy yet they are probably the only team in the world that could pull it off which makes them even better than they already are as players. Structurally it's almost perfect.

    Check out my tactical analysis on the match here - Any comments would be much appreciated

  • Comment number 28.

    Now that it's over can the BBC write about some of the other 91 league clubs?

    ManU fans aside, the rest of the licence paying football fans are pretty fed up seeing every single story about Ferguson/Rooney/ManU.

  • Comment number 29.

    A fabulous performance by a largely home grown team, who play football the right way. Not a single dive all night. Amazed that Valencia wasn't booked earlier and even more amazed that he wasn't replaced by Ferguson. So many Man U players looked very ordinary with the exception of Rooney who was excellent. Hernandez disappeared in the second half. As for comments above about Liverpool & Arsenal being the only English teams capable of living with Barcelona, such comments are laughable.

  • Comment number 30.

    Listen to what one poster (who I bet is staying pretty quiet now) said just before the match:

    "Manchester United class of 2011 credentials cannot not be tested any harder than today. I want to see Valencia causing havoc in the wings. I want to see Giggs rolling back the years for one more time. I want to see Rooney and Chicarito turning Barcelona's defense upside down. I want to see United ticking like a Swiss clock.
    It's a day to write history."


  • Comment number 31.

    #8 you are the second imbecile I have heard say that! Don't be so ridiculously dumb to suggest just because barca are amazing the rest are, learn your facts! The rest of the league apart from real is avg, overall they are leagues behind the premiership...villareal, valencia and at madrid have quality but they are still not the standard of city chelsea or liverpool, and then of course we have spurs! But the rest of their league is pathetic, hence why real madrid keep putting 5 or 6 goals past them all, the lower teams simply don't know how to play against big boys which is something which makes the prem so interesting...there is never an easy game!

  • Comment number 32.

    #8 billion_plus wrote 'This game exposes the gap between the "Premier" League and the Spanish league'
    This is complete nonsense. This exposes the gap between Barcelona and everyone else. Barcelona finished 25 points ahead of the third place Spanish team and Real Madrid finished 21 points ahead. The quality of Spanish teams apart from the top two had dwindled dramatically over the past 5-10 years. It is just like Rangers and Celtic in Scotland.

    As for #20 Always Blurting writing 'Great game. Liverpool and Arsenal are the only British sides that can live with Barcelona' - Really!

  • Comment number 33.

    Phil, I like your pharse "optimism gone mad".. Every time England or an EPL side is goining into a big match, this happens. Serious pundits who one respects just lose all their senses. That Barcelona would play like they did last night and out class United was obvious to the causal observer. But for the supposedly knowledgeable elite, it was "optimism gone mad" as usual. Except for Gary Linekar, who has taken some stick for making the obvious prediction, that is.

    Anyway, just how good is the EPL a yardstick of the quality of football at the highest level? Spurs got beat 5-0 by Madrid, and the last 2 matches that top PL sides have played Barcelona (Arsenal and Manchester United), their combined effort resulted in 1 (ONE) attempt on goal - Arsenal 0 attempts and Manchester 1 attempt.

  • Comment number 34.

    SAF "If you're looking for someone to nick a goal in the last few minutes, with Owen's experience, that's why I took that decision."

    BUT he didn't put Owen on, and Fletcher would have done more running and passed better than Carrick and Scholes together.

    Team selection DID cost Manchester United. I counted at least 5 attempts from Barcelona players (2 goals) from unmarked players 20-25 yards out.

    Fergie bottled it and I think he hyped Messi up to his own players so much that each and every one of them didn't want to take responsibility for marking him.

    Once again with Carrick, who has cost Man Utd already on numerous occasions, history came back to repeat himself itself that he is no where near good enough for a CLF.

    On that performance, Rooney the exception, last night I don't think Man Utd would have beaten Real either!

  • Comment number 35.

    I see Guy Sinclair #31 beat me to it but at least we are in agreement.

  • Comment number 36.

    The way the Barcelona coaches have organised the team was superb. I don't seem to remember one ball, except from one corner, that was struck in the air. No long balls out from the keeper to a forward who knocks its on for his winger to cross in...they played the ball on the ground for nearly all the game.

    The Dutch have it correct in their coaches manual when they say there are 3 phases. Attack, Defend and Transition. The Transition period is whenever the ball is in the air, this is time when possession is lost. Barcelona have eliminated this from their game, giving them more time on the ball and far greater possession.

    The movement and placement of the middle field 3 and the wide, wide forwards played right into the ridged nature of the British 4 4 2 or variations of formation.

    Man Utd like most teams don't play like this anymore and it is very, very hard to defend against as you are always chasing a ball you don't have possession of.

    Hopefully SAF adapts his game to incorporate a more fluid team in midfield with movement and accurate passing being key rather than receiving the ball and running with it.

  • Comment number 37.

