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Ferguson hears call of history

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Phil McNulty | 20:52 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011


If Sir Alex Ferguson was searching for omens to back the belief that Manchester United are supported by the weight of history when they meet Barcelona in the Champions League final, a sign arrived as he sat down to speak at Wembley.

Ferguson was at the scene - "a symbol of English football" as he described it - of United's first European Cup win against Benfica in 1968, the night Sir Matt Busby's rebuilding of a club shattered by the Munich Air Disaster was rewarded with the trophy he treasured as a pioneer prepared to go outside England to seek success.

And as Ferguson navigated his way through the historical context shaping United's third final in four years, a familiar sound filled the air in Wembley's media room, a sound that will have given heart to the superstitious among the Old Trafford entourage.

It was commentary of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's winning goal in the dramatic 1999 final win against Bayern Munich in Barcelona's own Nou Camp, the ringtone on the phone belonging to Pat Crerand, one of Busby's boys and a hero of 1968.

It will take more than a happy coincidence to disturb Barcelona's rhythms as they attempt to repeat their emphatic win against United in Rome two years ago, but Ferguson and his players looked at home on the stage on Friday night.

Ferguson stood on the centre circle surveying their final training session with members of Old Trafford's ruling Glazer family watching intently from the sidelines as United put the finishing touches to their preparations.

Wayne Rooney, who carries so much of United's aspirations as they try to win the trophy for the fourth time, looked so primed for action that he could he could barely drag himself away from Wembley's beautifully manicured turf.

He lingered after his team-mates had disappeared down the tunnel, performing a few party pieces before leaving with a handshake for the Glazers, who invested so much in his talents when they responded to his threat to leave earlier this season with a lucrative new contract.

The world's media descended on Wembley to hear the words of Ferguson and his dignified Barcelona counterpart Pep Guardiola before a final that could draw a television audience of 400m, potentially the largest for any sporting club game.

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A recent study suggested the winners could benefit to the tune of £110m when prize money, a lift to the club's profile and brand, enhanced media rights and subsequent rise in the value of the squad are all factored in.

So plenty is riding on the events that unfold on Saturday night, both on and off the pitch.

Wembley looked magnificent in its Champions League livery, with Barcelona's players looking equally relaxed as they went through their paces in the early evening sunlight.

Ferguson and Guardiola preside over two squads that bask in their unity. United's manager spoke of the "unity and trust" among his players while Barcelona's tight bonds were obvious even from their training session.

Pieces of skill, including one inevitably from Lionel Messi, were greeted with spontaneous applause from team-mates while rare mistakes brought mockery and hilarity in equal measure.

The serious business starts on Saturday and it is obvious the 2009 final casts a heavy shadow over this latest meeting between two of world football's superpowers. The finer points of that game have played a part in the planning of both Ferguson and his Catalan opposite number.

Guardiola, despite the praise poured on Barcelona's purist performance in Rome, surprised his audience inside Wembley by insisting they will lose if the play to a similar standard. A sign of exacting standards and perhaps a warning against complacency.

And as world governing body Fifa descends into open warfare amid investigations and alleged cash payments, with president Sepp Blatter about to faces its ethics committee, Europe's ruler Uefa has got the perfect showcase for its product in the shape of Barcelona and United.

"The success of these two clubs in the last decade has been enormous. It might not just be the final of the decade, it could be the best final of the decade," said Ferguson. We can nitpick that we are actually only one year into the decade but his meaning was clear.

Ferguson said almost from the moment United left Rome's Stadio Olimpico beaten and with many of his side bewildered by their treatment at Barcelona's feet that he knew exactly where it went wrong.

He said: "We are very focused this time and our preparation has been better. We maybe made one or two mistakes last time, but not this time.

"The players have to trust themselves and trust each other because I trust them. I know they'll do the job right. This team has unity and our record in Europe this year is good. We're used to playing in Europe, we have that experience and we're pleased with what we've achieved this year in Europe."

And it was the hurt inflicted on his and United's pride that will drive them more than revenge as they seek to follow up eclipsing Liverpool with a 19th domestic title by moving only one behind their record of five wins in this tournament.

Ferguson's own motivation is unquestioned even in his 70th year. The sight of the Manchester United sign shining above Old Trafford does the job.

He said: "This is a big game and I quite like big games. It's easy for me to be motivated because of the history of the club, the players I have, the training ground. I'm lucky like that.

"It's the right club for me and there is none better. It's easy for me to be motivated because I have the right product in front of me."

Whispers around Wembley on Friday suggested the Spanish contingent fear Barcelona's heavy programme may work against them when it counts. Guardiola's side have looked jaded in recent weeks while United, in contrast, have rotated their squad expertly and have looked at their strongest as the campaign reaches its climax.

Doubts about Barcelona's defence have been aired, with the searing pace of Javier Hernandez emerging as a key factor and one that has caused the Catalans genuine concern.

Ferguson must strike the perfect balance between defence and attack, which has led to suggestions "Chicarito" may start on the bench, but his partnership with Rooney has proved to be a potent spearhead and the manager's words showed his admiration for the young Mexican.

He said: "It has been an incredible season for the boy. No-one in our club thought he could achieve what he has achieved in his first season. He's got the temperament, speed, and movement. He's got all the things to be a good player for us on Saturday."

Whether that is from the start or as a substitute remains to be seen with Darren Fletcher's presence something of a wild card. Ferguson calls Fletcher "a big game player" and his absence through suspension was a key factor in Rome.

Will Ferguson resist the temptation to place him in the midfield mix despite recent illness, or will he go with Hernandez? It is the crucial selection call and its success could hold the key to the outcome.

Michael Carrick must show he has recovered from the trauma of Rome that set his career back two years when he faces Andres Iniesta and Xavi. If United lose control of midfield they lose the game - it was the law two years ago and it applies just as stringently at Wembley.

For all the talk of a weary Barcelona, their array of stars have graced a succession of major occasions in the last few years and have delivered almost every time. Tired legs may disappear when they see the famous old trophy on the sidelines.

Guardiola has done remarkable things in his short stint as Barcelona coach, and Ferguson revealed he almost brought him to Old Trafford before he left the Nou Camp for Brescia.

