Date: 5th May 2011 at 6:00pm
Written by:

Manchester United Barcelona Rome

Can The Reds avoid a repeat of Rome?

There are easier tasks than this. Finding a way to beat one of the best teams ever to walk onto a football pitch is not easy but Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United team must find a way of doing that if they are to lift the European Cup at Wembley.

These are my propositions providing everyone is fit and available.

First things first, United win the defensive battle. If Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are fit then that will be a huge boost. United have only conceded four goals all competition, half than Barca, so there’s already reason to be in confident mood.

But here’s the conundrum: How do you stifle that Barcelona midfield but attack them at the same time.

The best way to get at Barcelona is down the wings with pace, so I would definitely start Antonio Valencia on the right. His pace, crossing, dribbling ability, defensive work and finishing would cause any team problems.

On the left I’d have Park Ji Sung, purely for his tenacity and longevity. He can harry and hassle that Barcelona midfield all night long while others take advantage of the space that it creates. Park did this supremely well in the first leg against Chelsea and it proved vital.

The dilemma left is who and how many you play in central midfield to stem that unbelievably strong Barca midfield as well as having enough players to go forward and create chances for yourself.

You can attack….

One way to go about it would be to sacrifice a central midfielder and play Rooney off Hernandez with Giggs and Carrick in the middle. This may be a risky strategy against a team with Barcelona’s prowess in midfield but it would give United more attacking options, something which Arsenal suffered badly from when they played Barcelona in the Nou Camp.

In that game, Robin Van Persie was completely stranded up front and had very little support from the Arsenal midfield, thus allowing Barcelona to take control and continue to attack wave after wave. With Rooney playing behind Hernandez, you would not have the same problem because Rooney would act as the linkup man between the midfield and attack.

The problem this leaves, though, is the vulnerability of the midfield. When you have the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta up against you, you need all the midfielders you can get. However, Arsenal used a similar lineup to this at the Emirates and it paid off as they won the game 2-1, albeit courtesy of some wayward Barcelona finishing.

If you were to play this team then the key would be to score first and take a lead into the second half where you can then use your replacements to hold onto that lead.

My bench would be: Kuszack, O’Shea, Smalling, Fletcher, Scholes, Anderson, Berbatov. If United were leading on the hour mark then I would bring Fletcher on for Hernandez and play a five-man midfield with Rooney up top on his own. I’d also be inclined to bring the anergy of Anderson on for Giggs.

Or you can pack the midfield and sit back…

I think this strategy would prove successful in preventing Barcelona’s making forward progress. The energy and tenacity of Fletcher, Anderson and Park would stifle that midfield but the problem you have is who would support Rooney up front.

If you were to do this then I’d also consider to perhaps start Nani ahead of Park, purely for his attacking outlet and ability to create something out of nothing. But his lack of defensive qualities would count against him.

This choice of lineup would force you to flood the bench with attacking options, the likes of Berbatov and Hernandez would have to be there.

My choice…

My starting XI would be somewhere in the middle, you need the energy in the midfield but you can’t afford not to have an attacking outlet. The other key decision is who to start at right back; John O’Shea or Rafael Da Silva. I’d edge towards O’Shea, purely for his experience.

I also feel that Giggs has to start. He maybe getting on a bit but a man with two Champions League’s winners medals cannot be left out. He was the star of the show against Chelsea and the United midfield can look lost without him. I’d start him behind Rooney so he can play the free role, linking up between the striker and midfield.

Bench: Kuzsack, Smalling, Fabio, Anderson, Scholes, Nani, Hernandez.

Having conceded four less goals than Barcelona in the competition and gone unbeaten so far, there are plenty of encouraging signs for United fans as we look ahead to a European Cup final against the mighty Barcelona at Wembley. And it does not get better than that.



50 responses to “How United Can Beat The Mighty Barcelona”

  1. Steven R says:

    The English seem to get particularly incensed when a player goes down looking for a foul and trying to get an opponent booked for a dirty tackle. It’s a cultural thing and English culture compared with all other countries is fairly basic and primitive.

    I never retracted my belief that they were the best trio in midfield ever. Of course Xavi and Iniesta are superior to Busquets but he is incredibly talented. If you watched him in La Liga you would see that the play-acting is very seldom and only comes out in the face of strong-arm tactics. I do not like to see it BTW.

    Anyway Manchester have bigger cheats than Barca. Vidic cynically handballing Walcott cross preventing Van Persie scoring is way worse than Busquets falling to ground easily. He stopped a likely goal and didn’t get sent off. Rooney has history of diving to earn penalties. And Nani …
    Seems you view is very blinkered.

    In England Shawcross can rip Ramsey’s leg in half. Martin Taylor can separate Eduardo’s foot from his ankle and they can sympathy. This is cheating on a way sickening and far worse scale. Diving is not the only form of cheating. This culture is perverted.

    • Ezra says:

      You keep arguing how good your Barca team is. Check out the UEFA Club ranking stats. Man utd is still number .1 six years running. On your face with your Xavi and iniesta. Our Carrick and Fletcher made Man utd number 1.