    Man Utds best chance against superior opposition was to draw inspiration from previous winners like Liverpool, Villa, Forest - grab a goal and defend like your lives depend upon it. It seems to me that ManU mindset was to make it difficult for Barca rather than take the game to them.

    For me ball retention is the key. Even when they had a toe hold, a MU pass was a third of the pitch. Always giving the opposition a chance to pick it off.

    I know it's a problem for English football in general but to compete against the best outside these shores whether it's international or top club, teams have to play with more patience and intelligence. It's not all about power and bullying teams.

  • Comment number 38.


    Arsenal can live with barcelona???

    Didn't you see the game just last year where messi scored 4 goals at the nou camp and put 6 goals past the gunners over 2 legs?

    Sounds like a hiding to me!

  • Comment number 39.

    After the first ten minutes were over and Barca found their stride it was painfully clear who was going to lift the trophy. This was a masterclass in the beautiful game and a painful lesson for all Man Utd fans. United still have a mountain to climb.

  • Comment number 40.

    man u. were like a bunch of kids playing world champions no chance pay them tradesmans wages

  • Comment number 41.

    32. I can't believe that you are a regular viewer of Spanish football. Barca and Madrid are head and shoulders the rest two teams in Europe and yes, that means that the title race isn't as competitve. I have no doubt however that the lower level teams in Spain would spank the likes of Wolves and Blackburn. Look at the UEFA cup, when was the last time an English team even challenged for it? The best teams in Portugal are better teams than the UEFA cup English teams. The top 6 of the EPL are strong and that is it, standards have dropped with the rest significantly.

  • Comment number 42.


    This match simply showed the gap between Barcelona and the rest of the world! The Spanish league contains two good teams, and we all saw how Barca completely destroyed Madrid in much the same way that they battered Utd. Otherwise there was a gap of 20 points to the third placed team.

    Jog on. Barca are exceptional, Madrid would be up there at the top of Premier League and probably win it, but otherwise Spanish league is weak.

  • Comment number 43.

    Basic difference seems to me to be these guys focus on the ball. in this country we seem to focus on the man. We should be teaching kids to enjoy football at an early age not the win at all costs mentality we instill.

  • Comment number 44.

    As a neutral who has lived in Barcelona recently, I've seen quite a lot of both teams over the last few years. I kept thinking to myself, 'Utd have no chance', but in a sudden death game, who knows? I had a broad smile on my face at the end of last night because football had won. It doesn't always happen; maybe it really happens. Utd did have no chance. I don't think it had anything to do with the team selection by Fergie. For Utd to have won, Barca had to have been way off their game. As we saw, they weren't.

    Some of the criticism above, I think, is unwarranted. At whatever level of the game you play, chasing shadows is demoralising & tiring, & even Ji-Sung Park's engine ran out of steam pretty quickly - just so difficult to get anywhere near Barca's passing.

    I don't like the comment above about Mourinho that 'he found chinks in Barca's armour'. Did he really? He tried to kick them off the park; he put 10 men behind the ball twice at home. He more likely knew the chinks in his own team's armour. If keeping the score down, bleating to the world & trying to goad Barca into reacting negatively both on & off the field is 'finding chinks' then he succeeded. None of this involved what Utd did last night - they went out & had a go, in a positive manner. Mourinho's success over Barca at Madrid has involved him being so embarrassed by the criticism, that also came from within the club from the likes of Di Stefano & Perez, that he, fortunately, has barely said a word since.

    Top games are about what happened last night, not in Barca-Real semis, two teams going out to play positively. One of them wasn't up to the mark or was inferior to the other, but credit to Utd for trying to do it the right way. I hope teams in future try & play Barca as Utd did, rather than Real did (or even the way Holland tried to play Spain in the World Cup Final). Tactically, you could argue that packing the midfield & playing on the break may be the way to go, but it isn't the same as running scared & put 10 behind the ball at home, to the point were Cristiano Ronaldo is waving his arms about in the air frustrated at not getting the ball because the rest of his team are 50 yards back down the pitch.

    Where does the rest of Europe, or even the world, go from here, when they line up against Barca?

  • Comment number 45.

    In my opinion a great article, as always, so thank you Phil.

    you are completely right with just about everything. As a Man Utd fan i dont think anyone could argue about team selection. We could say maybe we should have played 5 in midfield but in Rome 2009 we did just that and still got torn apart.

    We were beaten by the greatest team possibly that there has ever been and thats nothing to be ashamed of. Fair play to Barca, it was a masterclass and was fully deserved. We needed to take more advantage of the vunerable Mascherano but Xavi, Busquets & Iniesta didnt let us get near him - it was perfection from the Catalans.

    What we need now is to regroup and go again. as you say we need to strengthen and hopefully this will show that if we want to reign in Europe again we need those world class players. We also need to possibly invest more in the academy - good as it is, its no La Masia.