"A moment lost," Ferguson was how described it when recalling how Guardiola the player went elsewhere. Rome in 2009 was another moment lost for Ferguson and United; now they must grasp their opportunity at Wembley.

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  • Comment number 1.

    i reckon man utd will win it.
    they wont make the same mistake.
    barca are overrated.
    park is our main player and will control messi

  • Comment number 2.

    Chicarito to start, I think.
    Either Fletcher or Carrick will play in midfield, but not both.
    United to play with the counter-attacking 4-4-2, but the biggest question for me is who plays out of Park, Valencia, Giggs, Nani, Anderson, Fletcher and Carrick?

  • Comment number 3.

    Much better article than the previous hundred or so!

    This really will be the best final of the last decade. With Ronaldo, United were a heavyweight powerhouse that would usually depend on outscoring opponents, but since he has left the last 2 years Fergie has built a squad that plays like a complex robot designed not to lose when they don't want to lose.

    Every important game this year United have stepped up, only against City in the FA Cup Semi did they actually get outplayed and beaten in a game that counted for something. Chelsea were demolished four times out of five this year. There was a twenty game PL run without losing and United haven't conceded on their travels in Europe this year.

    Rooney's central role not as the main striker but as the shadow striker who helps in midfield and lets United create so much more whilst also stepping up and scoring when needed has been vital, along with Nani's vastly improved attitude and consistancy.

    Nani for me has been a key factor for United this season. He scored twice the goals he did last year, and 18 assists in the league alone speaks for itself. Although he will never be Ronaldo, he is a better winger than Ronaldo was as his work rate, defending and timing and accuracy of crosses is far better, which is another reason why he could be quite a potent weapon for United tomorrow.

    Valencia has also come back from a big injury and played well but still doesn't have his crossing boot on which he has last year. Although Valencia's workrate is amazing and he should definately start maybe even ahead of Nani tomorrow, and maybe drop into right back if United need goals later on.

    The biggest difference tomorrow between the two teams will be VDS and Park. VDS's last game for United and this year has been arguably one of his best seasons if not his best. I can only recall 1 mistake, and about 20 times he saved United.

    With Park, his workrate, tackling, and ability to keep pressure added will be a major factor in keeping probably the best player ever in Messi quiet. If Messi is kept subdued then I can see Barcalona becoming very frustrated, and United prey on that better than any team in the world.

    This game can only go two ways. The Barcalona squad will pretty much be confirmed as the best club ever or Alex Ferguson may actually have his strongest squad, with the weakest set of players he has used.

    Not many of this current crop would get into United Hall of Famers over the last twenty years, consistancy and tactical awareness have allow

  • Comment number 4.

    its not that SAF is looking for good omens, its you phil, trying to look good omens for manU. but its not any premier league side they r facing, its barcelona.

    and it was not that manchester united played badly in 2009, i believe u need to have to ball to show what you play...

    although much fuss has been made in the british tabloids, i can only see one winner... and its obvious barca will be confirmed as the best team in the history...

    and i know i will be moderated...

  • Comment number 5.

    I dont agree with the general opinion that this is not a good United side. It is perfectly balanced with many options to counter any kind of opposition. SAF has an excellent squad, for which he should take all the credit.
    On the other hand Barca is being lauded as the best club ever! They are formidable but not invincible. Their league is arguably easier to win that United's.

    So if ManU play well,u nlike 2009, I am pretty sure they will win this one and put the Barca legends to bed while going down as the best club in the world.

    ( and this from an Arse fan...)

  • Comment number 6.

    Rafael( or O'shea) Vidic Ferdinand Evra
    Valencia Fletcher Carrick Giggs
    Rooney Chicho

    with Park on for Valencia, Nani on for Giggs, Berbatov on for the Pea
    when needed
    3-1 (1-0) ( Carrick, Rooney, Nani)( Messi)

  • Comment number 7.

    think its gonna be a tricky one for both teams.
    For all of barcelona's class, united are an unbelievably determined team this season.
    United were without doubt outclassed in '09, but this time around i think the mental stability and the overall balance and adaptability of Utd this year could reap rewards.
    Barcelona are an exceptional team, pass, press, attack and defend to the highest standards, but they are beatable - arsenal have shown as much this season.
    The unity of the team is crucial - as identified by SAF - if united defend and attack as a unit, soaking up pressure and attacking with extreme pace and utilizing the width then this has the potential to be an all time classic encounter of two of football's behemoth's!

  • Comment number 8.

    Park simply has to play the ninety (or more) minutes, no question. Nani could be an impact sub if necessary, with Valencia's discipline and workrate getting him the starting place.

    And re #4: On the topic of omens, the article starts with an "if" - you'd work that out on reading it properly. In fact, it made for an interesting introduction to the big buildup - it's not easy to come up with interesting openings to everything you write. And the "fuss" you allude to is just the British press covering a huge match for a British club - I think the Spanish media can cover most of the Barca end. And if they (Barca) didn't fall over all the time and/or bully referees, they might just be close to being one of the greatest teams.

  • Comment number 9.

    I, along with million of other football fans ground the globe, will hope that Barcelona beat Manchester United later today.

    Surely Ferguson can't be lucky for a third time in this competition?

  • Comment number 10.

    Top article, I'm quite surprised by how confident United appear ahead of the final; there doesn't seem to be any pre-game nerves at all. That's another fantastic quality of Sir Alex, his calmness and collectedness has translated onto the pitch and is starting to work its way into the fans as well, and this frame of mind will be key lest United allow their play to be disrupted as it was in Rome after Eto'o scored.

    With so many fans of the opinion that this season's United squad was riddled with inadequacy in August, the majority now appear be confident of riding the Catalan storm at Wembley.

    The midfield battle will be pivotal, that much is clear, but I think Fletcher will miss his chance against Barcelona again as it has been far too little too late and he has not had a chance to feel his way back into the team having returned so late on in the season.

    Park's tireless hassling will be key, as will the assured touch of the timeless Ryan Giggs alongside Rooney in a deeper supporting role. Whilst United are a side which boasts so much talent on the wings I don't think we will need to be fully-equipped on that front as much of Barca's attacking threat comes from the middle.

