Manchester United v FC Barcelona - The Preview (UCL Final 10/11)

Discussion in 'Manchester United Forum' started by Raees, May 26, 2011.

  1. May 26, 2011
    #1

    Raees Full Member

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    Introduction

    Its been quite a while since the last piece, but since the Exam period is all over.. its time to tackle the greatest game in Modern Footballing Showbusiness…the heavyweight collision between the runaway conquerors of England & the reigning Kings of Spain. Both sides have history at Wembley, with United lifting their first European Cup in 1968 there and Barcelona repeating the same feat in 1992.

    A Look back at Recent Clashes {07/08 UCL SF & 08/09 UCL Final}

    The two most relevant recent ties between these sides have been tense affairs, relatively free from controversy, well-mannered and all about the football despite C. Ronaldo’s vain attempts to make past encounters a showcase for his campaign to be the BPITW.

    In the 07/08 Semi Final 1st Leg at the Nou Camp, United played very deep, relying on Ronaldo, Rooney & Tevez to work their magic on the counter, supported by the very industrious quartet of Park, Hargreaves, Carrick and Evra, and the strings being pulled by the maestro that is Paul Scholes. It was a very well-balanced side, that did well to carve chances of note and keep at bay in retrospect what was a very strong attacking unit from Barca (Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Deco, Eto’o & Y. Toure, for say Busquets, Pedro & Villa). After a strong opening salvo from United and a missed penalty, it was pretty much all Barcelona for the majority of the game, with a great rearguard action from Ferdinand and Brown in particular keeping the scores level going into the second leg.

    The return leg was one of the great European Nights that Old Trafford has witnessed, in 99.. the most memorable Treble moments were away from home or at Neutral venues, but this was a night where the fans, really did drive United home against the odds. It was inconcievable that United could pull out yet another clean sheet, especially since we were bound to be abit more adventurous at home

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    Yet it happened, but not before some really entertaining and spectacular football.. this time from both sides. Nani played a quiet but underrated role, alongside Tevez & Ronaldo, providing a dribbling threat and a source of unpredictability which put the Barca backline on the backfoot… Scholes and Carrick were immense and the former opened the scoreline with what proved to be a spectacular winner which further cemented his already legendary status. Despite Messi’s best efforts, and some dangerous moments from Eto’o, United held on with Ferdinand once again reigning supreme and were overall deserving victors.

    Then there was Rome, a match which was a season later… but alot had happened in that season from a Barcelona perspective. There was a change in manager, Pep Guardiola replacing the outgoing F. Rijkaard. Messi had finally achieved an injury free season and was offically a superstar. Iniesta and Xavi had come out of their shells, due to the presence and motivation of their manager, replacing the role of Deco as creators in chief and performing this function to a whole new level. These evolutions were allied with a tactical revolution, that of pressing high up the pitch, winning the ball early and causing havoc on the counter. The team spirit and cohesion of this side, was a different gear to that witnessed the year before… on the other hand, United had gone backwards, only just mind, but enough to make a telling difference.

    The ego of Ronaldo and the inevitable transfer saga that was weighing heavily upon his mind, led to a below-par season by his lofty standards, one in which his demeanour brought a dark cloud over Old Trafford and a need to change the tactical emphasis of the year before in order to utilise his talent in an effective but not reckless method against Barca. His refusal to track back, meant the only position in which he could be given the freedom to remain as an attacking outlet was up front as a lone striker. He did well in the opening half an hour, but his selfishness meant Rooney wasn’t brought into the game. Tevez who’d been a pivotal figure the year before, was not picked to start, and had been out of favour for most of the season and thus whilst Park put in a spirited effort, the lack of any goal threat aside from Ronaldo was telling.

    The midfield battle was also not as engaging or competitive as it had been the season before. Whilst it was not as one-sided as has been made out over the ensuing years, it was clear that this United midfield missed the presence of a Scholes in peak form/fitness and the energy of Park in central areas rather than being utilised as a wide right forward in a 4-3-3. Anderson did decent, but aside from losing Iniesta for the opening goal, his passing just didn’t possess the authority of Scholes and Giggs was a non-entity for the entirety of the first half, caught in no mans land. Carrick was like Anderson, not that bad.. but there just wasn’t the same level of intensity as there was the year before and he was being made to playmake to a level that was beyond his comfort zone instead of doing his customary brilliant defensive mid with knobs on role.

