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Would Hargreaves Have Made a Difference v Barca?

As Manchester United stood on that Wembley pitch at the end of a long, tiresome, punishing 90 minutes, their knees would have been quivering and their teeth gritted at the sight of Barcelona once again lifting the Champions League trophy at their expe…

As Manchester United stood on that Wembley pitch at the end of a long, tiresome, punishing 90 minutes, their knees would have been quivering and their teeth gritted at the sight of Barcelona once again lifting the Champions League trophy at their expense. Of course, United accept that the Spanish Champions deserved it and were better on the night, but they would have been wondering as they stood there with bitten lips and exhausted bodies, what exactly they could have done differently.

The battle, the pundits said, would be in the middle, in the midfield. Whoever wins that battle would win the game. On paper there was only one winner, and in practice that proved to be too true. Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs are very good footballers in their own right, but if Manchester United wanted to prevent Messi from weaving his magic as well as Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and Pedro all wreaking havoc, they needed some players, or at least one play with the capability of breaking it up before the last line of defence.

It was just unfortunate that possibly the only man in the Manchester United team who could have done this job effectively and to a high standard had not played 90 minuted in the United kit all season and had recently been confirmed as released by the club because of his fitness. Yes, that man is Owen Hargreaves, and yes, I believe that if he was fully fit and deployed in his defensive midfield position behind Carrick and Giggs, the game would have panned out differently, and possibly better for Manchester United.

The fact of the matter is, Lionel Messi had too much time and space to unleash the shot for his goal and Barcelona’s second and effectively, their winner. It killed off an already weary United side who had been chasing all game. Imagine if Hargreaves was playing, and imagine, would Messi have been allowed that time – the time he needed to pull his magic little foot back and pull the trigger? The shot was a pretty average one, and one that the retiring van der Sar will be slightly disappointed about not saving, but the answer to the question is no. Hargreaves would not have allowed Messi that time to shoot.

Think then, about David Villa’s absolutely beautiful goal to seal the victory. There was nothing the goalkeeper could have done about this one, unless he had stood next to his post as if somehow possessing the ability to see into the future to see where the shot was going. That goal was placed with finesse that sums Barcelona up well, but what sums Owen Hargreaves up is his gritty, hard-working, tireless attitude, and the definite ability to stop Villa from having that space to shoot.

With a more compact midfield, including that defensive midfielder, which could have perhaps been played by the ever energetic young Anderson or maybe only in the second half due to illness, Darren Fletcher, Manchester United may have fared better than a few small bursts forward.

United have excellent capabilities when attacking themselves, but after pressing, pushing and chasing for pretty much the whole game, the tired legs and tired minds against the energy of the greatly unchallenged defence and covering midfield, of Barcelona, only a very well worked goal could be managed.

The endless chasing meant that when they had the ball, the only player left already up field was Hernandez, and so only a hopeful long pass was managed to him which got lost on the bounce or lost in the forest of Barcelona defenders. When United got the ball on the floor to pass it, Barcelona, who had not been pressing to the extent of United, could easily take the ball and press further down the pitch. With an insurance policy in the guard in front of the United back four, Sir Alex would have seen his side win the ball back faster and keep the ball more to allow for a better attacking and defensive option.

What I am saying is, there were two very avoidable goals conceded by Manchester United, and if there were a defensive midfielder deployed in place of a largely ineffective Javier Hernandez, United would have fared better. The argument is based on “ifs” and “buts”, however, “if” Sir Alex wants to come back next year and win the Champions League like he undoubtedly does, then he needs to find or nurture a player in that position.

Barcelona were the better side, and overall deserved to win the prestigious trophy for the fourth time in their history, but they are by no means unbeatable. United and other top teams will come back fighting next year as Barca seek to defend their crown, and though it will take some doing, it will be done.

Tell me what you think!

Submitted by DBSFootball




  1. Amandeep

    May 30, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I do agree with you. Hargreaves’ absence has been a very big loss for us. When he left Germany for United, IMO he was the best CDM around. His fitness over the last 3 years could have meant 3 PL titles and 2 CL titles for United, but that was not to be, and now the one of the best CDM will leave United.

  2. steven111

    May 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Utter tripe. You will never match them and have never beaten them. In 2008 you played against a vastly different team one completely on the decline which finished 19 pts behind Madrid.

    Every team that has played the game has lost so saying they are beatable is a trivial and obvious as saying you are a deluded Utd fan. They are vitually impossible to beat fairly(watch Inter amd Madrid victories to see key decisions go against them)in the big games.