  2. ithebruce says:

    Greece were european champions in 2004,Denmark won the same trophy in 1999,Sunderland beat leeds in the 1973 cup final,and Slovan beat…..let me think? Oh yes Barcalona in the 1969 cup winners cup final,i wonder Steven,which teams you would have predicted?

    • Steven R says:

      Well I don’t take your point because these are the exceptions: the unexpected winners whom slipped under the radar and because of ignorance were cast as no hopers but were really adept or had a mountainous amount of luck. The favourites normally win. For every Greece triumph there is a 5 Spanish, Italian ones.

      Barcelona are widely held to be the better team. So either we are all wrong and Manchester prove it at Wembley or they get lucky and win. Could happen. Very sure it won’t. I’ll trust my judgment. The MVP with Xavi and Inietsa supplying will be too much to handle.

  3. Paul H says:

    It will be a more one-sided final than last years final between Inter & Munich. 0-0 at half time. 3-0 full time to Barcelona. Pretty anticlimatic really…. well for United fans anyway.

  4. ithebruce says:

    It is,nt suprising that you do,nt take my point,but these examples are the most surprising,but there are many instances were the favourite does,nt win,it is normal human behaviour to jump on the bandwagon and portray man as machine(many films do this),but Barca are humans,thier display in the first leg at Madrid showed that the cup defeat to Morinho,s team had rattled them,and as a result some of thier players were a disgrace,and of course the red card changed everything,it definitly suggested to me that should things start to go wrong,they could quite easily lose the plot.

    • Steven R says:

      They won 2-0 against the second best side in Europe thanks to the genius of Messi. You get players sent off when you employ those tactics. That’s the disadvantage.

  5. ithebruce says:

    I don’t suppose that you saw the red card as contentious then?, and both goals came after the sending off, where was the genius before?the simple fact was that the tactics were working,i am a big fan of Barca’s style and didn’t think much of Madrid’s approach, but it was working, every team has its Achilles heel,it’s up to the opposition to find it, and Mourinho has.

    • Steven R says:

      Mou has lost. So it hardly worked. He relies largely on luck against Barca. In the Copa del rey final Barca could have won. The red card was justified. Others could have gone. Carvalho, Pep and Arbeloa. Barca were content to probe and wait in first half. It wasn’t like bam Pepe sent off then Barca have easy win. Messi goals were fantastic. It’s possible to win with 10 men you know. Pepe deserved to go. Studs up challenge into shin. No choice. If you play that way then you run the risk of getting players sent off. You can;t then turn around and say it was unfair. Mou and Real played illegally against Barca in many of the mathces. Look at last match. Adebayor should have gone. Carvalho also. Diarra made 8 fouls in the game and was not even booked. 8 fouls pretty much justifies a red no matter the nature of the fouls.

  6. ithebruce says:

    Thats a big list of players,yet none from barca?are they angels?,what about trying to con the referee?,holding your face when no contact has been made,is’nt that a card?,how can you then accuse mourinho and Madrid of illegal play without pointing out barca,s?,you are a fan but it should’nt blind you,Barca are not a paticulaly physical side because they do not have those kind of players,but its not ballet its football,and lets not forget which manager won the champions league last season,and which team he beat.

  7. Steven R says:

    Who is more to blame the bully in the playground who throws sand in the nerd’s face or the nerd who retaliates by launching a spade at the bully’s head. The majority would say the bully.

    Yes I agree Busquets holding his face is not nice to see. But diving and play-acting is not worse than illegal and dangerous tackling. Look at Charlie Adam today, Shawcross ripping Ramsey leg in two, or Taylor separating Eduardo foot from ankle. Not a word said in the media about it. They should all have been vilified.Disgraceful stuff. Rather a diver than a thug I say.

    No chance Barca or United giving us a game like that at the Bernabeu. Respect man.

  8. ithebruce says:

    The voice of the seige mentality,they started it,we are the victims, what can the media say?can you honestly say in the examples you mention,they were deliberate?its a contact sport or perhaps like Wenger,would prefer a game without tackles?Arsenal have suffered more than most,but Wenger prefers small and quick players,meaning they are more likely to suffer against bigger players when tackled,its good to be a virtuoso piano player,but you still need someone to carry it.

    • Steven R says:

      In 99 cases out of 100 Barca do not dive and play act. It does not matter whether a tackle has deliberate intent attacked to it. The drink driver who accidently kills another driver is not absolved from any blame simply because it was accidental. The same goes for tackling. If it is dangerous or reckless it is deserving of a red card.

      I am all for fair tackling and certainly not from Wenger’s school of non-contact. I often laugh at him. If you don’t want physical contact then go and be the manager of a tennis team Arsene.

      The point is that Barcelona play-act in the face of strong-arm tactics. If you would rather see Charlie Adam though trying to snap Bale’s(Pl player of the year) ankle then good for you. Don’t compare Arsenal( Little girls) to Barcelona though. They can stand up for themselves.

