Champions League Final: battle of the best!
So it’s Manchester United vs Barcelona all over again. Let’s face it: the two giants are probably the best teams in the world and have been for the past years.
It will be United’s 3rd Champions League final in four years and Ferguson’s 4th final of his career. What more can you ask of Sir Alex Ferguson?
As generations come and go, at the end of this season we will probably say goodbye to veterans Scholes and Giggs. A Double would be the perfect swansong for both of them.
Scholes capped 672 appearances for the Red Devils, scoring 150 goals. Take in consideration that he is an asthmatic and has suffered from Osgood-Schlatter disease (e.g. knee condition that affects athletes). Add to that, Zidane’s words that Scholes “is undoubtedly the greatest player of his generation”. Also, remember Henry’s kind words “without any doubt the best player in the Premiership has to be Scholes… He knows how to do everything.”
Even, Xavi took the time to praise Scholes’ contribution to football:
“A role model. For me, and I really mean this, he’s the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years. He’s spectacular, he has it all, the last pass, goals, he’s strong, he doesn’t lose the ball, vision. If he’d been Spanish he might have been rated more highly. Players love him.”
I agree: he is not the disciplined kind of fellow (89 yellow and 4 red cards in the Premier League, 32 bookings in the Champions League, more than any other player in the competition), but his contribution to United’s success is irreplaceable.
As for Giggs, he truly is the best left winger in football’s history. Moreover, in January, Giggs was named United’s greatest ever player. My only regret is that he is Welsh. If he had been English, he would have played in a World Cup and perhaps England would have won another World Cup.
On Tuesday, United secured a place in the final, beating underdogs Schalke 2-0 thanks to goals from Giggs and Rooney and now they prepare for the final clash against Barcelona. The Red Devils will be looking to avenge the loss in the 2009 Champions League final, when Barcelona won 2-0 thanks to goals from Eto’o and Messi.
I thing Barcelona have an advantage. While Los Cules have practically won the La Liga title, United must battle against Arsenal (at Emirates) and Chelsea (at Old Trafford), in order to win this year’s Premier League title. Sir Alex’s lads are favorites to win it, as they enjoy a 6 points lead with 4 games left to play for. But they have to battle for it more intense than Barcelona have to. This waste of energy could be an advantage for the Catalan giants.
Los Cules managed to defeat arch-rivals Real Madrid and especially their prodigal son, Jose Mourinho. Only a miracle will help Los Blancos qualify. The way I see it, Cristiano and Co. have absolutely no chance of booking a place in the final.
Speaking about the showdown at Berbabeu, I have mixed feelings. Barcelona are no doubt the best (or the second best should United win) team in the world. Their fantasy attacking style is everything I have craved for in football. Perfect attacking football. EA Sports should take note for their Fifa 12 game. Brilliant!
Yet, last night, Barcelona focused on the win not the show. They did not impress against Real Madrid although I expected them to. But in football a win is a win and I’ll always take that.
As for Los Blancos, they were awful really. I couldn’t believe their ultra-defensive attitude. Their greatest goal scoring opportunity came from Cristiano’s boots. And that’s pretty much it. Add to that three awful free-kicks and that’s their game last night.
I had the feeling I was watching a chess game rather a football match. No disrespect, I know that they have already tried to attack Barcelona at Camp Nou and conceded 5. But, two weeks ago at Bernabeu, a 10-man Real Madrid were amazing. That’s the spirit I wanted to see last night from Jose’s men.
Without intention to fuel the controversy around the referee’s so called helping hand given to Barcelona, I cannot understand what was in Pepe’s mind. It was an awful decision to tackle like that. In a Champions League semifinal, you cannot give a referee the slightest reason to send you off. Especially against a team like Barcelona. Perhaps the game would have ended 0-0 if Pepe hadn’t seen the red card. We will never know. What I do know is that I am disappointed by Real’s attitude towards football. This is Real Madrid, not Almeria!
