Manchester United and Barcelona are set to clash at Wembley with the biggest prize in club football on the line, making it a rematch of the 09’ Champions League Final. Barcelona ended up running away with a 2-0 victory in 09’, but United are looking to return the favor.
Believe all the hype as this Champions League Final will be showcasing, arguably, the two best clubs in the world. Both clubs have respectably won their domestic leagues in fashion and will field some of the world’s top players. Although, Barcelona are the favorites, I wouldn’t bet against Manchester United.
United comes into the final as a more complete team compared to their 2009 squad. Since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, many criticized Manchester’s lack of “flair and flash”, but that has only made them better. The team possesses the ball much better and attacks as a unit; not individually. With other players having to step-up, it has made the Red Devils unpredictable.
Upending Barcelona will be no easy task, but Manchester has a very capable squad. Barcelona loves putting heavy offensive pressure on their opponents, so United’s best defense will be to attack right back. In my opinion, Manchester played too defensive minded in 09’. They are led by their superstar, Wayne Rooney, who has been on a Champions League tear. His pairing with Hernandez has created a dynamic goal-scoring duo. These two strikers must finish their opportunities. They cannot leave goals off the board.
The biggest challenge for United will be the midfield. Barcelona’s midfield loves to pass teams to death; therefore United’s need to contain their opposition. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes must be able to control the middle and hold possession. Also, Nani must make his presence on the wing. He has the capability of taking you off the dribble and putting pressure on your defense. These three players can stretch your midfield vastly. The midfield will be critical as it will dictate the shape of either team.
Tactically, I would like to see United play more offensive minded and put the pressure on Barca early. Manchester usually plays defensive minded in Champions League competition, but in my opinion they are going to need to switch it up here. If United let’s Barca settle into their half, they will eventually give up goal. The best defense for an attacking team is to attack right back. Put the pressure on their defense instead of yours. Barcelona’s defense is nothing special, the problem is, they never get tested. Let’s see how they respond with the pressure on them for a change.
Barcelona has been the best team in the world over the past two years and with this Champions League victory, they could very well be a dynasty. Their relentless attack has absolutely destroyed teams (just ask Real Madrid). The Spanish side may very well be the best passing team any club as ever seen.
Even though the Catalans are the favorites, they mustn’t take United lightly. United defense enters the final as the best defense in the tournament. They have yet to give up an away goal and with the game being in Wembley, it is basically a home game for Manchester. Barcelona will need to dictate the midfield if they want to breakdown this defense. Players like Rio Ferdinad and Emanja Vidic will make life frustrating for strikers. Xavi and Iniesta will need to switch the ball from side to side to open up some space in between United’s defense.
Defensively, Barcelona will need to be physical with Rooney and Hernandez. Rooney is no slouch and given the opportunity, he will knock you around. Barca will need to put a body on him at all times, and not let him get into open space. His versatility as a goal-scorer and assist-man will come alive if given time on the ball. Not only do you have to look out for Wayne, but you must contain Giggs and Scholes. Those savvy vets have all the tricks in the book and can still burn you despite their age. Giggs has had a say in majority of United’s goals in this competition. He is one guy you don’t want with the ball in space because he will not miss a teammate in scoring position.
Tactically, I would expect Barcelona to play as they always do; possession. They are going to pass you to death until you make a critical mistake. With all eyes on Messi, look for other players to make runs off of him into open space. He might be more of a decoy in this one.
Manchester United 2 -1 Barcelona
United comes out on top with the home crowd behind them.
Player of the Match
Edwin van der Sar, Manchester United, GK
His last game in a United jersey turns out to be a big one.