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    The energy and personality of Hargreaves was also missed dearly on the right, with O’Shea putting in a good defensive effort but not really giving Barcelona anything to think about on the counter. With the defensive wide players United had, any help from the full-backs was much welcomed and this was not particularly forthcoming from the reliable Ulsterman

    Goals from Eto’o and Messi, took the Catalan Giants to 3 CL wins, on a par with Manchester United. Now after an intervening season where both clubs went through transitional phases, they are back on the summit of Europe… fighting it out for European Cup No. 4. Lets have a detailed look at the sides in question…

    Story of the Season - Barcelona

    After a poor 2009/10 season, in which they failed to retain the Copa Del Rey and the Uefa Champions League, the behemoths of Barcelona still managed to win La Liga by a record 99 points and a luxury treble of trophies; Fifa World Club Cup, Uefa Super Cup, Spanish Super Cup.

    The failure to capitalise on the treble of 08/09 was perhaps down to the botched attempt of replacing the supposed ‘on the wane’ Samuel Eto’o, with the vastly overrated Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Whereas the Cameroonian possessed a big match temperament, the penetration, quickness of touch/feet, movement to be the archetypal frontman for a side of Barcelona’s style, the Swede was basically none of the above and flattered to decieve all campaign, despite a well timed goal against Madrid, which provided a brief welcome respite from his critics. Consequently Barcelona were thwarted in their attempts to be the first side to retain the CL since its inception in 1992 and Eto’o who’d been consigned to the scrapheap, became the first player to win two European Trebles following his back-to-back achievements with Los Culés & the Nerrazuri, and the 4th player to win the CL in consecutive seasons after Desailly, P. Sousa and our old ‘ Hanging out the back of Shakira’ starlet Gerard Pique.

    Wasting money on the likes of Chygrynskiy (€25M – S. Donetsk) didn’t help either, from the lean mean outfit of 08/09, Guardiola had lumbered the side with two cumbersome signings who moved as if the heavy transfer fees were millstones around their necks. So clearly action had to be taken and fair play to Pep, he didn’t rest on his laurels or delude himself into thinking that the relative failure of the 09/10 season was down to a one-off lapse in concentration or a transitional season in which time was needed for signings to bed in. Intuitively, he knew the players just didn’t have what it took to play for the club and he swiftly went about his work in the summer, keen to restore Barca as the Kings of Europe.

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    So out went Ibrahimovic, Chygrynskiy, T. Henry, R. Marquez, Y. Toure (as if they can just afford to get rid of a player of Yaya’s calibre at the drop of a hat) and in came the more nimble and theoretically more penetrative David Villa, a more rugged alternative option to Busquets in J. Mascherano and the likes of Adriano and Affelay (Winter Transfer Window).

    However whilst Barca went about their work, their was also the inevitable summer transfer activity from their great perennial rivals Real Madrid. The acquisitions of World Cup stars such as Ozil, Khadiera, defensive reinforcements like Carvalho and talents like Canales & Di Maria brought hope that perhaps there was now sufficient talent at the club to provide Mourinho and C. Ronaldo with the platform to mount a successful offensive against the Catalans both domestically and in Europe.

    However despite a surprisingly spirited effort by the Madristas, it just wasn’t meant to be… there still didn’t seem to be enough zest, unity and ultimately quality in the side to invoke fear in this Barcelona side and beat them when it mattered . There was a lusty blow landed by Madrid in the Copa del Rey Final and whilst it hurt the Catalan’s pride, it was ultimately revenged by Barca in the subsquent CL Semi-Final double-headers.

    The following list, highlights the losses and draws suffered by a relatively full-strength Barca team this season (have omitted losses when they played reserve lineups). Whilst formation doesn’t really have any bearing on the solution regarding how to beat this Barca side, what is prevelant is the fact that aggression, pace going forwards and not letting them dictate proceedings is of utmost importance. It is impossible to fight fire with fire for 90 minutes, but there has to be potential to light a fire and invoke fear in them when given a chance to do so.