    Carrick is essential and I am expecting him and Valencia to complete the midfield with Berbatov and Nani being relegated to the bench yet again. The first goal is absolutely key and should Barca score it first I can't see an introduction for Berbatov until very late on. The goal proved the pivotal moment in Rome and I think it will do so again in London, though I don't think that United will be as able to control a lead as well as their opponents should they strike first.

    I do feel quietly confident about out chances despite our squad lacking some of the depth it possessed two years ago, though United have since developed wonderfully as a team, with the talents of players such as Carrick and Berbatov being immensely under-appreciated.

    Whilst I do think the squad needs some strengthening considering some of our ageing players and of course what with the retirements of Van der Sar and Neville, if Ferguson plays his cards right, something he has done on countless occasions over the years, then I do not see why we can't beat Barca.

    My squad: Van der Sar, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Fabio, Valencia, Giggs, Carrick, Park, Rooney, Hernandez. Subs: Lindegaard, Smalling, Rafael, Scholes, Nani, Owen, Berbatov.

    Prediction: 1-1 at full-time, 2-1 United A.E.T.

    Scorers: UTD: Rooney, Hernandez. BARCA: Iniesta.

    Really pushing the boat out with some of my more accurate predos though thought they might be of interest to anyone reading this.

  • Comment number 11.

    Van Der Sar

  • Comment number 12.

    Van Der Sar
    Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
    Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park

    get the ball straight out to the wings, and watch puyol and mascherano squirm

    2-1 united, giggs to score the winner ten minutes from the end of extra time.

  • Comment number 13.

    A lot of optimism here! Personally, and I'm sure I'm not alone here, I can't see any outcome but a Barca win. You can name however many different teams you like with all the work horses and tireless runners but it's not like United will be the first team to try and do this to Barca. Best case is United nick one on the break but Barca will score at least 1 so it's a case if can you stop them scoring again? This is a team who have scored 5 or more over 10 times this season. I'm not a WUM, I'm just giving my opinion. United need 2 goals to maybe force extra time. It's nothing to get defensive about, there is not a team in the world who would be confident about beating this Barca team. I can't see how United can win this match.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm hoping United win, and i suspect Fletcher will miss out again - not enough recent match time - it would be a huge gamble to risk him. Its a shame as a midfield of Valencia, Carrick, Fletcher and Park would be able to stop the barca machine.

    One thing no ones mentioned so far is that it is a match of the 2 most in-debt clubs in the world. They could both do with the 100m+ prize money :)

  • Comment number 15.

    I can see Park starting to try and counter Messi.

    i also reckon a counter-attacking 4-4-2, 7 of the side to me seem certain, as for the midfield, i think it will be Park, Giggs, Valencia, then either one of Fletcher or Carrick, maybe Fletch but that lacks a bit of creativity so we shall see which way it goes.

    2-1 utd for me, Hernandez x2, Iniesta for Barca

  • Comment number 16.

    Its not Chicarito, its ChiCHarito. get it right phil, you're not the only one at the beeb making this mistake on a consistent basis but it is lazy journalism, united bought the kid a year ago, surely you should have cottoned on by now?
    otherwise a well rounded article, my heart says united but my head says a comfortable night for barca... lets see how we fare setting out to attack them rather than stifle them.

  • Comment number 17.

    2 blogs in a day in favour of manchester utd and ferugson...
    Mr Mcnulty, You have way too much free time...

  • Comment number 18.

    @17: That tends to happen when they are involved in the biggest football match of the year...the day before.

  • Comment number 19.

    Even though I'm a City fan, I'm really looking forward to this game, and wouldn't like to say which way it's going to go. As Real Madrid and Arsenal have shown this year, Barcelona are not the certainties some fragile egos have frenzied themselves into believing.

    I don't think Ferguson will want to get drawn into Barcelona's inevitable 'carousel' again, with a United feeling their way into the game. Especially with the thinking it usually takes Barcelona 10 minutes to get going, I think he'll be trying for a start like against Chelsea at OT a few weeks ago, at the beginning of the FA Cup SF against City, against Roma in that 7-1 a few seasons ago, and, against Barcelona in the first 10 minutes 2 years ago. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but I think betting on an early United blitz would be great value.

  • Comment number 20.

    Heres an omen-

    An English team had beaten Spanish opposition in a European final in 2001, 1991, 1981 and 1971.

    Let's hope 2011 - the trend continues.

  • Comment number 21.

    Sorry, I meant a British club has beaten Spanish opposition....

    Clutching and straws now, arnt I?

  • Comment number 22.

    Today it isn't a day to talk the talk.
    It's neither about walking the walk.
    It's a day to run away with the Champions League trophy.

    I don't want to see United containing the Barcelona pressure.
    I want to see my beloved United attacking, counter attacking as soon as they get the ball and Barcelona players looking at United players' backs, running to catch them.
    I want to see them surprised and looking at each other in despair.

    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 23.

    If Barca show up, then Man u have no chance tonight. But if Barca are having an off day, then you never know....

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 23, Montegooner,

    You looked more optimistic when you were reminding us about those 4 trophies. :)
    Good morning.

  • Comment number 25.

    "..draw a television audience of 400m, potentially the largest for any sporting club game.."

    400m only? That's nothing compared to IPL telecasts.

  • Comment number 26.

    these finals are usually decided on a lucky goal. I believe the first 30 minutes are decisive. Barcelona have better chance to score in first 30 minutes, either by a MU mistake or individual genius. If it happens, game over and they will score more.
    More likely, no goals up to 30th minute , we will watch 120 minutes of boredom, then penalties.

  • Comment number 27.

    #8 "...didn't fall over all the time and/or bully referees..."

    Are you talking about arsenal or manU?

  • Comment number 28.

    If rumours are right then the starting XI has been decided.
    But the subs bench-

    Kusczack Nani Owen and Berbatov are 4 dead certs.

    But the other 3?

    2 must be defenders- O'Shea and Smalling.

    The third must be a midfielder. 1 from Anderson, Scholes, Fletcher and Gibson.
    Gibson not food enough and Fletcher not fit enough.
    Anderson is bound to demand a transfer if left out.
    And Scholes is bound to get sent off if he comes on.

