I'm back! Missed me? Noticed I've been gone?
Didn't think so! This was meant to be published last Saturday, but after infecting my computer watching Barcelona, I have only just managed to fix my laptop, and publish again.
This is the second part of my scout report, and it revolves around the Manager, and his possible Tactics.
Sir Alex Ferguson is nearing retirement according to the media, but I cannot see it myself. He has fought for years to overtake Liverpool’s record of league titles, now he has achieved it. Ferguson is a veteran of management, but with the recent media furore surrounding fellow veteran Ryan Giggs, the Champions Final has put the Scot in an unfamiliar position. Not only are his team the underdogs, but the media attention on the team could also prove distracting.
Whatever the case, he has taken this side, one that appears to be the worst United side in a while, to the brink of a double, and could still achieve it. The man is a genius, and easily one of the best mangers of all-time.
He has changed tactics, personnel, even assistant managers, but remains at the top. Hopefully, us Barcelona fans can see Guardiola achieve similar, but all signs point to next season being Guardiola’s last at the club.
Back in the other scout report, I mentioned my hatred of Ferguson the man, but as a manager he is top-class.
Manchester United have used a number of tactics over the years. 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1, they have used them all. But what really matters is not what they have used this season, but what they will use in the Final.
My guess, is a 4-5-1.
I expect Van der Sar to start in goal, with a back four of Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra. This is their standard defence, and injuries permitting, they will all start. The midfield however, is a little different. I think that in the centre of the park, they will go with Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-Sung. Each of the three work hard, but aren’t exactly world-beaters.
This is not an insult to them, but compared to Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta, they look average. United will need to pack the midfield if they are to stand any chance, but looking at their squad and their performances, they don’t look able to.
Real Madrid used Pepe in midfield to great effect, up until his sending-off anyway. He was sent out for one reason, and one reason only. To win the ball. He didn’t have to pass the ball, he didn’t have to attack, just stop the trio of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.
Do Manchester United have anyone to do a job like Pepe did?
Fletcher is a possibility, but is he as good as Pepe? Not in my books.
Maybe Ferguson could use his years of experience to change things completely, and put Vidic in the midfield to stop the tiki-taka trio? He could win the ball, but do they have enough faith in possible replacements, Smalling or Evans?
On the wings, Nani will play, and on the other, expect to see the aforementioned Giggs. The veteran Welshman though could also be a weaklink. After all, does he have the pace to keep up with Dani Alves who will maraud forward? Or Abidal for that matter?
So, Ferguson could employ Rooney on the left, and see if his high work-rate and constant pressuring forces the Blaugrana into mistakes. But that would be equally risky.
The semi-final saw Ronaldo caught in the "Barca triangle". He responded by throwing his arms in the air. Rooney, who is well-known for his short temper could react by fouling the Barcelona players, and I don’t think Ferguson could risk that.
Also, there is no real replacement upfront, as Hernandez remains unproven at the very highest level, and Berbatov has seemingly fallen out of favour completely. I certainly do not envy Ferguson in that respect. The decisions he will have to make prior to the final will call upon all his tactical nous.
Barcelona on the other hand, will play the same way they always do, with "happy, attacking football". Or at least that’s what Xavi calls it. The only question revolves around Abidal, and Puyol. I think both will be fit by the showpiece final, and Barcelona, with their strongest eleven on the pitch, will be tough to stop.
I defy you to pick out a weakness in the Barcelona side. If they play their strongest side, I cannot see any weaknesses that United can exploit.
The Blaugrana are favourites anyway, but Ferguson has already lost at Wembley this season. In the semi-final of the FA Cup, a former-Barca player in Yaya Toure robbed the ball from Carrick and slotted it past Van der Sar. So if Yaya could, why can’t his former Barcelona teammates?
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