Rooney: SAF got his tactics wrong against Barcelona

GazTheLegend

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We were better in 2009 than we were in 2011. I don't know why people think otherwise.

Ronaldo had quite a few chances that I'd seen him bury in the past and we started the game REALLY well. We got sucker punched by Et'o and the unplayable Iniesta and after that they just passed the ball in that carousel they do for the rest of the game.

But 2011 they demolished us utterly, we didn't have a hope in hell. I remember watching them beat Real Madrid 5-0 and Madrid didn't touch the ball, and wondering how the hell we could compete with that. 3-1 was honestly better than we deserved.

But that team will always, always be clouded by the blood bag scandal that the Spanish covered up and after refusing to release the names of the players implicated in that there will always be doubts in my mind about quite how they managed that pressing game for 90 minutes for 60 games against what you might have thought could or should be athletically superior teams.

Look how knackered we were after like all of 5 games trying it.
 

Lj82

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He’s got a point but Ferguson knew exactly what he was doing going into that final. In the build up there had been a lot of talk about how United would approach the game. I remember Bobby Charlton commentating on it and saying United have to play attacking football in a final.

Ferguson was asked about it in one of the press conferences and I’m paraphrasing here but he said something along the lines of they know which tactics had been successful against that Barca side (10 men behind the ball). But that no Man Utd side of his would ever play that way in a final. Think he reiterated this in his last book.

So yeah our tactics weren’t the best for the opponent that night but the decision was ideological.


We could have parked the bus and most likely probably would have still lost anyway, that 2011 Barca is the best team I’ve ever seen.
Yeah that's a good way to put it.
SAF very explicitly said that he was not comfortable with how he set up against Barca in the semi finals in 2008, even though we won.
I think SAF is a football romantic and deep down he probably felt that he needed to change and win it the "right" way.
We lost, but honestly without Fletcher we were unlikely to play the defensive approach well anyway.
 

Tom Van Persie

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2009 - We under performed. Simple as that.
2011 - We were played off the park. I've come to terms that tactically it doesn't matter what we did that night or what team selection SAF went with. We were always going to lose. They were the better team.
 

Shamana

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In 2011 we just had no chance, Messi and the rest were at their peak. In 2009 maybe.
 

Grande

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I’ll be repeating this till I die, but there was an ocean of difference between 2009 and 2011. In 2008 we were the worlds best team by margins IMO. In 2009 we were almost as good. In 2011 we were a completely different kettle of fish. Barca was a struggling team able to be good in 2008, in 2009 they were a brilliant and reinvigorated team, in 2011 they were the worlds best by margins, maybe the best ever.

I’ve seen the 2009 final three times now. I remember the deflated feeling of helplessness after the game. But feelings aren’t descriptions of facts, nor very accurate. At the time, there was also the newness of tikitaka making me (and most commentators) believe that extreme possession was dominance in itself. Now we know it’s just a strategy, you can have 70 % possesion and be a well deserved loser.

Looking at the 2009 final again, showed me that it was a contained game between two tactically accomplished teams, with different phases to the game, and where United created somewhat more dangerous situations than Barca. United started the game better, creating unbalance in a Barca team that didn’t manage to play the way we have been used to see them. Eto’o’s brilliant goal on an uncharacterisitcally inalert VDS came against play, and was not a typical Barca goal. After that there were phases of Barca having much possesion and United looking for direct openings, but we in fact struggled more to contain them in 2008, and created more openings as well. The difference was that in 2008, Scholes put us ahead with a fantastic strike from an uncharacteristacal defensive error from Zambrotta, whereas none of the shots in 2009 clicked like that. Instead, Messi, again uncharacteristically, scored on a header that was probably one of his best headers in his carreer up to that point. It was again not a result of Barca dominance, but of openings at the back of a team needing ti get forward.

Goals decide games, but goals also colours games, and the combination of those colours, and the then trending overestimation of possession as dominance in itself, created a feeling, yes, and a collective storytelling that Barca had ‘outplayed’ us and similar notions. Also in me. But looking coldly and analytically at the game will tell how United did enough tactically to win that final, but the wonderstrikes were with Eto’o and Xavi/Messi that night, and not with Ronaldo, Berbatov or Rooney whom we know were well capable of such moments of magic.

In 2011, we were chanceless.
 

Bojan11

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2009, if we had got a goal as we did have a spell for the first 10 minutes then maybe who knows. That Eto goal killed us and we never recovered after that.
 