    Anyway congratulations Barca, i just hope we can come back again and play them soon, there's nothing better than trying to beat the best and we will find out how far we have come if we do. August can't come soon enough :)

    Phil - did any of the journalists feel Fergie could have done more or did they just feel Barca were too good? Nani from the start etc? would be interesting to see what the professional journalists viewpoint is - Thanks for a great article again.

  • Comment number 46.

    20. Always Blurting

    Are you on drugs? Liverpool can live with Barca and will dominate for years? Go and lie down mate and nurse will bring your meds..

  • Comment number 47.

    20.At 09:05 29th May 2011, Always Blurting wrote:
    Great game. Liverpool and Arsenal are the only British sides that can live with Barcelona and I see them dominating for many years. United's trumpeting as a good side well and truly dismissed last night along with the Hernandez reputation and the older players.
    I'd like to congratulate you from waking from the coma you have clearly been in the last 2 years if you seriously think Arsenal, much less Liverpool, can match Barcelona.

    Last night left me with a mixture of feeling happy to have been able to see that team performance, and dismayed at just how much better they are than their closest challengers. To pull up Manchester United for any mistakes is a bit trite, because when a player like Messi gets to orchestrate 60% of the match possession, you are going to suffer eventually. I think Phil's line about bricking up the goalmouth might have been the only possible way to stop them on the night.

    The real scary thing is that the majority of the team is young enough to stick together for 5 more years or so. Add in the likely arrival of Fabregas to cheer them on from the bench and it just gets more daunting by the season.

  • Comment number 48.

    Gutted with last nights game! I truely believe United are the best team in England proved by this years 19th Premier league trophy but Barca are just on another level. Before the game i was almost confident we could rise to the occasion and a half time having gone 1-0 down and getting ourselves back in it i also believed we could nick it. But second half as SAF said Barca just 'mauled' us there is nothing ANY team could of done.

    United switched off for the first goal and the lack of closing on Messi and the fact Van Der Sar was unsighted mean't we conceeded a sloppy second, however Villa's finish for number three was just class. I would of liked to see Fletcher and Anderson on at half time to bolster the energy levels in midfield but i agree Phil with the acception of Rooney everyone either under performed or was made to look like they did?!

    Having had the last twelve hours to dwel on what might of been its safe to conclude that it wouldn't of mattered what we'd done differently Barca on that form would beat anyone in the world! Second best to that fact is an achievement in its self! Well done United for atleast giving it a go!

  • Comment number 49.

    Its a tragedy that so many people in this country wanted an English side to lose yesterday. In my experience, most of those people dislike United because they dislike Fergusson.

  • Comment number 50.

    I do wonder whether United may have been able to stop Barca if Hargreaves and Fletcher had both been fully fit? To replace Carrick and Giggs yesterday? Both Hargreaves and Fletcher have the fitness to close players down for 90 minutes and more, and perhaps Anderson as well in midfield rather than Hernandez upfront? That would have been an energetic midfield, maybe lacking in creativity, but it could in my view, have stopped Barca's midfield and pushed them outwide, where they are relatively weaker

  • Comment number 51.

    "No-one has given us a hiding like that." Ferguson

    Has he forgotten about the 4-1 spanking at OT by the Liverpool team of 08-09? Or even the 3-1 thrashing at Anfield this season..?!

    Anyway.. this defeat will undoubtedly overshadow United's premiership triumph and will constantly be on the minds of everyone associated with the club for the rest of the summer..


  • Comment number 52.

    I had really hoped that Man United did have an effective plan to counter Barcelona, as mooted by SAF. What a shame they didn't, but hats off to Barca, they played magnificent football and made Man U look like a League One team coming up against a Premiership side in the FA Cup.

    Man U are no mugs, but to be so totally outclassed (with home country advantage too) over the entire game shows how good Barcelona are. Messi was mesmerising, magical and marvellous, but the rest of the team wasn't too shabby either.

    Time to get the wallet out and spend some of Ronaldos fees on 3 or 4 high quality midfielders. Had Hernandez been given service from the midfield, he would have had a greater impact on the game than he did.

    As for Berbatov, well he just doesn't fit despite the number of goals he scored. If your tactic is to run around the field and close down the opposition as soon as possible, this is alien to him. He stands in the centre of the field and waits for a pass to him that he can then pass back. When the attack breaks down, as it usually does with him doing this, he walks to another area of the pitch, pulls his socks up and carries on. Now compare that to what Rooney and Messi do, who are always looking for opportunities and moving into attacking positions. Sorry mate, but you would have demoralised the team even more with your laziness in attack had you played. Time to get a real forward who grafts.

  • Comment number 53.

    These utter glory hunting muppets who say it proves la Liga is far better....

    Why does it!

    It proves one team is better, who win 6-1, 7-1, 8-1 every week in La Liga, beat second place Real Madrid 5-0 against the supposed special one!

    All it proves is the best in spain, Barcelona, beating the best in England, man Utd, is that Barca are the best team in Europe....nothing about which league is stronger!