    Anderson it is then.

  • Comment number 29.

    Look, forget all the rhetoric. If you're going to put your hard earned money (NOT YOUR MOUTH) on the match, just answer these 2 simple questions:

    1. During the World Cup, how did the Man Utd and Barca players do and how far did their teams get?

    2. If my genius of a mechanic down the road souped up my Aston, will I outrun a Formula 1?

    Got the answers? It'll be better than stealing?

  • Comment number 30.

    Here another omen type thingy.

    1999 Bayern hit the woodwork twice and Man U go on to win.
    2008 Chelsea also hit the woodwork twice and Man U win.
    2009 Barca hit the woodwork only once and Man U lose.

    So to win Man U have to allow Barca to hit the woodwork twice a the cup is theres.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ 29, cswpeter,

    never mind the rhetorics.
    At 10:00pm tonight, you're still welcome to celebrate with us.

  • Comment number 32.

    That's from the Ferguson blog:

    416. At 19:55 27th May 2011, Zeemo wrote:
    "Then listing the teams that knocked Utd out season after season?
    What point are you trying to make?"

    The point I was making is that I am confident any other decent European manager would have matched Ferguson's European record 3 finals in 20-odd years, as maybe he would with any top 2 English/Spanish/German/Italian side, statistically (cup tournament) and because of the resources and players he'd invariably have in his disposal.

    About the impressive domestic record maybe or maybe not although that's less competitive and from what I've seen in the past 5 years it smells a bit fishy.

    And remember the 2 CL trophies don't count for too much by themselves as he didn't win the games tactically at all they could or should have gone the other way, it's more about the consistency of the past few years.

    But I don't recall any other manager who's stayed at one or more clubs with similar resources for decades so any like-for-like comparison is a tad unfair.

    I repeat Ferguson has a poor record against del Bosque and Hitzfeld (who've also won multiple CLs and/or WCs) and possibly today he may be 2-0 down against Guardiola, what does that make these managers then the best in the Universe?

    Or was that down to the players? but in the 09 final it was down to the manager again? what suits us most.

    My view is that managers don't count for much anyway maybe only a 10% and it's down to the players. And you can never know how good a manager really is as his work is behind the scenes a black art not a visible performance that you can judge. In other countries much less emphasis is given on the managers as well as captains (0%), here both are put on a pedestal as a focal point for the media.

  • Comment number 33.


    Q1- most of the Barca players won the world cup and most of the Man U players didn't.

    Q2- I don't think so

    But what's your point?

  • Comment number 34.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ 31. Football_UK

    Won't be able to join you, I'm afraid. I'll be busy crying all the way to the bank.

    Just make sure its not your money that I'll be carrying!

  • Comment number 36.

    Game stats [BAR-MAN]
    Possession : 62% - 38%
    Attempts on Target : 8 - 2
    Attempts off Target : 2 - 5
    Corners : 4 - 3
    Fouls : 9 - 14
    FINAL SCORE : 3 - 1

    Barca win!!

  • Comment number 37.

    @36. billion_plus

    That settles it then. Let's make better use of our time and discuss where we should go for the Summer holidays.

  • Comment number 38.

    Oh... and Ronney will be inconsequential (as usual) in a big game.

    His role is now limited to pre-match headlines in British press.

  • Comment number 39.

    ~37. Where else? Spain of course!! :-)

  • Comment number 40.

    @ 32, nibs, cswpeter,

    On a final's day, it's about men who stand tall.
    The weak and the beaten will run to the favourite, in support.
    The one advertised as strong.

    Almost poetic, isn't it? :)

  • Comment number 41.

    @40 I think Manu will be standing tall... very tall... and kept STANDING :-)

  • Comment number 42.

    @ 34, Beaches15,

    on the video, in about 0.29 of it running, isn't that worker a close resemblance of van der Sar?

  • Comment number 43.

    So here we go again. Another blog on what might happen. Who will play? Who won't play? Who will have a bad day at the office? Who will dive? Which coach has the master plan to victory? All the speculations and predictions in the world won't count for anything. I hope all these people predicting scores and goal scorers have put their money on it. For my two-cents worth, Barca should win as they are the better team. But luck can play its part. The best team doesn't always win.

  • Comment number 44.

  • Comment number 45.


    Thanks for you reply. Have I found a topic worthy of your time? ;-)

    I have to say I still disagree. Your argument that managers count for little is laughable. And captains for nothing? C'mon Nibs.

    This season alone many many experts have said that if SAF was manager of Chel, Ars or even Man City then those teams would have won the league.

    Of course a manager is important. Especially in this era of huge egos and multi millionaire players.

    The mangers you list are good managers, great managers.
    But SAF- the greatest.

    One recents example- Roy Hodgson and Liverpool. Good manager. More than half decent team/squad. But just didn't happen. Couldn't get the best out of Torres and one or two others. Lenny turns up and BOOM. Liverpool are flying.

    West Brom struggling- Hodgson walks in and BOOM, WBA stay up.
    Made a difference there but not at Liverpool. Suited more to WBA than to Liverpool.

    Inter won nothing in Europe under Manchini and Hector Coupor( spelt wrong)
    Then Mourinho comes along and wins the lot.
    Didn't the manager make a difference there?

    Trapportoni couldn't win the world cup in 2002.
    Lippi wins it 4 years later.
    Did the manager make a difference their?

    History is littered with examples of managers making a difference.
    What makes SAF special is that he's stuck around and done it again and again and again. He's kept that hunger and desire and built 4 different teams now.
    Noone else has done that.
    He's got the best out of millionaire footballers time and time again.
    Noone else has done that.
    Not to the level of success he has had anyway.

    The late great Sir Mat Busby build 3.
    Hes surrpassed him now.

    SAF - THE greatest.

  • Comment number 46.

    43.At 08:28 28th May 2011, lorus59 wrote:
    So here we go again. Another blog on what might happen. Who will play? Who won't play?
    I'm afraid both Phil and the BBC are going overboard on the sycophancy front, trying their best to get Ferguson to talk to them again. It wont work - but the level of toadying is reaching an amusing crescendo.