Amar__

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I am surprised he isn't player manager pundit by now
 

Tom Van Persie

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The 2011 side was in decline and not the second best in Europe. We had godo momentum playing the way we did the back of end if that season so SAF stuck with it, truth is any tactic we used that day wouldn’t have helped as they were far superior. 2009 was a bad night sure but it’s easy to say with the benefit of hindsight.

I think Rooney still holds a grudge against SAF and am not impressed with these underhand digs, like when he said Van Gaal was the best manager he played for.
I'm 100% sure he does. Their relationship was never the same after 2013.
 

Eddy_JukeZ

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The two finals aren't comparable.

2009 was way closer than 2011. That Eto'o goal really killed us and we never recovered. But Barcelona didn't really have many chances in the game and weren't 'controlling' the game. I mean even the possession was near even. Almost unheard of vs Pep's Barca. I think Fletcher was a huge miss for us and I think Park shouldn't have started(he was brutal in both finals). It's hard sometimes to not reward the players who got you there though. Same thing as in 2011(with Nani not featuring).

As for 2011, it was pointless. We didn't have the players to sit deep and absorb pressure. As great as Vidic-Rio are too, they are probably not the best CB pairing against a false 9 Messi. Fergie could have played Nani instead of Chicha and pushed Rooney further up, but meh.

They were vastly superior at that point. We weren't even the 2nd best team that season in Europe. We were already showing signs of decline and we were clearly worse than our 2009 side.
 

led_scholes

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I remember in 2009 we pressured them early with the hope we can score. Probably the tactics were; score, then sit back for counter. Why? I think he knew that if Barca scored first there was no way we could score because of their possession. Then, on their first chance they scored. That was game over. We also have to remember that we did not have two of our defensive midfielders available for that game. I do believe though that SAF was at that point more sentimental than he should, as we saw by picking Park and O'Shea. I think that IF we had scored the game would be somehow similar of the next year's final between Inter and Bayern, where Bayern had a pointless possession. Of course this conversation is wholly hypothetical.
 

hungrywing

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He’s got a point but Ferguson knew exactly what he was doing going into that final. In the build up there had been a lot of talk about how United would approach the game. I remember Bobby Charlton commentating on it and saying United have to play attacking football in a final.

Ferguson was asked about it in one of the press conferences and I’m paraphrasing here but he said something along the lines of they know which tactics had been successful against that Barca side (10 men behind the ball). But that no Man Utd side of his would ever play that way in a final. Think he reiterated this in his last book.

So yeah our tactics weren’t the best for the opponent that night but the decision was ideological.

We could have parked the bus and most likely probably would have still lost anyway, that 2011 Barca is the best team I’ve ever seen.
Yeah that's a good way to put it.
SAF very explicitly said that he was not comfortable with how he set up against Barca in the semi finals in 2008, even though we won.
I think SAF is a football romantic and deep down he probably felt that he needed to change and win it the "right" way.
We lost, but honestly without Fletcher we were unlikely to play the defensive approach well anyway.
I vaguely remembered SAF saying the above; thanks for spelling it out in detail.
 

Eddy_JukeZ

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I remember in 2009 we pressured them early with the hope we can score. Probably the tactics were; score, then sit back for counter. Why? I think he knew that if Barca scored first there was no way we could score because of their possession. Then, on their first chance they scored. That was game over. We also have to remember that we did not have two of our defensive midfielders available for that game. I do believe though that SAF was at that point more sentimental than he should, as we saw by picking Park and O'Shea. I think that IF we had scored the game would be somehow similar of the next year's final between Inter and Bayern, where Bayern had a pointless possession. Of course this conversation is wholly hypothetical.
SAF definitely got a bit sentimental towards the end.

I think he underestimated just how good Barcelona were at possession.
 

Eddy_JukeZ

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Ironically, Fergie mentions in his book that the preparation for the game in 2011 is the best he'd ever seen at the club.
 

Tel074

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I remember hoping we would change for the 2nd final then I heard Bobby Charlton speaking and he said it's not in United to sit back we have to attack and I knew right then we would get humped again
 

Lay

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VDS was at fault for about 3 goals in both games. Only the Messi header and Villa goal were the ones he couldn’t save.

But the Eto’o goal at his near post, being totally out of position for Pedro’s goal and Messi’s. Hell, he was even at fault for Lampards goal in 2008.
 

Dante

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Rooney, Rio and SAF himself have all said this at some point or other.

So, too, have about 95% of the Caf.