    Notable Losses/Draws This Season - La Liga & CL (Match Summaries)

  2. May 26, 2011
    #2

    Raees Full Member

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    Story of the Season – Manchester United

    Like their Spanish counterparts, the Red Devils were also found wanting last season but unlike the Catalans had only the League Cup to put in the Trophy Cabinet. The loss of Ronaldo and Tevez, had led to Rooney shouldering the goal-scoring burden and whilst there were signs of development from Nani & Valencia, it was too much too soon to expect them to drive United to success playing either side of him. It didn’t help that Rooney suffered an injury against Bayern Munich in the UCL QF, an injury which perhaps curtailed any ambitions United had as to winning their 4th consecutive PL and attempting to reach the CL final for the 3rd consecutive year

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    This summer was marked by the astute signings of centre-back Chris Smalling & goalscoring predator Javier Hernandez ( a star at the World Cup). Both played very vital roles in bringing the title back to Old Trafford, the former played more of a cover role but one which was essential considering the injury-prone nature of Rio Ferdinand and the latter had a sensational debut season, becoming an instant cult figure.

    Despite these two refreshing this United side, it was the form of Wayne Rooney or more particularly his attitude which was the talking point for the first half of the season. A combination of off-the-field problems and not really hitting form since the injury against Bayern last year, led to frustration and him demanding a move away from the club. Thankfully, he was convinced otherwise and whilst it still took another few months before he hit form, once he did… United played some scintilating football, well at home anyway.

    Whilst it is easy to get carried way with new players and the sensationalist saga of Rooney, it was the likes of Van Der Sar, Vidic, Ferdinand, Park, the evergreen Ryan Giggs and the goals of Berbatov & Nani which kept United competitive during the first half of the season. When the latter pair faded, it was the likes of Valencia, Carrick and the aforementioned pair of Rooney and Hernandez which helped United step up a level and cruise towards the PL title and their 3rd CL final in the last 4 years.

    The following list is less inclusive than the Barcelona list, purely because the majority of readers are PL followers and don’t need reminding of United’s results, that said I’ve highlighted 3 losses in particular which are relevant to Saturday’s game against a side which boasts a strong midfield. These results highlight 2 facts, Scholes and Berbatov are not the go-to players if United want to win big games, the Arsenal game was probably the game that has ruled out Anderson & Nani’s chance of starting against the Catalans and the worrying possibility that Carrick could get overwhelmed if he is not given the right midfield partner or partners.

    Notable Losses This Season - Premier League & FA Cup(Match Summaries)

    Importance of Scoring First (stats of past CL finals, Barca/United win ratio’s and players most likely to score first)

    Before we go into the possible tactical approaches taken by both sides this weekend, an interesting statistic to note is the importance attached to the first goal in CL finals. A good start is essential, and looking back at the last clash between these two teams, an early Ronaldo goal or Park converting that rebound could’ve had a significant effect on the ultimate outcome. Comebacks are rare in heavyweight football clashes, and there just is too much know-how at the top level to collapse once one goes ahead, especially when considering that most of the finalists are mentally battle-hardened by the time May rolls round. So to conclude, we’ve had 18 Finals in the UCL Era (93-present) and 14 of them have been won by the side who scored first (78%). Not to mention that 4 of those comebacks have included 2 miraculous comebacks Jesus himself would’ve been proud of, 1 which was fortunately brought about by opponents going down to 10 men and one which was perhaps the most controlled comeback but still needed penalties to get the job done.



    Tactical Breakdown, Finally…

    Barcas side picks itself when fully fit, so there won’t be any debate as to who will feature in the starting lineup regardless of the opposition. As always, they’ll rely on the midfield triumvirate of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta to suffocate the other side of possession, and be the conveyor belt which feeds the likes of Messi, Pedro and Villa with plenty of ball with which to hurt the opposition. The fact that Mascherano and Keita are on the bench means that they really do have all the bases covered in terms of midfield talent and style, so there is no point of going toe to toe in this area… either you match up 3 for 3 in a defensive set up, or you take a risk with 2 men, don’t look to outplay them in central areas but seek to bypass this area by having extra numbers in other threatening areas in which one can hurt this Barca outfit or even going super defensive and put in an extra defender, playing 5 at the back.