    If you dont know about football then please be quiet!

  • Comment number 54.

    Doesn't this just put Arsenal's win over Barca at the Emirates into perspective? Barcelona can be beaten.

  • Comment number 55.

    #8 you are the second imbecile I have heard say that! Don't be so ridiculously dumb to suggest just because barca are amazing the rest are, learn your facts! The rest of the league apart from real is avg, overall they are leagues behind the premiership...villareal, valencia and at madrid have quality but they are still not the standard of city chelsea or liverpool, and then of course we have spurs! But the rest of their league is pathetic, hence why real madrid keep putting 5 or 6 goals past them all, the lower teams simply don't know how to play against big boys which is something which makes the prem so interesting...there is never an easy game!
    The La Liga/Prem debate never goes away does it? Which is better? Debateable. A lot of it comes down to preference I guess. One thing that isn't debatable is that English football produces absolute garbage compared to almost every other top footballing nation. Every thing that's great about the premier league is imported and foreign. Owners, players even better managers are forged in leagues like the SPL.
    English footballers are garbage, vastly overrated and hyped up by a blinkered and deluded media system. The English league may have stronger teams overall but the Spanish leagues must be doing something right to produce the players it does. The English go on about their league with such national pride. Why? It's English components are the weakest parts of the league, 90% of it is owned by foreigners. The Premier League is a great league but it's greatness is almost built entirely on foreign influence.

  • Comment number 56.

    More egg on face for all the journalists hyping up Ferguson and his side in European competition. Its very like the situation with England everytime we qualify for the finals. Ferguson was elevated to some sort of deity status prior to the match, but now you must realise he's just an ordinary man.

    Bob Paisley. Now if you want to annoint someone as a true managerial legend in European football, he's your man. The only manager ever to win 3 European crowns and in only 6 years. Pep might do that if he stays on. Ferguson's 2 in over 20 attempts? ....................Pales into gross mediocrity.

  • Comment number 57.

    Oh, all the Loserpool fans on here.....just shows, like in your just have no class!

    Bit like chavski and shameless city trying to buy class!

    very poor, but to be expected!

  • Comment number 58.

    Man utd well beaten by a far superior team last night ! All credit has to go to barcelona, beautiful team to watch! But this whole thing reminds of United's CL challenges during the mid-late 90's and the gauntlet that Juventus with del piero, zidane, davids and boksic put down! for 3 years they were THE team in europe! they set the standards for everyone else! I remember united being hammered by them both home and away in 96/97!! nobody thought United would ever get close to that level, or if they did it would take years! But united raised their game, raised their standards, fergie invested well and spent the money needed to compete! Watching the game last night and i couldn't help but feel that this challlenge, however colossal, can be overcome! Fergie loves these types of challenges, and i think it's fair to say that this is by far the hardest task fergie has ever faced! how to motivate the players at united, how to invest, not just this summer but over the next few years! how to re-invent their style of game to be able to take on barcelona and have a fair chance!! i just hope it isin't too late for him! he's almost 70 now and one would wonder if he still has that much fire to continue! Bravo to barcelona, they've raised the standards and level of football to the highest ever level! It can only benefit football as a whole, teams now across europe know they need to improve big time in order to stand a chance! It could of been chelsea, arsenal, milan or bayern munich out there last night ! the result wouldn't of changed! i can't wait next season for a new challenge!

  • Comment number 59.

    Also to add to my earlier comment, people griping about the Manchester United tactics last night overlook one very important detail. You cant implement your own game plan if you have to spend the entire game chasing after the ball as it vanishes out from under Messi's feet every time someone goes to tackle him.

  • Comment number 60.

    no. 54. There hasn't been a team in the history of the game that is unbeatable. Barca had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside at the Emirates and Messi strangely missed a one on one. You were outclassed for 70 minutes. But yes they can be beat.

  • Comment number 61.

    There is a very strange assumption here that Manchester Utd should be competitive with Barcelona. You have to look at the teams and the results they have had. Barca have an incredible team from front to back. United dont. Added to that Barca have been played very well and score goals for fun. United have scrapped by many teams and won a poor EPL this year. Who did you think was gonna win?

  • Comment number 62.


    Premier league built on foreign influence....why are all it's best managers from the UK then!

  • Comment number 63.

    31. At 09:16 29th May 2011, Guy Sinclair wrote:

    But the rest of their league is pathetic, hence why real madrid keep putting 5 or 6 goals past them all, the lower teams simply don't know how to play against big boys which is something which makes the prem so interesting...there is never an easy game!

    This argument we here against La Liga just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

    Here's how the English and Spanish top 2 faired against their leagues bottom 6 this season:

    Manchester United W 9 D 2 L 1 F 38 A 12 PTS 29
    Chelsea W 10 D 0 L 2 F 29 A 6 PTS 30

    Barcelona W 8 D 2 L 2 F 28 A 8 PTS 26
    Real Madrid W 9 D 3 L 0 F 34 A 8 PTS 30

    English top 2 W 19 D 2 L 3 F 67 A 18 PTS 59
    Spanish top 2 W 17 D 5 L 2 F 62 A 16 PTS 56

    Manchester United and Chelsea win more games and score more goals against the English bottom 6 then Barcelona and Real Madrid do against theirs.