  • Comment number 47.

    Unfortunately the Rooney/Hernandez partnership has been impotent in recent matches and the United defence may be too busy to get the ball to them effectively.Would love to see a Classic but not optimistic.A lot depends on Park keeping Messi quiet but if he gets an early yellow card his effectiveness will be dimished.

  • Comment number 48.

    A nice drizzle in Wembley, as we speak.
    The sun is hidden from layer under layer of dark looking clouds.
    No resemblance to the sunny spring in Spain.
    Omens conspiring in showing an English night?

  • Comment number 49.

    48. At 08:51 28th May 2011, Football_UK wrote:

    "A nice drizzle in Wembley, as we speak.
    The sun is hidden from layer under layer of dark looking clouds.
    No resemblance to the sunny spring in Spain.
    Omens conspiring in showing an English night?"

    "I would also like to take this opportunity to wish the great club of Manchester United every good fortune, success and prosperity in their grand endeavour at Wembley. I wholeheartedly wish they achieve this historic victory and lift the big trophy tonight."
    Konstantinos Mitsotakis

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 50.

    I'd prefer to have Utds defence rather than Barca's, especially if Mascherano plays CB and Puyol and LB. The problem is that you have to have the ball to expose them.

    Utd do play well on the counter and realistically a well timed counter attack is going to be their biggest chance to score. Can't see any of Barca's back line living with Chicharito or Valenica in a foot race.

    Only issue will be keeping Barca out at the other end - which seems unlikely over 90 mins. My prediction is 1-1 with Utd winning in extra time. Berbatov to score the winner :)

  • Comment number 51.

    United got lucky with their route to the final, I don't think they could have beaten Real Madrid.

    I think it will be an entertaining game however - Barca to win 4-2.

  • Comment number 52.

    @ 49, nibs,

    ....if there was a way to surprise me and scare me, you were spot on!

    Greek politician talking about football?.......

    Thankfully, the black cat wasn't making wishes for United. :)

    (good one) :)

  • Comment number 53.

    @ nibs,

    in return to the scary link, I give you this, with all my heart.

    I'm more than certain that I paid you back, in full :)

  • Comment number 54.

    I think many man u fans are clutching at straws and being grossly optimistic regarding their teams ability to beat barca - they beat marseille, chelsea and schalke to get there hardly the cream of europe!

  • Comment number 55.

    @ 54, hogynhwlffordd,

    On behalf of United fans, I do apologise for believing in Manchester United.
    I can't understand why we have to be pessimistic. Are you?
    What team do you support? (I'm only trying to understand)

  • Comment number 56.

    @ nibs
    "The point I was making is that I am confident any other decent European manager would have matched Ferguson's European record 3 finals in 20-odd years, as maybe he would with any top 2 English/Spanish/German/Italian side, statistically (cup tournament) and because of the resources and players he'd invariably have in his disposal."

    What you fail to understand is that Manchester United are the richest club in the world and such a dominant force because of SAF!

    Before he joined Manchester United in 1986 they hadn't won title since 1966, throughout the late 70's/ early 80's Liverpool were the powerhouse of Europe and England dominated the Champs league. This all changed with the arrival of Alex Ferguson!

    Also due to the ban on English clubs from European competition in (1988 I think) English clubs fell well behind the rest of Europe and didn't recover untill the late 90's...hence his poor record against some of the other managers you mentioned.

    The reason England have dominated English football is largely down to SAF and the standard he has set.

    In response to some of your other comments...when judging a managers ability the two Champions League's he has won stand for everything, considering the competition is the holy grail of club football and only Bob Paisley has won it three times.

    I think you underestimate the difficulty of the Champions league..other managers have stayed at clubs for long periods of time with similar resources and have struggled to win Champions league trophies,

    -Wenger, Arsenal, 12 years no CL's
    -Lippi, Juventus, 8 years in total, 1 CL
    -Hitzfeld, Bayern, 7 years in total 1 CL

    granted the likes of Mourinho and Guardiola have come along and have been successful over a short period of time but both have walked in to teams with worldclass players and money (except Mourinho's Porto)

  • Comment number 57.

    I think it has to come down to who scores first.If it is barca i can see them destroying the midfield and it will be rome all over again.If Man u score first i can see them sitting on the one goal lead that they have done so well this season and really troubling barca on the counter.

    If barca have to start puyol at left bach because abidal isnt fit then i can valencia running all over him and chicharito will have the upper hand on pique and mascharano for pace and movement with rooney running the channels

    If man u keep xavi quiet ,he creates alot for barca and runs any game he is allowed to play in.

    It will be tight and can go either way but i can see man u holding out a 1-0 or a 2-1.It will either be a really open great game or a close cagey affair.

  • Comment number 58.

    @ nibs,

    Manchester United haven't reached 3 Champions League finals.
    This is the 3rd final in 4 years.

  • Comment number 59.

    Football_UK nothing'll work now I've given you the kiss of death hehe ;)

    56. At 09:42 28th May 2011, PabloPiatti wrote:

    "What you fail to understand is that Manchester United are the richest club in the world and such a dominant force because of SAF!
    Before he joined Manchester United in 1986 they hadn't won title since 1966, throughout the late 70's/ early 80's Liverpool were the powerhouse of Europe and England dominated the Champs league. This all changed with the arrival of Alex Ferguson!"

    I take the point of the re-building a mediocre club, although you can't know how much is down to the manager and how much to the academy and the ability of this particular crop of league-winning players and fortune to have them at his disposal at the right time.

    "Also due to the ban on English clubs from European competition in (1988 I think) English clubs fell well behind the rest of Europe and didn't recover untill the late 90's...hence his poor record against some of the other managers you mentioned."

    True, however if English clubs were way behind Europe until the late 90's, surely this detracts from the value of Ferguson's domestic haul maybe one third during this earlier period.