    Villa who was supposed to be the true successor to Eto’o has found it difficult to excel for this Barca side despite possessing a skillset which was more suited to the Catalans than his predecessor Ibrahimovic. At times he has seemed overwhelmed by his surroundings, inhibited by the quality of his team mates despite the fact that he has featured alongside the majority of them at International Level. One major drawback of his game has been not being as effective in central area’s as Eto’o, whereas the former drove at defenders in a very direct manner, Villa is often seen on the left flank, contributing to the build up play but doing a role which was essentially covered by Iniesta/Henry the seasons prior. As long as you show him down the line and don’t let him come in off the flank and shoot with his right, his threat can be limited, although when he does drift into central areas, one has to remain vigilant. As a consequence of Villa’s tendency to drift wide and the need to incorporate Messi in a free role Barca are very reliant on Messi providing a presence up front, because at times, they are playing with no striker, although Pedro is very important in moving off the flanks and finishing moves also.

    So it is a fluid frontline, but I don’t think its necessarily an all-conquering one if United set up well, get an early goal and seek to frustrate…Pedro & Villa can be stopped in my opinion, one just hopes Messi is marshalled exceptionally well. As for the idea of starving Xavi & Busquets of possession, by pressing high up the pitch… its not feasible in my opinion over 90 minutes, regardless of whether or not Fletcher is fully fit. It can be done in bursts, especially when you’re seeking to make an instant effect on the scoreline, but over an entire match Barcelona’s midfield will inevitably dominate and control proceedings. The idea is to control the scoreline, without really enjoying the lion’s share of possession.

    Iniesta for me is a key player to stop, especially if that frontline is to be kept in check. Once he breaks past midfield lines, that gives that front trio the licence to make runs behind United’s back line, a position in which he made the Reds pay during 08/09 when he slipped a ball into Eto’o after having left Anderson for dead. He is ‘untackleable’, on the ball I can’t think of a better dribbler, or ‘ball-carrier’ in world football and that includes Messi, he has that core strength which makes him very hard to knock off the ball, but he has a weakness… and that is his reluctance to shoot. He’s very assist-orientated, so if one can close off his options, he is prone to over-passing instead of taking the game into his own hands and seeking to score himself. Clearly the lad is capable of momentous goals, WC 2010 final winner.. the last ditch winner v Chelsea during the UCL 08/09 SF, but he’s very reluctant to score generally, so its better just to sit off him rather than engage him and risk him driving past you, opening a whole set of passing options available to him.

    Defensively, they’re underrated but gettable in equal measure. Valdes is capable of gravity-defying stops, but his distribution is weak and he is prone to howlers. Puyol and Pique’s ability to deal with pace is understated, but lightening pace like J. Hernandez, is possibly something that could prove too hot to handle, in a 1 v 1 situation if it is allied with strength on the ball. Theirry Henry gave Puyol a torrid time during the 2006 CL final, one hopes if Rooney is given more room in which to exploit his talents, he is just the type of player whose combination of pace and real strength (not like C. Ronaldo) could strike fear into this Barca backline, if indeed he can avoid the attentions of Busquets, who reads the game very well at defensive midfield.

    In the full back positions, they have Alves who is a beast going forwards but prone to leaving huge areas of space in behind. The problem is United do not really possess a left winger who is capable of exploiting that space, apart from Nani and he’s not in the best of form and doesn’t really impress in that position at the moment. On the other flank it could be Adriano or Abidal, assuming it is the latter, he is physically very strong and Antonio Valencia is probably the right man for the job in terms of going toe to toe on that side of the pitch. It certainly would be a very intriguing heavyweight battle.

    As for United, the strengths lie in defence and up front. Ferdinand and Vidic, at their best are the best defensive pairing in the world and I reckon the latter out of that pair, will find the pace of Villa more easier to handle than the direct nature of Eto’o. Evra is a pivotal figure in helping carry the ball from defence to attack, but his defending has become haphazard this season. Hopefully Park will have a stormer in front of him, but if they do use Pedro on that flank, he’d be well advised not to jump in and #stayonhisfeet. The same goes for Fabio, who will in my opinion be selected ahead of his brother and O’Shea, due to his extra pace and threat going forwards, Valencia will be key in protecting him.

