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Man United v Barca – Team Selection Dilemma

Finally Fergie Knows his Strongest XI… It has been said since the treble winning side of ’99 was dismantled that Sir Alex did not know his strongest starting XI. There was endless debate between fans and pundits alike as to how they would pick the Manchester United team.

In recent years the back five has tended to pick itself and midfield has provided the toughest nut to crack. The performance against Chelsea was truly outstanding and saw Fergie hit the nail on the head. With the exception of left-back, where Patrice Evra was missing, and a possible selection for Fletcher in the centre, I would put any amount of money on Fergie picking the same team at Wembley.

Edwin Van Der Sar is guaranteed to start his final game between the posts for United against Barcelona. His greatest moment in a United shirt came in the 2008 final in Moscow as he saved Anelka’s penalty to secure the trophy for United and it would be fitting to see the big Dutchman lift the famous trophy again before he sails off into the sunset. Van Der Sar has been awesome for United. Many saw him as a short term solution when he signed from Fulham in 2005 but he has had 6 terrific seasons in Manchester and many argue he could go on for more.

Van Der Sar is the complete keeper, his all round game is top notch and he made some crucial saves against Chelsea, he will be worked against Barca and United fans be assured Van Der Sar will not disappoint.

Patrice Evra is likely to play at left back and will have an intriguing battle against Dani Alves. Evra has the pace to deal with Alves’ natural attacking instincts and his own runs into Barca territory should keep Alves modest and ensure that the Brazilian is kept on his toes at all times. Some say that Evra’s form has dipped this season but in a final like this he would be one of the first names on my team sheet. The Frenchman never lets the side down and his pace could be crucial on the break against the Spanish Champions.

At right back it is hard to look past John O’Shea. Rafael has been out for the past few weeks and both he and his brother Fabio are probably going to see O’Shea’s big game experience and temprement become the deciding factor. Often ridiculed for his modest ability O’Shea has been solid without being outstanding throughout his United career and his height is also a big advantage at set-pieces. United are going to have to be solid defensively and cannot afford to make any slip-ups, John O’Shea is the man for the job.

At centre-half there is no discussion. Ferdinand and Vidic are without doubt the best central defensive partnership in the world. If anyone has any chance of keeping Messi, Villa & Co. under control surely it is these two.

Unfortunately for Nani, who has been top class this season, I think Fergie has to pick Valencia and Park on the wings. Valencia absolutely destroyed Ashley Cole in Old Trafford. Cole has been heralded as the worlds best left back for many years now and I have never seen him beaten as easily as he was in the title decider on Sunday. With Ji Sung Park you know what you’re going to get, 110%. Park ran and ran and ran against Chelsea and while Valencia provides the width, . Park tucks inside and helps his central midfielders. This will be crucial when we come up against Messrs Xavi and Iniesta. Park is hugely valuable to the United midfield.

In the centre Giggs and Carrick have performed very well in what have been massive games over the last month or so. Surely these two have put themselves ahead of Scholes, Anderson and Gibson in the pecking order for a starting place at Wembley. The only other option is Darren Fletcher. Fletch missed out in 2009 and Fergie has lamented his absence ever since. His combative style is ideal to try to negate Xavi and Iniesta and Fergie might have memories of Giggs being overrun in Rome in 2009. However Fletch has been out through illness for two months and at one point had lost two stone. While he has put the weight back on he is in a race against time to prove he is ready for the showpiece in London.

Upfront it will be Chicharito, the first United player to score 20 goals in his debut season since goal machine Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who partners Wayne Rooney upfront. Hernandez has been a breath of fresh air this season and has managed to restrict Premier League top scorer Dimitar Berbatov to a bit part role in recent weeks. The Mexican has dove-tailed with Rooney beautifully and both seem to be enjoying playing together.

Chicharito plays on the last man stretching the defence and forcing them to play deep due to his electric pace which has opened up acres of space between the opposition’s defence and midfield which Rooney can drop back into to pull the strings like a true number 10.

Fergie has opted for five across the middle in all the big games in recent seasons. In pairing Hernandez with Rooney upfront he loses a man in the centre. When you play against sides like Barca and Chelsea who play with three in the centre this can be a massive gamble. To offset this risk Ferguson has opted to play the harder working players like Park and Valencia which has led to Nani being forced onto the bench. It is an unbelievable compliament to the little Mexican that Sir Alex has shuffled his cards in this fashion to fit him in. It is also a major plus for United to be able to rely on the likes on Nani, Berbatov, Scholes and Anderson coming off the bench.

Barcelona is going to be a massive game and it will be very tough to topple the Spaniards. However this United team have a work ethic and attitude like no other. They are producing top notch performances at the right time and they fear nobody. With Sir Alex pulling the strings anything is possible and I would not be surprised if the Great Scot and his team pull off another famous victory in Wembley.

Submitted by Glory Glory Man Utd

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