    "I think you underestimate the difficulty of the Champions league..other managers have stayed at clubs for long periods of time with similar resources and have struggled to win Champions league trophies,
    -Wenger, Arsenal, 12 years no CL's
    -Lippi, Juventus, 8 years in total, 1 CL
    -Hitzfeld, Bayern, 7 years in total 1 CL"

    So Lippi with 1 in 8 -plus 3 finals a WC later- and Hitzfeld with 2 in 10 (Arsenal don't count they are a smaller club) have STRUGGLED to win, but Ferguson with 2 in 20 (even 15 if we admit they were weaker early on) is the best ever?

  • Comment number 60.

    The usual anti-Man Utd but Utd obsessed people on here once more.
    I don't know what hurts them most. The fact that Utd are always in the headlines..or the fact that Utd are fairly successfull.
    Either way..they can't help themselves. They've got to comment on a club/team they hate but they use the same old arguments,it's all been said before.(I exclude Liverpool fans..they've got the history)
    My beloved United are for once the underdogs and that in itself will be an incentive to beat Barca.
    I was at Old Trafford in '84 when another great Argentine,Maradona was the world's best.United that night were'nt favoured then to overturn a 2-0 deficit. But we did.
    The players will have seen most neutrals lean towards our friends from Barca..and you can bet your life Fergie will have pressed this home.
    I for one would never under-estimate Utd..and I hope one or two in the Barca ranks have.
    United Till I Die.

  • Comment number 61.


    Only with sky constantly warbling on about the 'best league in the world' and its amazng superiority could someone become so blinkered.

    Messi, xavi and inesta are above anything you have and bar bobby charlton anything you have ever had. You have Little pea, barca have someone faster, scores more goals, can beat 3 or 4 men and backing him up are possibly the 2 best midfielders of the past 30 years. The there is David villa and pedro incase they all go awol, which has never happened.

    IN short, barca play at 95% they win, regardless of what manu do.

    But its a funny game football

  • Comment number 62.

    In 2009 we started pretty well but we missed earlier chances and that will never
    happen today,we will score in first 10 minutes and this is pretty possible
    United to win Trophy,Park for Messi,Carrick&Giggs for Iniesta&Xavi
    I cant wait for 1945 hrs,come ooon

  • Comment number 63.

    @ nibs,

    I have to admit you got me with the video. Scary!

    When it comes to finals-reached, though, 4 finals in 20 years is 20%.
    I'm sure you'll find out that it's higher of finals reached than other top European sides.

    What puzzles me is, on the one hand, people say the Premier League is poor because United have dominated for 20 years while, on the other hand, they question why United haven't dominated Europe, to an equal extend.

    Has anyone said it's easy to win the Champions League?
    Has anyone said it's as easy as the old European Cup?

  • Comment number 64.

    "i reckon man utd will win it.
    they wont make the same mistake.
    barca are overrated.
    park is our main player and will control messi"

    Thanks, I needed a laugh this morning

  • Comment number 65.

    I would not be suprised if after all of the talk Hernandez did not actually start the game. I think going 4-4-2 against a 5 man Barca midfield who keep ball for fun is risky, doesnt matter how well Rooney & Hernandez work together if they dont see the ball.

    I have a feeling it will be 4-5-1 with Valencia, Giggs, Carrick, Anderson & Park across the middle supporting Rooney up front. You do not want to go 1-0 to this Barca side, you cannot chase a game against them.

    In my opinion (which counts for nothing I know) Barcelona will win 2-0 & Vidic will see red, I just feel that for all Utd have achieved this season they will be outclassed.

    Here is to a great final whatever the outcome.

  • Comment number 66.

    Today it's not about defending and praising the defense. The United defense is there to do a job. However, defend and you see the team losing 1-0, 2-0. Whenever United are placed to contain strong opposition, they end up losing to the one goal or two goals, when concentration lapses occur for a moment or two. It doesn't take longer.

    United have the experience of having faced a Juventus with Zidane in his prime, in Italy. It is not the first time they will face a genius at work. It's the Champions League final, after all. They contained Juventus back in 1999 and were 2-0 down early on. They opened up and scored 3, having hit the post twice in the process.

    It's a day to attack.
    A day to surprise.
    It's a day to have Barcelona players thinking "what if I lose the ball now".
    It's a day to have them looking at the back of the United shirts, with Barcelona players running out of breath after them, trying to catch them.

    United don't only have the defense. They also have a pool of super fast players in attack, left, centre and right. It is well documented that they're well capable in scoring by taking the ball from defense in under 8". It's the best time to prove it in front of the entire world.

  • Comment number 67.

    All those saying United have no chance are simply haters.

  • Comment number 68.

    Those who think that barca are overrated really are delusional, if they do think this then every man utd side is overrated and hopefully barca will prove tonight how good they are and confirm to these non-sensical folk that they are the best team in the world and possibly the best of all time. I really hope they teach united a lesson once and for all.

  • Comment number 69.

    @ 68, gooner8,

    I think football teams' ratings are made on the pitch and not in salons and living rooms.
    This is the Champions League final.
    If Barcelona are that much better, they'll win.

    I want you to accept United's power though if they lift the Champions League tonight. ;)

  • Comment number 70.

    @56....hitzfeld in 5 years 3 finals, won the cup with 2 clubs

  • Comment number 71.

    @ 68

    See what i mean and if United do beat the so called best team of all time they'll simply say it was luck

  • Comment number 72.

    6 - 1 to Barcelona, Rooney sent off, Nani crying and SAF's purple nose explodes.

  • Comment number 73.

    Forget all the spouting about tactics, it boils down to one thing................ who lady luck is shining on.

    1999 - United barely in the game should go 2 - 0 down with only minutes remaining but the chip over Schmeichel rebounds off the post and into his arms.

    2005 - Liverpool outplayed for 113 minutes and even when they come back to 3-3, Dudek makes a save in the last minute when Schevchenko would 9 times out of 10 scored.

    The OPTA statistics for this season show that as an away team, Man Utd's record as champions was the 3rd worst in the History of the game not just the Premiership era. That is a measure of this team.

    For those that say they are unbeaten in Europe this season.............. right through from Bursapor to Schalke, that feat aint difficult given the teams they have met, and if you say Chelsea............... that merely adds to the case given Chelsea's performances Dec-Mar.