    Up front, well we’ve said all we need to know on the merits of Rooney and Hernandez, will Sir Alex go one alone up front? its more than possible but my gut instinct says Hernandez will play from the start. If he does not, it’ll be a three-man midfield.

    Presuming it is two strikers, who would be the best midfield pair to a) keep it tight b) provide accurate possession, c) carry the ball under pressure and d) create chances when an opportunity presents itself. I’ll be honest, am not envious at all of the dilemma which is going through Fergie’s mind. Fletcher & Carrick can do a) quite easily and b) on a good day, on the other hand Giggs & Carrick can do b) c) d) pretty well and the big question mark is over a) whether or not this pair is enough even with the help of Park, to protect the backline from the threat of Iniesta and Messi in central areas. Quite a few people I’ve spoken to have brought up the surprise pairing of Giggs & Fletcher, but again this pairing would arguably be even worse at a) due to Fletcher’s desire to close down and no one sitting in front of the back four.

    The perfect solution would perhaps be Carrick-Giggs with Fletcher closing down in front of them, taking turns with Park at closing down the opposition. But this is only possible if one man is played up front, and I doubt a Rooney partnered either side of Park and Valencia has enough unpredictability about it to be a real goal threat. Decisions, decisions.. it really is a very tough call. Now before we make predictions as to scorelines/lineups, just one final feature which could yield an insight into how both teams would love to approach this game in an ideal world…
  3. May 26, 2011
    #3

    Raees Full Member

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    If Barca could sign two players by this Saturday…

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    In order to have a better understanding as to this Barca sides weaknesses, which 2 players do you reckon would take this Barca side to an even higher level than it already is and aid them in the destruction of United this weekend. No restrictions it could be anyone, in my opinion someone like Kompany at centre-back, would excel at a side like Barcelona and the other more controversial selection is the figure of Luis Suarez. I think he’s the dynamic mercurial figure that would excel playing up front for the Catalans, contributing in build up play but also being very dangerous in behind.

    If United could sign two players by this Saturday…

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    Same premise again, the mission this time destroying Barca. I think a midfield maestro is a must, for me it’d be Cesc Fabregas, who whilst he hasn’t enjoyed the best tussles against his old club.. I think surrounded by the mentally tough and penetrative players of United, he would excel. Imagine a Fabregas through ball to Hernandez – fully jizzed… but as for the other option, it’d be a fight between Bale or Robben on the left to exploit Alves’ forward runs. Both are great counter-attackers, the latter is more proven and a superior goal threat but the former offers more industry and balance. I pick Balobben.

    Conclusion

    Ok hopefully you’ve enjoyed this despite its long-winded nature, but I just thought the biggest match of the season deserved a lengthy article dedicated to it and hopefully some of the stats or points raised may have helped push you towards a particular prediction or lineup which was closed off to you before. Prediction time… I’m going for a United win, I genuinely think it can be done. Looking at the stats, if we play it right, we can be in that few % of sides that are just the type of attacking side which Barca find difficult, full of energy, precise on the counter-attack and robust at the back. Barca can win this game without being at their best, the same can’t be said about this United side… we have to perform, pure and simple. I’d go 4-4-2 first half, try to nick a goal and risk it whilst we’ve still got fresh legs and then go 4-5-1 in the second half if we’re struggling to contain them. Best thing about this United side, is that we have alot of options on the bench… we’re an adaptable side, lets hope its adapting in order to keep a lead rather than having to chase it. Anyway, thanks for reading.. roll on Saturday!

    Written By

    Raees Mahmood
  4. May 26, 2011
    #4

    Plechazunga Grammar partisan who sleeps with a real life Ryan

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    Good stuff Raess, lot of work went into that

    Kinell, it really is a shite league
  5. May 26, 2011
    #5

    Raees Full Member

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    Thanks. It really is, the Prem's the one 2 watch regardless of the elite talent and I think its on the way up again after a relatively dour few years.
  6. May 26, 2011
    #6

    hungrywing Full Member

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    To be fair, they did sort of pick things up after letting their foot off the pedal starting around 274th match onwards into the final few years.
  7. May 26, 2011
    #7

    Walrus Oppressed White Male

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    Hernandez is absolutely key to this encounter for me.

