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UEFA Champions League Final Special: Manchester United Crossover

Saturday awaits. Wembley awaits. The footballing world anticipates.
Saturday awaits. Wembley awaits. The footballing world anticipates.



The opportunity arose for our blog to work with the resident SBN blog for Manchester United, The Busby Babe, and we decided to do a Q + A session. They sent us some questions, and should be publishing our answers later in the day, and obviously we sent them some questions, which they answered superbly.

I say, they, but it was just one of their writers, Gene Um, and it was an absolute pleasure to work with him. As you will read, he answered the questions brilliantly, and honestly. Here's to collaborating again in the future!

Just an FYI, it's pretty unique to find a Manchester United fan, admitting their team is not the favourite...



Which United team is stronger: 2009 or 2011?

If we examine the total body of work, parallels exist: champions of England, finalists in Europe, and deep domestic cup runs. However, the rhetoric of the traditional media has taken on the tone of Marseille manager Didier Dechamps... this current United side lacks "fantasy."


They certainly don't have Cristiano Ronaldo, or even Carlos Tevez before he became a true talisman; but an argument could be made that this current edition is comparable, or arguably better even. I wouldn't argue a comparison on total body of work, but I would on the form of the run-in. Expanding on Chicharito's contribution would now just be cliches... but the re-emergence of Rooney and Carrick, the return of Park and Valencia, and the re-invention of Giggs in the center has made us a formidable side. For as much as our domestic form has been used against us, our European form should be argued for us.

So... total body of work: 2009. For a one-off in this final: 2011. A big factor in my opinion is that this 2011 Barca side is better than the 2009 one, despite the trophies thus far.


On that note, Ronaldo and Eto'o were huge for the respective squads in the 2009 final; how badly will United miss Ronaldo, and Barca miss Eto'o?

Quite simply, Ronaldo was a phenom. Many pundits say that United were built around him when he emerged as a talisman.... I somewhat disagree. What he, and Tevez, did was provide tactical flexibility. They, along with Rooney, were interchangeable in Ferguson's 4-3-3/4-5-1 hybrid shape. Ronaldo, because of Rooney's and Tevez's tactical flexibility, was dominant in the center or out wide. If United lack "fantasy" now, it's because they don't have the same flexibility with their attackers. However, I think Ferguson has reinvented the side in our recent 4-4-1-1 shape; with Rooney as a trequartista. It's been quite some time (I've been quite critical of this side) since I've been genuinely optimistic about our side.... I am though with this current side.

I admire Barca quite a bit as a neutral and watch a lot of their football actually. I thought Eto'o was brilliant. In my opinion, his individual brilliance changed the final in '09.... his superb goal came against the run of play and Barca did well to keep the ball away from United after that. I do admire Pedro's overall play though and his tactical awareness.... he seemingly brings a little bit of everything to the table.


Fc Barcelona Vs. Manchester United Champions League Final highlights (27'th of May 2009) (via nexuspolle)

Do you feel either of the Da Silva twins is experienced enough to start the final at right-back to combat the Alves-Messi combo? If so, which one would you choose and why?

Experienced? Probably not. Capable? Perhaps. Though I suspect our right-back will match-up against Villa.

Prior to injury, Rafael was certainly my first-choice at right-back. But my guess is that either John O'Shea or Fabio gets the start. United will probably play fairly narrow with their full-backs with the inward movements of Villa and Pedro. Positional sense may be of more importance than of any physical attribute. Fabio has shown good form in recent big matches and he's the more likely choice to start. But because of Barca's superb movement, O'Shea's experience and positional awareness might get him the start, despite a possible lack of quickness for a full-back against tricky attackers.


Will Fletcher be starting on Saturday? If not, is Carrick the man to fill in for him disrupting Barca's play?

Carrick likely starts; his recent form has been exceptional and his reading of the game and positioning in defense is criminally underrated. Fletcher would be a stronger candidate to start if he hadn't missed the run-in; he'd be able to play a role similar to Pepe or Diarra in the El Classico series. My guess is that Carrick and Giggs start together in the center of the pitch with Rooney in an auxiliary midfielder's role (4-4-1-1). If United play 4-3-3/4-5-1, expect to see Rooney as a false-nine and possibly Anderson in the central midfield.

I don't expect United to press Barca much throughout the match; though I do expect tactical awareness, good positioning, and surgical strikes on the counter. Our recent first-choice lineup could possibly provide this.

Who would you prefer: Evra or Abidal?

Evra. Perhaps my opinion is biased, but I believe Evra has been the best left-back in the world the past few years.


Bar the obvious three, which Barca player worries you most?

The obvious, but honest, answer is Messi. Tactically, I don't how United will deal with his deep positioning between the defense and midfield lines. Will either Vidic or Ferdinand get dragged deep and track him? Or will Carrick pick him up, but then allow our midfield to get overrun?

Besides Messi, it's Alves. I actually wrote a post on that on our site yesterday. Busquets, in my opinion, hasn't got his due yet but will soon enough.


Which do you trust more: Hernandez or Berbatov?

Chicharito (Hernandez)... especially in this particular match. He's a brilliant finisher but he does much more. His movement, both vertically and horizontally, is brilliant. He does well to stretch center-backs wide to create space for midfield runners through the middle; but he also does well to get behind defenders versus sides that play high-lines of defense. Furthermore, he has a knack for finding little pockets of space in the box for cut-backs or crosses in from Valencia, Park, Giggs, or Nani.


Match prediction?

Barca 2-1 United. I don't doubt our side, but I have tremendous respect for this current edition of F.C Barcelona. If we played 10 times, I feel that we could win 2 or 3 times.


Why does Ferguson point to 2008 when he says that he has a plan for Messi? Does he know that since then Messi has scored over 130 goals? Do you believe you can honestly stop him like Pepe did? If so, how?

Fergie... the master of mind games; I quit trying to figure him out awhile ago. I actually thought Real Madrid did relatively well to contain Barca and Messi. The sending off of Pepe changed so much from my viewpoint. I thought there was a lot of practicality in having Xabi Alonso sit deep and letting Pepe and Diarra chase Xavi and Iniesta.


Do you think Guardiola would be a good heir to Ferguson?

Yes, but maybe suited more in the long-term. A better immediate heir may be Mourinho.... only an outrageous ego like his could possibly suceed the greatest manager in football history. I do admire Pep though.... BRILLIANT tactician.

FC Barcelona Gladiator Pep Guardiola's motivatonal video Final Champions Rome 2009 (via vimets10)

Thanks again to Gene and his blog, unfortunately, we aren't going to wish you good luck on Saturday though!


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