      Again I repeat there are many different types of cheating and it is unfair to pick on Barca because they deliberately go down when they see an advantage accruing. Taylor-Fletcher did it yesterday for Blackpool. It happens in the PL as well. When should the offender get all the benefits. Nothing wrong with going down when there is contact. Barca try and play football. If a team is using unfair tactics against them surely one would want Barca to prevail regardless of whether they play-act. The British people are the only race in the world who get incensed by diving, yet support the players who break legs like Shawcross. That is perverted.

  9. ithebruce says:

    The British get incensed about diving because it is CHEATING!,as i said if you can,t prove intent,a bad tackle is an HONEST!attempt to win the ball,its not cheating,although the results may be catastrophic,there is no perversion, as i also pointed out barca do’nt behave like that when they feel they have a measure of control,mourinho rattled them,they fear him,that is why they behaved that way,they will do so again if things go against them in the final,as they showed it is in thier nature,not a result of being “forced to cheat”

  10. Steven R says:

    I wouldn’t say thrashing his team 5-0 at Camp Nou and having an overall winning record against him indicates that they fear him. He is just an scumbag football coach who annoys the fuck out of them.

    Cheating happens in many different guises and should not be limited to diving and certainly not to one team that you clearly hate because they are the best. Shirt pulling and illegal tackles which seek an advantage in an unfair way are by their definitions cheating. Why are you not equally appalled by this? It is not any more honest than Busquets’s diving. Charlie Adam had intent in his attempt to snap Bale’s ankle = cheating on a perverse and sick level. Vidic handball on RVP was way worse than the antics of the Barca players at Bernabeu becuase he deliberately and illegally cheated to prevent a goal and himself getting punished .Roy Keane on Alfie Haaland. He ended his career for goodness sake. He should have been put in jail. This is worse than a few Barca players exaggerating their injuries? Get real. Honestly just listen to yourself. How can you honestly argue against anything I have said in the passage above. Cheating is not limited to Barca players falling over easily to gain an advantage. Cheating happens in every team in football included your beloved Manchester United. Nani and Rooney have records of diving worse than any current Barca players. Go look up Youtube if you don’t believe me.

    The general consensus from intelligent and informed football people(of whom I do not consider you amongst) was that Real did not try to play football against Barca and sought to foul them constantly. Some of the challenges were really nasty and were off the ball. Pepe raked Messi’s achilles deleberately in copa final. Arbeloa and Marcelo both stamped on players. These are only a few examples. In Cl second leg Real fouled the most times in this years campaign. Barcelona were not forced to cheat but you and the rest of the gobshites and ignoramuses in the English media have highlighted it beyond belief as if it is the only time someone has dived and as if it is the worse thing ever to be witnessed on a football pitch. It smacks of blatant hypocrisy and a vendetta. No one likes to see diving but it happens all throughout football. You constantly demeaning Barca is completing unfair. It is like saying thatMaradona was only a cheater and nothing more, conveniently forgetting about the rest of his luminous football career because of one incident with England or Rooney being forever labelled a totally useless player because of his dire performances at the World Cup. It is unfair to do this and you are either jealous, primitive and xenophobic( i.e. I am macho man. Dirty foreigners dive. We English are honest and the toughest and best) or quite simply a hater.

    And in reference to horrific injuries being sustained because they were as a result of some honest tackles from ‘players who are not that type’ you quite clearly did not understand my drink driving analogy. Are you stupid or something? It is not okay to break someones leg if the tackle was reckless and especially if it was meant, and don’t go hiding behind that flimsy excuse that’ oh well unless you can prove intent it is honest and okay’ – you know perfectly well which tackles are meant to do someone.

    Btw it is quite clear that you do not watch Barcelona every week so judgements about how they are all the time show you up to be a right goon and very unwise. They play football the right way: attack and try and score goals. This is what every football fan likes to see. They battered Real in what many have the described as the best club match ever 5-0. Real Madrid were the ones trying to do a spoiling job not Barca you doofish. The diving was a reaction to it. Just like thugs like De Jong react to more skillfull players passing them into the groung(see the World Cup). I know which act I consider worse. But were Barca expected to react like Jesus Christ and forgive Real for their strong-arm tactics and Mourunho for abusing them pre-match . Again I repeat I do not like to see diving(Just so you finally get it in your head).

    Do not hate me like you do Barca because I am more intelligent and more articluate than you.

    Remember when you are watching and not understanding how Barca play football that honey wasn’t meant to be tasted by donkeys. It’s okay.

    The Cl will be a great game. Barca do not hate United. They hate Real – just another reason why they reacted the way they did. United play fair and do not trash talk. Barca respect respectful opponents. I watch them every week I should know, not you.

    Breaking someone’s leg deliberately is about the most perverted thing that can happen on a football field. Doing it recklessly is disgraceful. The English media exonarates and even gives sympathy to these players. That is perverted and so is thinking diving is worse.