    People see Real Madrid scoring 5 or 6, but forget about the Manchester United putting 7 past Blackburn, 5 past Birmingham, and Chelsea knocking 6 past Wigan and West Brom.

    The top 2 in Spain are better than the top2 in England. The English league is scroing from 3-6, with Arsenal, Man City and Spurs being better than teams such as Valencia and Villarreal. I don't think there's too much difference in the two leagues quality from 7th place and below.

  • Comment number 64.

    Why the need to slam the EPL or United's achievements?

    Over the last decade the EPL has provided finalists for the Champions League with more consistency than any other European country; United have been at the forefront thereof.

    The simple fact is that Barcelona are a fantastic team, and far better than United, as much as it pains Fergie (and me) to say it. I am sure they would win the EPL.

    However I am equally sure that, with the exception of Barcelona, our top EPL teams would survive in the top eschelon of La Liga, competing with Ral for 2nd!

  • Comment number 65.

    OK. Lets play the game - who from ManU could play in the Barca team.
    I'd say Vidic and Ferdinand could. And maybe Hernandez has the movement and technique. I'd rule out Giggs (could have a few years ago), and Rooney who has neither the discipline nor temperament to fit. Can't see any others adding value.

  • Comment number 66.

    Why didn't Paul Scholes start last night? He's the one player we have whose composure on the ball could have given us at least a semblance of a foothold in midfield.

    And I thought Fergie had learned from Rome 2009.

    What irks me more than anything is we made it far too easy for Barcelona. We probably would have lost whatever tactics or personnel we went with last night but it did not have to be such an embarrassment.

    That said, I admire Fergie for the way he set up his team to attack. United were made to look silly by the end but it was a brave move.

  • Comment number 67.

    ''scroing''. I meant ''strong''!

  • Comment number 68.

    Cannot understand why the long ball up to Rooney/Chicarito was played so often? It was never going to work, and never did, resulting in Utd just giving the ball back to Barca. Not a good tactic. Real Madrid floooded midfield against Barca and beat them twice, despite all the antics, which shows that Barca can be beaten. Mind you, they were absolutely brilliant last night and were simply on a different planet from Utd.

  • Comment number 69.

    The mancs won the title with a very poor side, and were simply found out last night, outclassed.
    Does any serious manc believe a midfield of Carrick, Giggs, Park, & Valencia is good enough in that company.
    This is the poorest side Ferguson has produced, does he have the will at 70 to do the rebuilding needed?
    The rest of the UK is delighted, we are all sick of the man u propaganda machine and it's time for a change.
    Barcelona just started that process last night.

  • Comment number 70.

    63 - The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa

    You actually make the point better than me (see 64), I just want to be clear that I am not knocking La Liga either, more that Barcelona would be exceptional in any League.

  • Comment number 71.

    I wonder why most people are saying this Barcelona side are unbeatable when they were beaten 3 or 4 times over the course of the season. Sir Alex Ferguson gave the impression that he'd learnt a lesson from the 2009 drubbing but on the evidence of yesterday's tactics, he didn't learn. Playing 4-4-2 instead of 4-5-1 was a fatal error. He probably had too much pride (pride goes before a fall) and didn't want to 'park the bus', but it was Manchester United's only realistic chance of stopping Barcelona in the midfield and consequently stopping Messi.

    In my honest opinion, the big mistake yesterday was not playing 5 in midfield. He should have gone with Park, Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs and Nani (or Valencia) with Rooney playing as a lone striker and Giggs (and Carrick to some extent) feeding him from midfield. That way we would have had more energy in midfield. Playing Giggs (37 years old) and Carrick (who's not really on top of his game) in the middle was a recipe for disaster. If the argument for not using Fletcher is that he wasn't fit enough why was he in the team then? His place on the bench should have been taken by Berbatov.

    Hopefully Sir Alex would have realised that this team is crying out for 3 midfielders; one in the mould of Hargreaves, a creative midfielder and a left winger (Ashley Young would suffice). If he can get these players in, then United should be back in business.

  • Comment number 72.

    The Spanish (and South American) production lines are not just about giving young players first-team opportunities. The main aspects are ball control and feeling comfortable on the ball. They do NOT teach competitiveness to youngsters (that comes later) - rather, they hone skills, play loads of two-touch football, and develop spatial awareness. English football will never catch up until the coaching of young players switches from competitiveness to ball skills, comfort and spatial awareness.

  • Comment number 73.