We may not have won either way, but it's okay to admit to mistakes.
 

Eddy_JukeZ

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VDS was at fault for about 3 goals in both games. Only the Messi header and Villa goal were the ones he couldn’t save.

But the Eto’o goal at his near post, being totally out of position for Pedro’s goal and Messi’s. Hell, he was even at fault for Lampards goal in 2008.
Yeah that Eto'o goal doesn't do him or Vidic any favors. Both were awful. The midfield let Iniesta stroll by too.

Lampard's goal in 2008 still annoys me. One of the flukiest goals in a CL final ever. We should have been out of sight in the 1st half that game.
 

united_99

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As others have said we had no chance in 2011. 2009 wasn’t our day otherwise the game could have been different.

But in 2011 everyone loses a final at least 8 out of 10 times against more than half of the team consisting of reigning World and European champions plus Messi, no matter which tactic you use. The other 2 times you have to be extremely good and lucky to stand a chance. And we weren’t good enough for Europe that year.
 

RashyForPM

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SAF got it wrong in 09, one of the only times he did. We genuinely should have won that as Barca weren’t at their peak then and we beat the same group the previous season. In fact, I even think that Rooney-Ronaldo team were better than them at that point; we were the best in the world.

However, in 2011, they were the best team of all time and I’d love to see Wazza try to win that game himself. Even if SAF out-tacticked Pep, we would have lost. It’s not nice to say but that was an impossible task.
 

Vidyoyo

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We'd have won if we'd played Owen. Messi/Villa/Xavi/Iniesta/Puyol/Pique/Biscuits was no match for him.
 

#07

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I'm not sure where Rooney is coming from with this criticism. Not saying that I think Sir Alex approached either game perfectly. However, he is clearly misremembering what happened.

In 2009 we did set up quite defensively. Sir Alex pushed Rooney himself into wide areas so everything could be fed into Ronaldo centrally. It definitely wasn't a gung-ho 4-2-3-1. Also, the approach looked good at first. Before Eto'o scored we were the better team, won a dangerous free kick and looked like we were rattling Barcelona. However, after Barcelona scored we looked a bit shell shocked. Our plan was clearly to counter at pace and once we had to go chasing the game we seemed not to know what to do, given Barcelona were in a position to just keep the ball from then on and see the game out by passing us to death.

In 2011 we faced a far superior team, the best team we have ever faced. You can argue whether playing our more technical players would have made more of a difference. I don't think it would have but that's separate to Rooney's criticism, which is that we were too attacking. Personally I don't see it. Barcelona were all over us from the first minute. We did well to get level before half time because there was a point where it looked like they might 5-0 us like they did Mourinho's Madrid. However, after half time Barcelona were in total control. The idea that if we'd have just defended more stoutly we might have won doesn't square with my memory. We did defend. They forced us to defend for almost the entire second half and strangled the match.
 
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Raees

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2011 I don’t think we’d have beaten them no matter what we do although I agree a complete backs to the wall job would have had a better chance perhaps of producing a closer scoreline.

2009 we messed up. Cannot believe that Tevez was so badly utilised by Fergie that season and a striker of that ilk is a necessity vs Barcelona. Nani should also have played over Park... we needed quality on the ball.

Scholes should have started over Anderson or Giggs. I’d have risked Rafael over O Shea to give us more of a counter attack threat. I’d have dropped Rooney who was missing from that 2008 win.

VDS
Rafael Rio Vidic Evra
Carrick Scholes
Anderson
Nani Tevez Ronaldo
 

broccoli

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I think it's simple. SAF won it in 2008 with cautious tactics, in a year that the football world was in transition. I remember being surprised seeing Man United playing so defensively against us in Dragao. He stuck to the same formula against Barça and then the final was also a very tough affair. My guess is that after winning 2 UCL he wanted to win it with style, especially after seeing the Pep's Barcelona obliterating any opposition. It may very well have been a case of pride by SAF and I wouldn't condemn him for that. After all he was a romantic and that's why he was so good.

Very few teams in history could go toe-to-toe with that Barcelona. However, for SAF and his legacy, perhaps at that time it was more important to not lose their pride and identity rather than play more cautiously and try to nick a goal or two.
 

Greck

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Never stood a chance in 2011 but we also seemed to use the worst possible set up for even a smash and grab going with our 2 man midfield, which at the time was prone to getting overrun against even some PL sides. As I recall there was also some delusion about how Chicharito was going to run their makeshift defence ragged with his superior poachers' movement. (Mascherano and Pique)

Then Barca players come years later to pour salt on the wound about how it was their favourite games because we stood off and let them do whatever they liked in midfield (we didn't exactly have the personnel to press anyway).