    Barcelona are there to be beaten, Mascherano is the obvious weakness to get sent off but there again Vidic is just as much a liability. Will be interesting to see if the ref has to make a match defining decision in the first few minutes, if he does, think these 2 players would be prime candidates.

    United at 3-1 is good value,

  • Comment number 74.

    In the mean time, the weather at Wembley is gloomy like every usual Saturday morning. Barcelona players and fans are well aware today that they're in London, England. Perhaps it's the first time I'm so happy about the English cloudy, drizzling, miserable days!

    Oh yes, I wanted to write something about class.

    With the volcano eruption in Iceland, there was always a case for the Barcelona team and fans to have difficulties arriving in London. Thus, United would have some sort of advantage because their team wouldn't have been put through this process.

    Yet, all week long, not one Manchester United fan wished for Barcelona to experience the difficulties they experienced last season, when they went to Milan. Not a single one!
    It's called class.

  • Comment number 75.

    This game has the potential to be an absolute cracker.

    Arguably a bit like the Battle of Britain, the Barcelona football machine versus the steely, British?, determination of Man Utd.

  • Comment number 76.

    Great article. I cannot wait for this - a game that surely WILL live up to all expectation.

    No one seems to fancy united and i'm relishing it, no pressure on the lads. United will win, too much talk about barce, people forget they play in the spanish league, a league where if bottom played top there is only one outcome, not like in the premier league.

    My team would be (and i think it will be)

    Fabio Vidic Rio Evra
    Valencia Giggs Carrick Park

    COME ON!

  • Comment number 77.

    I really can't understand why people say United had an easy passage to the final.
    In quarter finals, 4 strong sides were left: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Chelsea.

    Chelsea were a great opposition for Manchester United.
    Those two matches kept football fans hooked on their seats for the duration of the two legs.
    Had Chelsea won the tie, they'd have as much of an opportunity of beating Barcelona today. After all, they have a score to settle with the Catalans themselves. I haven't seen that Norwegian referee around refereeing European matches since. Has anyone else? I'm wondering why.

    It's not right to insult Chelsea.
    Why not say United had an easy ride to the quarter finals and, after that, to the semi final? I understand it would look awkward but English fans wouldn't be insulting Chelsea while trying to make a cheap point, something which is very unfair to the Londoners.

  • Comment number 78.


    It's not right to insult Chelsea.
    Why not say United had an easy ride to the quarter finals and, after that, in the semi final? I understand it would look awkward but English fans wouldn't be insulting Chelsea while trying to make a cheap point, something which is very unfair to the Londoners.

  • Comment number 79.

    This is a tough one. It would be nice to see Barcelona lose as I'm fed up with everyone singing their praises constantly. It would be good to see them knocked off their perch. At the same time it would be good to see utd lose as whilst Ferguson is undoubtably a top manager he's an abhorrant human being. Ideal scenario would be a draw after extra time and then an infinite shoot out that neither team ever wins ...

  • Comment number 80.

    @ 79, cloggysaint,

    I have to admit, filled with guilt, that I love your scenario.
    Hooked on my seat till Monday morning, watching penalty after penalty!
    Ultimate joy :)

  • Comment number 81.

    I think the Utd team will be a 4-4-1-1 formation while attacking resorting back to a 4-5-1 while not in possession with Rooney moving back from the hole into midfield. I think the team will be


    I think if Utd are to win they will have to use Carrick, Park & Valencia effectively to break up Barca attacks, then they will have to turn defence into attack quickly with pace and without wasting the ball. If this transition can be made consistently with an end product, then they can win the game.

    Another key to the win will be the concentration levels of the back triangle (Vidic, Ferdinand & VDS), if these have a solid game we know they can keep clean sheets but can they against the most potent attacking force in football at the moment.

    The two key players for Utd will be Carrick & Rooney. The two key players for Barca are Messi & Busquets.

    My prediction Utd 2 -1 Barcelona. Rooney & Park scoring for Utd and Messi scoring for Barcelona. Why a Utd win? a number of reasons, it being at Wembley and the historic significance for Utd, Utd are used to playing there, the majority of the support will be Utd's.

    Most of all I think Fergie will have learnt big lessons from the 2009 final defeat. He will have a better A plan but also an effective plan B; Fergie could be the difference. As well as knocking Liverpool of their title record perch, he will also want to equal Paisley's 3 European Cups, the script is written.

    Good luck Utd!!!

  • Comment number 82.

    A miracle has happened in Wembley before a ball has been kicked. Wembley Park station is OPEN on a Saturday for the first time in years. No more people can get into Wembley for this final as can for the FA Cup. So why has the main A4140 road between Kingsbury & Wembley been closed until 1.30 Sunday morning to park Barca coaches and which will cause chaos in the surrounding They didn't do for Man City v Stoke.
    Why are tickets so expensive? Maybe because Mr Platini has over 100 cars parked behind the stadium covered in UEFA logos for use for whom?

  • Comment number 83.

    @ 82, czerwonadupa,

    If there is one thing I can advice you for sure, it is to not complain to the media about it. You'll confuse them, to say the least.

    English media believe they play themselves a derby against an English side, every time an English club or the national team reach finals.

  • Comment number 84.

    Few, if any, people are discussing Barcelona's approach to the game. Analysis goes as far as tiki-tika -> 3-0. Then how do United present this.

    I'm guessing Barcelona will line up as follows:

    Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyol, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.

    I'm also guessing United will play as follows:

    VDS, A Da Silva (possibly the more experienced Rafeal), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez.

    The likely permutations for Barca will be at the back. There are numerous possible variations with United side including formation and personnel.

    United don't seem to have a signature style, in Europe especially, they're adaptability has gotten them through the tournament so far. This makes it difficult to plan against them. They tend to make good use of the wings and vary the tempo in games as required. Rooney is expected to drop back to make 5 in midfield when out of possession, and Rooney as supported by Giggs will offer the Mexican an outball when possession is regained if the long ball is utilised in rapid counters (Park will also come centrally to influence the play whilst Valencia will nominally stay out wide). Carrick provides an outball for the defensive and wide players, but given the pressing game Barca employ will really need to Giggs and Rooney available when he needs to play it rather than sending the ball back to Rio and Vidic as usual. I suspect United will try to hurt Barcelona primarily through crosses, then the long ball for quickfire counters, and finally by trying to work it around the D (I view this as the last method as I see Barcelona dominating possession and the centre of the pitch in territorial terms). A key tactic of United will be to isolate the left back so Valencia has plenty of 1-on-1s, with Chicharito and Rooney darting into the box at every opportunity.