    Comment number 62.At 09:40 29th May 2011, baggiefood wrote:

    Premier league built on foreign influence....why are all it's best managers from the UK then!

    complain about this comment (comment number 62)
    I notice you said UK and not England and if all the best managers from the UK why out of the top 4 clubs in the country only one of them is managed by someone from the UK? Why do clubs like Chelsea keep appointing foreigners?

  • Comment number 74.


    How many Spaniards play for Madrid? A quick count gives me Casillias, Ramos and Alonso. Fair to say that there's a fair amount of "foreign influence" at Madrid wouldn't you say?

    Can we just admit that Barca are a very special team, an exception in Spain and the world!?

  • Comment number 75.

    Morning everyone. A wonderful night for the neutrals to watch Barcelona last night - with every Manchester United fan I know accepting that they were well beaten by a better side.

    As I say in the blog, United need feel no shame in that. I'm not sure anyone could have lived with Barcelona on that evidence.

    My BBC colleague Jonathan Stevenson will be analysing Barcelona in due course so I will concentrate on Manchester United.

    Could Ferguson really have tried anything different? And by the way I do agree with the poster who said how poor Patrice Evra was.

    My question to United fans is this. You have seen the benchmark for winning the Champions League. It is effectively Ferguson's final challenge to knock Barca off that perch - but can he really do it and how does he go about it?

    Who should be moved on from United's squad, who should a team to challenge Barcelona be built around and - most importantly - who should he bring in?

    He has always insisted he has had money available and the Glazers have never interfered. Is it time to test their financial ambitions to the limit by pointing at Barca saying: "That's what we have to match."

    And who should he try to sign?

  • Comment number 76.

    So Phil tell me please,

    apparently Arsenal was destroyed by Barcelona when they lost 3-1 wtih ten men in Nou Camp, but United weren't by the same score and in Wembley, where many thought it was an advantage to United.
    United had a full strength team to chose from whereas Fabregas played with an injury, Song didn't play at all and our goal keeper was injured early in the game.
    Arsenal had no shots on target, neither did United at " home" if you don't count the offside goal by Rooney.
    Actually I believe we did much better than United and the only team to beat Barcelona in the Champions League..

  • Comment number 77.

    As a neutral who doesn't particularly enjoy football (not the English variety anyway), FC Barcelona were stunning to watch. Men v boys.

    I particularly liked the way Barca played corners - with variation and intelligence so that they kept possession. Compare that to the 'English way' - hoof it into the box and see what happens. That's what one would expect from chimpanzees. Even more amazing, despite the fact that corners played this way usually result in precisely zip, guess what, English teams roll up the next time and... repeat the futility!!!

    Barca reminded me of the international teams England faced in the world cup and as far as I can tell the difference has nothing to do with individual physical ability. It has everything to do with intelligence, especially group intelligence.

    Well done Barca for showing us how good the game can be. Our inability to learn from our betters means we won't learn a damn thing in England - don't expect Barca-style brilliance over here any time soon.

  • Comment number 78.


    How many Spaniards play for Madrid? A quick count gives me Casillias, Ramos and Alonso. Fair to say that there's a fair amount of "foreign influence" at Madrid wouldn't you say?

    Can we just admit that Barca are a very special team, an exception in Spain and the world!?
    Your missing my point completely. I'm not specifically picking a team. I'm talking about the league in general and the products of Spanish football. A league we are constantly being reminded on forums like this about how inferior it is to the Premier League.
    However that weak league has produced the current World and European champions. As I said above. Almost everything great about the premier league is imported.

  • Comment number 79.

    If you are playing against a team, that is more skilful than yourselves, you can beat them.
    If you are playing against a team that is more skilful and work as hard or harder than you do, you will not win often.
    Barcelona have taken the Man Utd way of playing and raised the bar several notches.

  • Comment number 80.

    As a united fan I have never seen us so comprehensively outplayed. Everyone knows that the current united team needs an overhaul but money alone is not the answer. The thing that you have to love about Barca is that the nucleus of the side is homegrown and have developed together in the youth system and no amount of money can buy that (City and Chelsea take note).

    You simply have to say that as it stands at the moment unless Barca suddenly offload their midfield and front three they are going to be almost untouchable for the next 3-4 seasons. Similar to when Fergie brought through the likes of Beckham & Scholes etc united were almost untouchable for years however unlike Barca we only had one European Cup to show for it, I fear Barca will be adding a few more over the next couple of seasons and there is little the rest of Europe can do about it.

  • Comment number 81.

    Javier Mascherano has dedicated Barcelona's Champions League final triumph over Manchester United to Liverpool supporters.

    The Argentina international upset Kopites by the manner of his exit last summer - but showed he still has an affection for Reds fans during a post-match interview at Wembley.

    Mascherano said: "I know some Liverpool supporters were disappointed after my exit, they were a little bit sad with me, but this is for them."

