Manchester United: Will The Red’s march on?
By Andy Taylor.
Just under twelve months ago, Manchester United lost the Champions League title to a Barcelona side who most would agree deserved the win. They cleaned up in the Spanish League and Cup and triumphed on the biggest stage of them all playing attractive football and winning many plaudits. The Catalan giants, managed by their former captain Pepe Guardiola, completed his fairytale while crushing Sir Alex Ferguson’s dream of winning back to back European Titles. This time around I can see things being very different.
Last year Manchester United lost Darren Fletcher to a sending off in the semi-finals. A sending off that even the anti Man Utd groups could see was harsh at the least and diabolical at the most. Ronaldo was already thinking about what kind of suncream he should buy for his impending move to Madrid, even though he loved United and was staying, yeah, and Anderson yet again showed that he only shows up when he wants to.
Not that I’m using any of these as an excuse for the loss in Rome. Even Sir Alex admitted afterwards that Barca were deserving winners, but if the two face off in the Bernabeu on the 22nd of May i can see things being a bit different.
I don’t see Barca having any trouble getting past an Arsenal team that have been inconsistent this season, even if they have been playing well recently, and they have enough to get past ‘The Special One” and his Inter team who should ease past CSKA.
United have a tricky tie in Bayern Munich but with it looking like Frank Ribery is leafing through brochures of where to move to in the summer, as well as Schweinsteiger seemingly doing the same, I can’t see United going out. Bordeaux should also get through their quarter final tie, but again shouldn’t have enough to seriously trouble United, which brings us to the possible rematch of last year.
Rooney, who is in blistering form, is now playing as a centre forward instead of out on the left like last year, and is getting great service from Valencia who is less greedy and a harder working player than Ronaldo, although not as flashy and skillful. Fletcher in the middle is in the form of his life, with the evergreen Giggs who will be back from injury, Ji Sung Park who has more energy and running in him than a border collie chasing sheep, and who has started to finally add finishing to his game. Carrick and Hargreaves, if he can continue on his way back from the knee troubles that have blighted him for the last two years, will also be fighting for a place. The defence is again looking as strong as ever and in recent games, Berbatov has actually started to run and actually make an effort, will it last?
Barcelona are much the same team as last year. Messi is as good as ever and with Ibrahimovic and Henry up front with him, they are always dangerous. Xavi and Iniesta are still impressive in midfield as well. Their achilles heel though is still their defence. Puyol is ageing, and Valdes has never been the most convincing keeper in the world. Yaya Toure is attracting attention from his brothers team Man City as well as Chelsea and Arsenal, so his mind might not be fully on the job and Pique could never force his way into United’s defence.
So will Barcelona break the Red Army’s hearts again in the rivals backyard? I’ve got to say no. Rooney and Messi playing in the positions they were born to play in will be an impressive sight, and both teams will play attractive, flowing football, but with United’s killer counter attacks and the seemingly endless supplies of energy on both wings from Park and Valencia and the immovable objects of Ferdinand, Vidic and Van Der Sar, I can’t see Manchester United losing. There are less week points than last year, the only ones really are the right back slot and if Carrick and Berbatov turn up to the party.
So roll on May 22nd the first Saturday evening final, and hopefully the great trophy will be coming back down Sir Matt Busby Way once again, but with a parade this time hopefully!!