    Mate you can not compete simply as because not one of your players would get in Barca’s, not a single. Rio, Vidic and Evra were shown up as overrated against top class. Rooney and Hernadez were out of their depth at this high high level. Rooney’s technique on countless occasions let him down and conceded possession. Just saying though he scored a great goal.

    We have 7, yes 7 world cup winners in our team plus Messi, plus Alves and Abidal and plus Valdes. All world class performers.

    I clearly know what type of football fan you are; one that only watches the Pl and big CL matches. You don’t watch the best league in the world La Liga and Barca every weak because you are not a true love of the game. They gave you the ultimate footballing lesson and humiliated you on the greatest club stage. You will come back and beat them. My ass you will. Not a single team can because right now they are the greatest team of all time.

    • DBSFootball

      May 31, 2011 at 3:00 am

      Oh dear, my cringe reflexes are worn out reading this aggressive, over the top reaction.
      Just a quick thing:
      You say that my point that Barcelona are beatable is “obvious” and then you precede to needlessly attack me, yet at the end of the comment, you say this:
      “You will come back and beat them. My ass you will. Not a single team can because right now they are the greatest team of all time.”

      Just a slight contradiction.

      As for the rest of it, I thank you for your time making the comment, but you obviously did not read the article but just saw the title and presumed what I was trying to say.
      Next time you get on your high horse about your beloved Barcelona, maybe you should consider the points being made rather than create an argument out of nothing.

  3. steven111

    May 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Every single goal ever conceded is avoidable #stating the obvious again. United’s only shot on goals was avoidable.

    What about the 13 other killer chances we had. We could have won 6-1 and it wouldn’t have flattered us. Fletcher and Hargreves? One is a average Scottish international with the technique and Robert Huth while the other is an average England international at best. The top class countries as producing world class players right?

    You are an excuse maker and the dirtiest kind just like that sycophant of SSN James Cooper. Runts. Mate you could play with 13 players, inc Hargreves and Fletcher and you would dtill get thumped. Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and Messi would take you to the cleaners every single time. That’s best centre midfiled/attacking quarter ever. We had 70% os the ball. You had 1 shot on target. Suppose that is good going seeing as Arsenal had 0 at Camp Nou. Well done.

    Mate you are part of a culture that bigs up your national team into World class superstars and you never win.

    United are not failures. The failures are those who did not reach the final. But let’s not be deluded and ignorant here Barca are out of your league. Did you look at your team walking through the Barca guard who were applauding. There was a acknowledgement of inferiority on every one of United’s faces even Fergies. You are in the presence of greatness.

    BTW Who the fuck are Hargreves and Fletcher? They would even get passed of the park faster than Park and Carrick. For goodness sake you are the biggest hypocrite. If Flect and Hargreves were fit and played and couldn’t near them you would say they were unfit and Park should have been in the team for his boundless energy. Simple as Barca are about as far ahead of United as I am ahead of you in writing abilities. You are dishonest and deluded. Pleas watch the game again, this time dispassionately.

    • hL7

      May 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      I don’t see why you have to be so aggressive. The writer clearly acknowledged that Barcelona is the better team and deserved their victory. He was simply pondering what could happen if Owen Hargreaves – England’s most valuable player at the 2006 world cup and a very capable defensive midfielder, played in this game. You really are one massive dickhead, Steven.

  4. harpheeze of man utd

    May 30, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    of course u are right. It will be somehow disgusting if i should condemn the coach tactics, but mind u, a young coach like morinho will take the match like a war rather than giving barca an easy win without stress. I’ve repeated it several times that 4-5-1 will work and after that fortunate 1st half he should have sub chicarito with nani coming in to 7 an valencia back to midfield since he’s being breaking barca’s play, a packed midfield, nani can dribble any body, has ball control, great skills, passing, shot power, i bet all will be useful in counter attacking them. But the manager does not want to pack bus. Too much of policies, dignity whatsoever. That’s the reward. It pains me but i’m not depressed, their naughty xavi only plays most of his much passes back and side ways to fustrate our players.

  5. steven111

    May 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Anderson is clueless and technically shit

  6. harpheeze of man utd

    May 30, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    u must be be out of ur mind to post such a mad comment, the writter is reasonable unlike u a mere mindless reader. Mind u if he only watches EPL matches, he writes on a great EPL team ‘man u’. Feast are bound to end. No doubt, barca are reigning with those stupid pass back and sides to frustrate opponent, in the absence of messi in d world cup they managed to win 1-0 in their matches. A day will come when messi is no more useful and ur manager will cry as Frank Rijkaard did when ronaldinho is not useful and he’s sacked after losing 4-1 to real. It will come. Enjoy now, u will be doomed along ur f*cking team.

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