Napoleon once said that ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step’ and he was right. If Real had won, everybody would have been praising Jose’s master plan. Real lost and it was a ridiculous display by them. This time the Portuguese got it wrong and Barca won. That’s football: one must win and one must lose.
Real deservedly lost. Next year, with the help of several new players, Real Madrid have a chance of winning the trophy. If Mourinho stays (he is the 11th manager in seven years at Real Madrid)! Should Perez look elsewhere, perhaps it would be best to choose between Wenger and Guus Hiddink (to please the fans’ offensive appetite). It would be wrong to sack Mourinho though. The guy is a genius. An evil genius, if you like, but a genius nonetheless.
I am not competent to cricise Mourinho for last night’s game but, as a football fan, I would have liked Kaka play. His passing and creativity would have helped Real. Leaving Kaka outside the football pitch reminded me of Ancelotti’s decision not to play Rivaldo in the final of the 2003 Champions League against Juventus. A sad day for football.
Now, everything is lost for Los Blancos. They could regain respect by playing attacking football at Camp Nou. What I would like to see at Camp Nou is a Real Madrid with Kaka, Ozil, Cristiano, Higuain. It really doesn’t matter now if Barcelona score 6. Should you lose 1-0 or 6-0 it is the same thing. Mourinho must attack. For the club’s wounded pride.
I consider Real’s defensive attitude at the Bernabeu, the greatest compliment in Barcelona’s history. Don’t you?
As I previously said in my last article, should Messi be unshackled, Barcelona will qualify. “Harry Potter” Messi scored two goals against Los Cules’ fiercest rivals in the semifinal of the Champions League. Add to that, the other 50 goals scored and 23 assists provided this season and there you have it: the world’s greatest player!
As far as I know, Pele managed to score more in one season. Back then in the late 50’s and the 60’s. Time of romantic football. And Super Mario Jardel, once with Porto (54) and once with Sporting (55), but that’s another story.
Messi is truly amazing. Providing us fans with cornucopia of goals is something fantastic. I will mention his name to my nephews when the time comes. He is the favorite to win a third consecutive Ballon D’or (now called the Fifa Ballon D’or after the merger of France Football’s Ballon D’or and Fifa World Player of the Year awards). Only Platini achieved this feat during 1983-1985, playing for Juventus.
One thing though: Messi showcased electric displays at the Bernabeu, still only Maradona and Ronaldinho were given a standing ovation by Real’s exigent fans.
As a conclusion:
I cannot wait for the final. Despite being a Los Cules fan since 1994 (the time of Romario, Stoichkov and Hagi), rooting for players like Rivaldo, Riquleme, my beloved Ronaldinho and Messi, I think I will be United’s fan at Wembley. As much as I enjoy watching Barcelona’s exquisite fantasy football, as much as I adore Lionel Messi, I will be United’s fan.
As I child, I grew fond of British football. I still cherish the Premier League, more than Serie A or La Liga and probably always will. I loved that Giggs – Keane, Scholes – Beckham midfield, I was a huge fan of Dennis Bergkamp (one of the greatest foreign players to grace the English game) and Liverpool’s golden boy, Michael Owen. I cheered for Liverpool in that epic 3-3 final against Milan, calling Gerrard the greatest captain I’ve ever seen. Believe it or not, my favorite team in the world is QPR!
For all the joy British football has offered me, I will support United to win this year’s Champions League final. I will cheer for Sir Alex, for Giggs, for Rooney, for those wonderful British fans. But I will not be disappointed should Messi score. He has given me and my friends (especially Laura) so many fantastic memories. And he’s only 23!
It will be an interesting duel between Sir Alex and Pep Guardiola. Unfortunately, only one of the two will be victorious. Will Sir Alex Ferguson be the winner?
P.S. Rumor has it that Sir Alex plans to sign Sneijder of Inter to replace Paul Scholes. If it were up to me, I would definitely go with Kaka. Don’t you agree?
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