    His simple presence on the pitch will cause all sorts of problems for Barca. They can observe and scout as much as they want, but Pep and Barca will surely underestimate the impact of Hernandez and how big a part of the team he has become in the year he has been here.

    They will play their normal game, their back line will push up to the halfway line as they did against Madrid and most others, and this is where they will initially be found out. All it takes is for us to gain possession for a few seconds and hoof the ball upfield - it might not be pretty, but it would be effective. Hernandez gets in behind their back line, and we know the story when he is one on one with the keeper.

    So they realise this and have to adapt. Adapting tactics midgame can be an issue in itself, especially for a team which frankly has no plan B (since they usually dont need one). Simply put, they will have to drop deeper. Their defence drops deeper, their midfield then has to drop deeper or risk leaving a massive gap between defence and midfield (this is not something Barca tend to do), not only will this make retaining possession much harder for them, but also creates space in the exact area where Rooney will be operating. Given that space, Rooney is devastating.



    On the other side of the pitch is our defence. Everyone waxes lyrical about Barcas attack which is certainly the best around, but dont underestimate our defence. The quartet of VDS-Rio-Vidic-Carrick is an extremely solid defensive unit, and with their lack of height, Barcas attacking pretty much always goes through that central channel. If our defence cannot shut them out, nobody can. We cannot simply pack the midfield and try to stifle them completely as we sacrifice our own attack - we tried that in Rome and it didnt work. We have to retain our own attacking threat by playing Hernandez and Rooney, the latter of whom is essentially an attacking midfielder. If we pack the midfield and simply play a team of workhorses like Fletcher, Park and Valencia we will be playing right into Barcas hands. They thrive on opponents trying to do that, and it usually fails because they are so adept at retaining possession and passing through it. Our players will tire from the chasing and they will eventually break us down. We have got to have faith in our world class defence and its ability to hold them out without changing from our natural gameplan too much. This doesnt mean we go reckless all-out-attack as that would be suicidal, but similarly if we set out to simply contain them, we will fail.
  8. May 26, 2011
    #8

    Plechazunga Grammar partisan who sleeps with a real life Ryan

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    It's not as if they've never played against a quick, intelligent striker before. Madrid tried to leave Ronaldo up there and punt it up to him.

    That said, I agree, it's about balance. If we set up solely to park the bus, we'll keep losing the ball when we do win it back, and knacker ourselves out.
  9. May 26, 2011
    #9

    ciderman9000000 Banned

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    Great article, man.
  10. May 26, 2011
    #10

    Barbara Charles Full Member

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    Raess: I cannot believe you wrote all of that. Most impressive! Thank you so much. It makes a great reference. We are so lucky on Caf to have posters like Raess.
  11. May 26, 2011
    #11

    Carl has permanently erect nipples

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    Holy feck. Great effort Raees.
  12. May 26, 2011
    #12

    Raven Blade Dull

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    I think that's outstanding work you've done. It was well worth reading.
  13. May 26, 2011
    #13

    Crustanoid Full Member

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    Great read - you've got that so accurate. Looking at Barca's defeats you can see mitigating factors for all of them - if we beat them it will have to be out of sheer brilliance on our part.
  14. May 26, 2011
    #14

    Kaos Full Member

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    Great article.

    Don't see how Bale or Robben would benefit us in a game like this, I'd much rather prefer Evra and Valencia respectively.

    Wilshere would have been a hell of a useful player to have for a game like this though.
  15. May 26, 2011
    #15

    7even Resident moaner, hypocrite and moron

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    Quality as always Raees.
  16. May 26, 2011
    #16

    kf Full Member

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    Good stuff Raees, an interesting analysis

    I think the Biscuit man is a much overlooked part of that midfield as he fulfils the role of outlet when the much lauded trio can't find a pass forward. The reason Barca keep possession so well, frequently up to 70% and more of the ball during matches is down to this. This is why I think Fergie will go with the 4-4-1-1 and give Rooney the job of dropping back to cover Biscuit when we're not in possession.