As if having the superior talent wasn't enough they were also a terrible match up for the way our team was constructed. Then the tactics on the day were the cherry on that shit crusted cake. That night was like having your dog die because of the massive optimism we all had before the match
 
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Baneofthegame

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We would of lost the 2011 final no matter how we played, barring a miracle.

09, Barcelona shouldn’t have even been there, but that was certainly a winnable game.
 

POF

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Agree with the comments above. They were 2 completely different approaches.

In 2009 the team was far more compact and if they'd scored early would have had a real chance. Going behind and having to chase the game made it tough.

The set up in 2011 was suicidal. Barca basically had 4 central midfield players in a diamond and United matched them with Carrick, Giggs and Rooney. They got dominated in possession and it was obviously going to happen.

They needed to start with more bodies in midfield. It was a really strange set up tactically.

Saying all of that, I find it quite amusing that Rooney is giving Fergie tactical advice. One of the most tactically indisciplined players to play for the club. It would be like Gerrard giving Pep advice on possession football!
 

Eire Red United

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2009 we were as a good a team but injuries, tactical feck ups and not bothering to turn up in general left it behind. 2011 we were nowhere near their level, only hope would have been to injure Messi in the first 5 minutes and pray.
 

Bobski

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Scholes not starting either of those 2 finals was probably a mistake in hindsight but it was hardly a controversial choice at the time, he had poor seasons by his standards in both those years and Giggs was performing at a high level, especially in Europe.

Have to echo the thoughts that 2009 was close between 2 excellent teams while 2011 was a massacre that we all saw coming, peak Pep Barca against a declining Utd who did very well to get to the final that year.
 

Web of Bissaka

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2011 is wrong tactic but then even if we play defensive + counter-attack, we will still lose anyway. Getting to the final is already a ridiculous amazing achievement with that squad of players. SAF decide to "f-this, it's better we try and be ourselves as United and go out, than play defensive and go out."

2009 is not really, that tactic and selection are still strong enough but from the very start, our players are off their game. I think most of them respect Barca for far too much. SAF is arguably the only one that dare to not and set-up to have a go at them! Being a genuine Manchester United football squad. Naive - yes, but then we're United!

Reaching the final playing defensive is not a problem for SAF but playing that cowardly in final is just...
 

Web of Bissaka

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Hindsight and all that. We could have gone more defensive, and would have lost as well. People and players would then say we are United and should throw the game at them and attack etc...

2009 was more in it, but we lacked the cutting edge and the team didn't show up. Some missing potential key players and tactics could have been different, but we were just poor that night. 2011 we were without a chance. Could have parked the bus but they would have scored most likely with some magic and then dominated until the end anyway.
This!

H 20/20.
 

cyberman

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Drop Hernandez for an extra body in midfield and play Rooney as a false 9 who will work acorss the front line. Drop right on Busquets.
Hindsight says we didnt have a chance but Rooney and Giggs were on fire that year and those were the 2 who created the goal. We went in at 1-1.
Utd winning would have been an upset but it was doable. Its not as if VDS had a lot to do, hell it took a VDS mistake for Messi to give them the lead.
 

Web of Bissaka

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Ronaldo had quite a few chances that I'd seen him bury in the past and we started the game REALLY well. We got sucker punched by Et'o and the unplayable Iniesta and after that they just passed the ball in that carousel they do for the rest of the game.
Also this.

Yeah, Ronaldo's shooting is way off in that game. Not sure if we started well, but it's definitely better than what came next once Eto killed it with that piece of sick mad skills.
 

thepolice123

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The first 15 minutes of 09 CL final we had them on the ropes with some high intensity football. It was Iniesta and Eto'o who came up with a piece of magic to score against the run of play. After that we never really got back into the game.

The 2011 CL we had an incredibly lucky run to the final, our quality was a steep drop from the 09 team and Barca was way stronger and in their absolute peak.
 

Inigo Montoya

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Why did we start Park in midfield and Scholes on the bench?

Then sub Valencia for him when the game was lost? Curious selection to say the least.
 

GazTheLegend

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Why did we start Park in midfield and Scholes on the bench?

Then sub Valencia for him when the game was lost? Curious selection to say the least.
The berbatov one was weird

He was twice as good as Michael Owen but Ferguson stuck Owen on instead.