    So what do Barcelona do to stop United? I think they will work out the players with tempers and a rash streak for tackles and try to get them on yellows early (Vidic-Rooney-Rafael). Sorry if this seems pessimistic but I see it happening. Whereas United will probably seek to defend territory, I think the Barca players will look to cut off the outballs, and I see Carrick being closely guarded by Xavi when Barca lose possession, and Iniesta watching Giggs, whilst the likes of Pedro and Villa apply pressure to the men in possession. I think that at the same time the full backs will get closer to the wingers, with the centre backs coming across to try and prevent United moving the ball out to the wings quickly. I also think they will work hard to isolate Chicharito, with Busquets pinning Rooney further back than he'd want to go. It goes without saying that they will try to drag players into the middle of the park to make it congested centrally, which better suits Barcelona when they are in possession. I think Villa and Pedro will be looking to confuse the defenders by sitting in the space between the FB and CB, creating a gap for Messi to receive the defence splitting passes that Xavi and Iniesta execute so well. Pedro will be critical in preventing forward charges from Evra, so that Park become increasingly isolated when in possession as well. Alves has the pace to deal with Park in 1-on-1s, whereas Villa will have to come back to help the LB when Valencia has the ball.

    Possession alone will not win this one.

    I'm fascinated to see how this turns out.

  • Comment number 85.

    Apologies for all the horrific typos in the last post.

  • Comment number 86.

    @ 85, You,

    It's OK, Me.
    Nice to see you confusing us, yet again.
    Nice analysis by the way.

  • Comment number 87.

    To be honest, I don't think Man Utd have really got a prayer unless Barca turn in an absolute shocker. In the 1st half displays against Villa, Blackpool and West Ham, Man Utd have produced some of the worst football ever seen by a title-winning team. The likes of Taylor-Fletcher and Demba Ba tortured the Man Utd defence which leads me to believe that the likes of Messi and co may just find some luck.
    The problem for Man Utd is Barca have had years to hone and refine their style of play to the point of perfection. If Man Utd stick Fletcher on and squeeze the midfield, Barca will still find space to score because that is precisely what they do, its what every team unsuccessfully tries to do in la liga, including Real. Putting Chicharito in i believe would be an even bigger catastrophe as if Barca's midfield overrun Man Utd's then the game will be over by half-time.

    All that Man Utd can really do is just pray Barca have an off day

  • Comment number 88.

    On the greatest ever managers I threw a name in last night

    Rinus Michels

    Most Man U fans are either too young or too stupid to know who that is. You can't help it but basically google the name watch and learn. Oh ad don't come back with the usual BS that this was the 70's and 80's and the EC was easy to win back then. If it was so easy then where were you guys?? Answer is a simple nowhere.
    I hate having to admit Rinus was so good as a manager he like my wife is dutch, still I'll always have 1996 memories to all back on (cough 4-1).

  • Comment number 89.

    Man utd have absolutely no chance whatsoever. What is the good of having Wayne Rooney, who can't score a goal and do nothing on the pitch but run aimlessly than dimitar berbatov who is the highest scorer in the prem this season. I thinkn he Andes is the bargain of the season other than Jamie O'Hara!

  • Comment number 90.

    @ 87 a football match is 90 mins not 45

  • Comment number 91.

    Forest fan here

    GL tonight Man U your gonna need a fair old slice of it,, like 1999 hahahaha

  • Comment number 92.

    Gunner your right if Barcelona freeze they got every chance honestly can you see that happening?

  • Comment number 93.

    @ 88, paul ,

    can you get Prozak in your hands without prescription?
    It could do wonders in your mood today.

  • Comment number 94.

    lol I prefer Gin or Vodka chemicals are so last year

  • Comment number 95.

    As for my mood it will be fine as long as 2-0 Barcelona is the final score and I pop round to ladbrookes to pick up the winnings. I did actually do quiet well on you guys this year because I bet on you to win the premier league, mind you I also bet on forest to win the championship not so good! I got this feeling I will be several hundred pounds better come tuesday

  • Comment number 96.

    Just hoping for a good game rather than another hyped up big game being remembered for anything BUT the football!

  • Comment number 97.

    77. Football_UK,

    I don't think people mean to insult Chelsea when they refer to United's 'easy route'. I'd personally just say (if asked) that they've had an easier path than Barcelona altogether if we go from the first knockout stage. Marseilles - Chelsea - Schalke are collectively easier to beat than Arsenal - Shakhtar - Real Madrid. Of United's opponents, it should go without saying that Chelsea are the toughest, but what with the whole Torres problem - and I wish my team had the 'problem' of figuring out how best to utilise a £50million player - they weren't as strong an opposition as Real Madrid. Even Arsenal were higher in the league and playing better at the time. So that's all I think the majority of people mean when they talk of United having a comparatively easy route to a CL final. However, for the record, do I think United would have got past Arsenal, Shakhtar and Madrid too.

  • Comment number 98.

    Having seen the interview with Gary Lineaker in the week, I think he has his finger on the pulse. An in order for United to win, Barcelona must under perform.

  • Comment number 99.

    Chelsea fan here.

    I hope united teach those little babies a lesson tonight. last time they faced each other barca shouldn't have even been there. same again this year. Come on United! anyone who is a fan of fair play and football should be cheering for united tonight.

    If barca get any wrongly awarded match changing descisions tonight i hope rooney turns into the incredible hulk and destroys them all. that whole barca team deserve a kicking for being little girls. they want to man up.

    1-0 to united. Hernandez

  • Comment number 100.

    We shall see.

    Barcelona are a great team, the best I've seen, but even the great teams lose now and again. United are functional but, let's face it, if any team could turn over Barca then it's United.

    Let's just hope for a good game ... I suspect it'll be a tight, nervy affair as per usual though.


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