  • Comment number 82.

    as a gooner ,see man u what we had to put up with and you laughed at us,well we beat them and gave them the biggest scare of the tournament,you were completely owned.carrick,park,valencia(bought him off wigan),giggs,scholes,fabio,o'shea,nani(very poormans CR7),anderson(touted as the new ronaldinho when he arrived) these are not man u you are bringing young to the club,he barely makes it at villa,i thought arsenal had issues but we know where are issues are in the 1st 3rd of the pitch man u have problems everywhere,admittedly modric is super

    rooney is so overated is isnt funny anymore it is humiliating for england he is our"best player" being owned by messi and ronaldo,xavi,busquets,iniesta,the list continues

    all i can say is i'd rather put up a valiant fight than get masterclassed and embaressed on the biggest stage,platini was delighted with himself

    barcalona,what a team,unitity,togatherness,passion,commitment,relentless determination,all the thing man u lack because of the ego manics like rooney who is above average at best and giggs and nani,lol

  • Comment number 83.

    I hope as many Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish youngsters watched the beauty of Iniesta, Xavi and Messi last night. That is how football should be played and showed how real quality, phenomenal passing and cool heads will normally win through. A reality check for those that think the Premiership is the epitome of football - its not, and it holds back all the UK international teams.

  • Comment number 84.

    79. At 09:57 29th May 2011, You wrote:
    BTW i forgot to add, isn't this a great way to have a debate, perhaps the beeb could roll it out on the rest of the site. Whoops.

  • Comment number 85.

    I think Man U got off lightly last night. If Barcelona had been a bit more selfish in front of goal, it could have been 3 or 4 by half time.
    Man U need to reflect on the season. Having won a 19th League title, they have to realsie they lost more games this season than ever and probably only won it because of other teams' inability to win key games and they haven't been playing good footie. They have players coming to the end of their career, a squad of average, but not great players, and a manager who seems to lack any tactical knowledge and does the same thing week in week out whether in the league or in Europe.

    Personally, I think it's the perfect time for SAF to stand down and let someone else take the club forward. Other teams have rumbled them and are not afraid anymore. In Europe they just do not have the ability or the tactics to beat the best.

  • Comment number 86.

    Barcelona started with 7 Spanish Players and a couple of Argentinians, all speak one language namely Spanish.

    Man U started with 7 NON English players from all corners of the world Korea-Serbia-Portugal-Mexico-Holland-etc. With the prospects of Scholes retiring, Van Da Sar giving up the game, and other players past their best, what will Sir Alex do?, sign more non English/British players and hope for the best.

    He should look at the setup at Barcelona, also at the history of the best United teams of the past comprising mainly English players. Otherwise Man U will end up like Chelsea and Arsenal relying on the supposed skills of non English players, who look good when playing against any EPL team below sixth place in the Premier League, but its a different ball game when they come up against the best in Europe.

  • Comment number 87.

    Excuse me for being confused,but where does the term 'we' come into this.It isnt 'we and hasnt been since the 80's when big ego-istical businessmen took over football.
    To invest in these 'ex' local football teams and make a handsome profit they sort talent from far and wide to enchance 'their' (not our) team.
    By offering large riches to tempt these mercenaries to their team,it drove out the budding talent from our own area.
    At the start of this period there was less than 20 'imports in the football leagues and now there are over 300.
    Unfortunately the term 'we and 'our club is a faded memory,as are good performances by our national teams.
    Good luck to all the football fans that still cling to unfounded loyalties.Personally i gave up on fottball a long time ago.

  • Comment number 88.

    Several people have said how sorry they are to see people supporting Barca. I don't think it's quite that - in my case, I didn't want either of them to win. I marginally preferred Barca, because I agree that they are the best team in Europe without a doubt, but that's not that hard when you have arguably seven or eight of the best players in Europe in your team - including Messi! And if Man U had won, I don't think I could have lived with all the southern Man U fans going on about how damn wonderful they were.

    But I still think that Arsenal might have got past them if RVP hadn't been ridiculously sent off. (Bitter? Me? Don't know what you mean....) I couldn't bring myself to watch the game last night - no fun if you don't want either of them to win - but it sounds as if Man U were as comprehensively outplayed as Arsenal were in the second leg - and they had the advantage of having eleven players on the pitch.

    Now, if Barca could actually find a bit of class to go with their undoubted talent (like NOT tapping up Cesc every close season, or making "jokes" about getting him to Barca, like NOT diving like prima donnas in every match, like NOT surrounding the ref waving imaginary cards every time a player goes down) people might actually like them a bit more.

  • Comment number 89.

    As a few have said already, not Phil McNulty unfortunately, it isn't about who United buy, it's fundamental issue about how football in the U.K. is played.
    There is a gulf in class between the techniques employed by European footballers, at whatever level, and abilities of of most Premier league footballers.
    Barcelona keep it simple. Pass, move, pass, move..make space..attack. United were just hoofing it over the top to Rooney or ,the completely of his depth, Hernadez.
    As long as United can claim success in the Premiership playing the aggressive, intimidating brand of football they invented, then all the English teams will follow suit.
    Don't count on England winning the World Cup any time soon.