    It's a difficult task we have on Saturday. Concentration is key as Fergie has said. We need to defend well and have a strategy to break up Barca's metronomic passing game. And we absolutely have to take our chances. As you point out, in our previous CL final against Barca, we had golden chances in the first ten minutes to take the lead. Taking one of those would have altered the pattern of the game.

    Hopefully the recently appointed ref will stay out of the headlines and be immune to any theatricals.

    I think we can win this game, but our players will have to be at their best, hold their concentration in defence and their nerve in front of goal. It's on a knife edge. Cross everything!
  17. May 26, 2011
    #17

    peterstorey Specialist In Failure

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    You'll play a 451 with Rooney playing very deep to the extent that he picks up Messi, Valancia tucking in and Park shadowing Alves. None of this will matter.
  18. May 26, 2011
    #18

    Spoony The People's President

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    You want us to win, Pete. I know you do.
  19. May 27, 2011
    #19

    golden_blunder mijn naam is Golden Blunder en ik hou van team LVG

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    good posts Raees, though i disagree with your analysis of Anderson and Carrick in the previous final. Both were utter pants. Both have something to prove on Saturday
  20. May 27, 2011
    #20

    championo Top Stalker

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    He has been awfully nice this week, I don't know why. Could be playing Rope-a-dope with us.
  21. May 27, 2011
    #21

    SFraser Rest in Peace

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    If we beat Barca Arsenal have to hand their "only English team to beat Barcelona" trophy back.

    I can understand why Pete is not looking forward to this match.
  22. May 27, 2011
    #22

    Denis' cuff Full Member

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    really good piece Raees - (I'm a poet...........) :D


    To think there are people paid to write articles in newspapers not as well-informed or articulate.
  23. May 27, 2011
    #23

    Gee Male Full Member

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    Roy Keane is Damien, the devil incarnate off the f
    Great read Raees, very impressive.

    I disagree with your conclusion of starting with a 4-4-2 and trying to nick a goal though - Barca generally come fast out of the blocks, press hard up high and try to kill games off in the first half, so I reckon we should keep it tight early (4-5-1 with Hernandez as the lone striker, Rooney playing from the left and Park pulled into the centre) until Barca tire themselves out with their high pressing game, then go 4-4-2 (same personnel with Rooney further forward and Park further left) to try to nick a goal late in the second half.

    The pace and movement of Hernandez is key to this, as we'll be relying on him running in behind for the best part of the first hour, which is why I'd name Owen as a sub to perform that particular role later on - he's more suited to it than Berba, though obviously Berba would be on the bench too.

    If this game goes to extra time, it really is ours for the taking. Barca don't have the stamina for 120 minutes.

    But great article, kudos.
  24. May 27, 2011
    #24

    Raees Full Member

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    If you're good enough, the referee doesn't matter
    I actually like your idea, its flexible, its adaptable.. more about application, rather than formation which is the way it should be. Start off 4-5-1 (default position), but spring into 4-4-2 when we're countering and have a spell of possession.

    Rooney wasn't that awful in his stint on the left last time we played them (would still hate to see him restricted there unable to roam) but the decision in the second half to stick him on the right was criminal by Sir Alex.
  25. May 27, 2011
    #25

    Gambit Desperately wants to be a Muppet

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    All that writing Raees just to disguise the muppetry at the end, just come and join me in the transfer forum will ya.
    Great article as always.
  26. May 27, 2011
    #26

    Feed Me I'm hungry

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    Particularly enjoyed the tactical section. You're right about Fergie having an unenviable task in selecting the midfield.

    A really superb article that is.
  27. May 27, 2011
    #27

    Feed Me I'm hungry

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    Staying level for as long as possible is the key as there is always a noticeable drop off in the Barcelona tempo after about 60 mins; even more so when you consider that their eleven has played a lot more minutes this season than ours. If Barca win, it'll be because they won it in the first half. If it's 0-0 after 60 minutes, I back United to win.

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