By Matt Dodd.
1) Beautiful Barcelona
Simply sublime. Described by Ferguson as “the best team I have faced”, Barcelona gave United another lesson in football. Instead of evoking poignant memories from ’68 when Manchester United won their first European Cup at Wembley 10 years after Munich, the only memories evoked were those two years ago from Rome. The Catalans were like supreme robots, each one of them flawless in attack and dynamic in winning the ball back. Similar to when a school match where the winners are a year older – you simply have to declare that Barca are a level above United.
2) Magical Messi
A journalist asked Sir Alex to name one Barcelona player he would have if he was given the opportunity to which the Scot replied, “that’s one of the most stupid questions I’ve ever heard in my life.” Officially the best player in the world, and, at the age of just 23, you do wonder what heights this genius will reach. Although he made a slow start to the game on Saturday, it didn’t take long to get his claws into Man United, and the sensational goal he scored killed the game.
3) Game lost in midfield
Evidently, the ageless Ryan Giggs and the rejuvenated Michael Carrick could not handle the creativity and vision of Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets. As it is so often the case with Barcelona, their goals came from the centre of midfield – the busiest area of the pitch. Despite the tireless Park and the sometimes reckless Valencia both helping out in the middle, Barcelona are masters of this part of the field and demonstrated this in style – with each goal created in the middle of the park.
4) Farewell to a pair of legends
United fans accepted that the Champions League final would be Edwin van der Sar’s final bow, but didn’t fully expect it to be Paul Scholes last appearance as a footballer. 40-year-old Edwin unfortunately did not end his United career in the same fashion Peter Schmeichel did in 1999. The Dutchman did make a number of impressive saves but could do nothing about the inch-perfect strikes from Pedro, Messi and Villa. Scholes was used as a 76th minute substitute but that was just late for him to inspire a United comeback. Both players will be hugely missed by United as Fergie looks to the future.
5) A look to the future
Sir Alex Ferguson faces three challenges this summer. First will be replacing van der Sar, and United may have potentially found a young alternative in David de Gea. Second, will be replacing Paul Scholes, and finding a truly creative midfielder (Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder are heavily linked) which has arguably been absent from United’s side for a number of years. If Fergie can acquire two world-class players in this position, then the third challenge may not be so daunting. The third challenge is, of course, knocking Barcelona off their perch. Though that feat is easier said than done, it is surely Fergie’s final long-term test before the great man retires.
Register with the Stretford End Arising forum.