  • Comment number 90.

    I think Manchester United need fresh blood all round.Ferguson has been a great manager but it's time to move upstairs.His lack of tactical substitutions and not playing your highest goal scorer is highly questionable and not playing Nani from the start was farcical.I know a lot of United fans love Fergie but if yo want the Champions league again then he has to go.Even the 2 previous finals were lucky wins

  • Comment number 91.

    This was not "the beautiful game". Barca play boring football. Clever and skillful yes, but to watch it week in week out...

    Give me the blood and thunder, action and excitment of proper football any time.

  • Comment number 92.

    United would have lost whatever team they put out, although it was very naive of Ferguson to go 4-4-2 against Barca. Schalke and a below par Chelsea should not be used as a benchmark when preparing for Barca, although it did make for a better final. In 1999 Ferguson had a smash and grab robbery against Munich and in Moscow they were a penalty kick away from losing after being outplayed by 10 men. Domestically Ferguson is a legend, in Europe he is a serial underachiever for his failings over the last 10-15 years with the money he has had at his disposal.

  • Comment number 93.

    #79. paulmerhaba wrote:
    "Barcelona have taken the Man Utd way of playing and raised the bar several notches."

    No they haven't - that's xenophobic arrogance - absolutely typical of the English. Barca have developed the Barca way of playing - they looked nothing like any English team you have ever seen. A crushing 3-1 victory was the result. But the result isn't the half of it. The WAY they played was like nothing we've ever seen. It's a unique, utterly brilliant and ORIGINAL style of football. Something English teams inc. Man Utd would do well to learn from. Of course we won't because we don't do 'learning from foreigners'. Our loss (and we'll continue to lose on the international stage until we do.)

    "Barcelona have taken the Man Utd way of playing..." Utter rubbish.

  • Comment number 94.

    How many more gooners are going to be on whining that they might have done better against Barca all this from supporters of a team that could not even roll Birmingham in the league cup final. Face it from a over-hyped under-achieving standpoint Arsenal have set the benchmark and the best thing that could happen at the Emirates is for Wenger to go unless finishing third and playing pretty football with no end product is the height of ambition at Arsenal.

  • Comment number 95.


    81. 'Javier Mascherano has dedicated Barcelona's Champions League final triumph over Manchester United to Liverpool supporters'

    It is a very sad day for Liverpool football club if they are willing to take those sort of crumbs from a player who respected the club and it's traditions so much that he left them first chance he could. But then literally anything will be taken I guess if it means having a pop at United.

  • Comment number 96.

    You've got it all wrong Phil. It doesn't matter how much money Manchester United have or who they buy with it. Real Madrid make blockbuster signings every summer. Look what happened to them in the semis.

  • Comment number 97.

    I actually live in Manchester and, of course a City fan. Ha-ha-ha-ha-hah

  • Comment number 98.

    Is this what EPL's best had to offer ? Seriously ? Barca could have scored atleast 8 goals if they really needed to. All the talk about EPL being the best in the world. All Man U demonstrated was the gulf in class between two leagues. I have seen bottoms clubs like Real Zaragoza show more technical ability than the EPL champs.

    Its no surprise, the only team that came closest to Barca were from La Liga which is Real Madrid.

    La Liga is a two horse race . Because Europe is now a two horse race. Barca and Real. It will be more evident next season.

    This Man U won the EPL 9 points ahead of the next competitor. That says it all about the level of the other teams in the league. Competitive league isnt equal to a quality league. Trust me la liga's Villareal. Sevilla, Atletico Madrid , Valencia play better football than this Man U

  • Comment number 99.

    @ 8 billion_plus

    I couldn't disagree with you more

    La Liga isnt better than the PL imo. basing that on 1 game is ludicrous. Only barcelona are better than the teams in the PL. the top 5 in the PL would be competitive against real. outside the top two in spain, the PL really is much better - hence the tightness of the league whereas in spain, the top 2 were far ahead of anyone. Look at wolves - they beat many of the top teams this season - is there a similar situation in spain? i dont think so.

    You could argue that there isnt an easy game in england, i dont think you could say the same about la liga - with barca and real 30 points ahead of 4th while man u were just 10 points ahead of arsenal.

  • Comment number 100.

    SAF seemed to accept that he was beaten by a better team but he also made some crucial decisions that may have changed the outcome. Moving Giggs to the wing and Park inside where he isn't comfortable left Messi free on his left foot for the second goal. Owen hasn't done anything all year so to leave Berbatov out when the only outlet ball was forward to a big striker who could hold it up and allow mid fielders to join in was strange.

    Congratulations to Barcelona, easily the best team display I've seen for years, pressing United at every stage even in the few times we had the ball. Will SAF have enough time to change his 4-4-2 philosophy that has lasted since Aberdeen? Or will it be acceptable to turn up for another two finals and watch the ball being moved around at will?


Page 1 of 10

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.