Couple of thoughts on the Champions League final………
1. As much as I hate to admit it, the Chelsea ‘club sandwich’ marking system appears to be the only legitimate way to stop Lionel Messi.
Especially at Stamford Bridge [being a smaller pitch] whenever he got the ball, something like 5 Chelsea players would immediately surround him as if he had a terribly contagious disease and they wanted to take him away into quarantine.
It’s terrible to watch but it’s bloody effective.
If you let him play, he will overwork your defenders….simple.
2. It is the equivalent of hara kiri to go into a game with this Barcelona side without a proper harrying midfielder. You need a completely selfless player who has no interest in glory or going forward.
His remit would simply be to stop the opposition from playing and break up any developing play in midfield.
There is a price to pay for this….effectively this means the ball will never move through your midfield in anything less than 4 passes….thus slowing down your attack.
It also means you are kinda playing a man down as the harrying midfielder is busy man marking the opposition’s creative midfielders.
But when the prize at stake is the Champions League…maybe this is a sacrifice worth paying.
In my opinion, the best player for this kind of hatchet job in the world today is Javier Mascherano.
Man United went into the game with Anderson and Carrick supposed to do this job. Ahem.
3. Andres Iniesta is the outstanding midfielder in world football today.
Yes he can pick a pass.
Yes he can score goals.
Yes he looks as pale as someone just recovering from a deadly disease.
But the most remarkable thing about Iniesta is his incredible turn of pace. From strolling he can move to sprinting in a heartbeat.
The biggest danger about this turn of pace is that it spreads panic in the opposing defence.
For Barca’s 1st goal, he picked up the ball around halfway up the pitch, by the time he finished, he had displaced Anderson, Evra, Carrick and managed to isolate Eto’o and Vidic.
Except you man mark him and delegate someone to follow him all over the pitch, I dont see how the guy can be coped with.
4. For all of Sir Alex’s experience as a manager, he still decided to take a major gamble in this final.
It was very clear that there was no plan B if Barca scored first in the game.
This was kinda strange because over 50% of Barca’s goals this season have been scored in the first 20 minutes of their games.
Admittedly nobody wants to concede the first goal in a champions league final but when you are playing Barcelona, it’s only wise to at least prepare for that scenario in case it does happen.
This was perhaps the biggest mistake Sir Alex made.
And then playing Giggs in the hole? …..effectively leaving Carrick and Anderson to handle Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets in the Barca midfield.
5. The game could have been veeeery different if Ronaldo had scored his freekick in the 2nd minute.
6. Is this the same Gerard Pique Man Utd sold a couple of seasons ago? Amazing….
He’s not that good but the way he has matured has been really impressive.
7. Pep Guardiola will never have a better season than this. How is it possible that a manager, in his first major coaching job will win EVERY trophy he competed for?
Just thinking about it blows the mind away.
Football’s a crazy game.
8. Young players can be so inconsistent. That’s why they need to be really kept in check when they are still developing to ensure they reach their potential.
Talented young players can have an outstanding game today and then go anonymouse from the very next game.
I am talking to you Anderson.
Great game against Arsenal at the Emirates……what a shocker at the Stadio Olimpico.
9. Man Utd clearly have a problem with teams who know how to keep the ball very well [except Arsenal…maybe because of familiarity].
Watching the game against Barca just brought back memories of the the 2007 quarter final second leg against AC Milan at the San Siro.
It was so painful to watch….the players running about chasing nothing.
That was the game that convinced Sir Alex to buy Owen Hargreaves….hopefully he would be back next season.
But we are making progress….against AC Milan, if I remember correctly, Man Utd didnt have a single shot on target throughout the game.
10. Once in a while you just have to hold your hands up and say you came up against a force of nature.
Some of the football that Barca play is bewitching…..passing the ball in triangles of triangles in the heat of a champions league final….and your opponent cant get anywhere near you even if the game was played all day long.
This is not just skill…it’s supreme confidence.
Even under pressure, they hardly gave the ball away. They dont pass to each other’s knees or bellies….the ball does as it’s told.
A team which had already scored 100 goals in December can never suffer from doubts about it’s ability to score against any opponent.
Inasmuch as Chelsea were robbed in the semi-final, this was the key difference between the 2 teams….Chelsea had no belief that they could get a second goal, so they defended what they had.
There is a temptation to compare this Barca team to the Brazil of 1970.
But this team is not perfect….they still have a couple of dodgy defenders in their midst.
An example being Eric Abidal.
I was going to say Dani Alves as well but we all know he’s not a defender….just an excuse for Barca to get an extra attacking team on the pitch.
The Brazil team of 1970 was the closest thing football has come to perfection.
Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be the 1958 Brazilian World winning team.
For the attacking triumvirate of Garrincha, Didi and Vava read Eto’o, Henry and Messi.
For the young and still relatively unknown Pele coming of age during the tournament, read Iniesta.
Losing to such a team is not the end of the world.
11. After all is said and done, Man Utd entered 5 competitons this season and the worst performance was going out of the FA cup in the semi-finals on penalties.
That aint shabby.