Manchester United vs Barcelona: Champions League Final – Preview

by Sam Peoples

After Scholes, Giggs and Rooney survived 30 minutes of Gary Neville’s testimonial on Tuesday evening, all eyes are now firmly fixed on the arch of Wembley as the Champions League final creeps ever closer. The build up to the game has been slowly increasing in momentum and anticipation is reaching fever pitch. Barcelona decided to fly in to England early to avoid the impending ash cloud from Iceland and Arsenal have let bygones be bygones and allowed Barcelona to use their training facilities in preparation for Saturday. What happened the last time Manchester United played a European Cup final in Wembley in 1968? We thrashed a Eusebio led Benfica 4-1 after extra time to lift our first European Cup and will be looking to make it 2 out of 2 European finals at Wembley this Saturday.

Balotelli should take tips from Messi on how to put a bib on

Both sides been dominant in European football again this year having both won our respective domestic leagues and go into the fixture in high spirits but Barcelona go into the fixture as the bookies favourite, despite SAF rightfully claiming that there are is no favourite for the fixture. In the 2009 final in Rome, Barcelona came out on top in a display which left United fans in dismay as we could not get a firm grip on the game at any point and we will be looking to bury the hatchet on Saturday. Our form toward the end of the season has been truly fantastic this year with 3 victories over Chelsea in the last 3 fixtures including our first win at Stamford Bridge since 2002, so confidence should be brimming. Going into the final last time, United fans were left at a wits end when Fletcher was sent off for a perfectly good tackle against Fabregas in the semi-final but it doesn’t look like Fletcher is in the plans to start this game against Barcelona. Carrick has shown the consistency and composure that led to him receiving a contract extension earlier this year and Giggs has stepped into the limelight once more for his simply unbelievable performances in the latter part of the season. Giggs and Carrick played all 3 games against Chelsea as the centre midfield pairing and the combination of passing and fluid forward play allowed United to dominate the midfield and control the tempo of the game from the get go. It also allowed Giggs to get forward without making unnecessary movement on the wings, so it conserved his energy and I hope that SAF chooses the same starting XI from the Chelsea fixtures against Barcelona.

My starting XI for Saturday

I think that the defensive work from Valencia and Park will be absolutely crucial on Saturday if they both start. Barcelona are the best at passing and also at re-gaining possession, which is a fierce combination. United will have to run their socks off and challenge them whilst they are in possession if we want any chance of getting a foothold in the game. Barcelona have not been scoring as freely in recent games and I firmly think that if we can get an early goal, we will be able to control the game from the back and slow the tempo down and frustrate them. This is where the importance of Hernandez is paramount.

Hernandez has exponentially grown to fame this season

The magical Mexican has won over fans instantly with his pre-match prayers and his timely goals and he will need to shine on Saturday if United are going to come out on top against Barcelona. His combination play with Rooney reminds me of the times of Cole and Yorke and that is a great comparison to have. They just seem to know what the other is doing at all times and that kind of striker partnership is bloody hard to find. It already seems cliché that I am going to talk about his pace but it really is the key to unlocking the legs of Pique and Puyol. They are not the quickest centre back pairing in the world, so if he can wriggle himself a couple of yards of space and Rooney finds the pass, anything can happen. What do I think the score is going to be on Saturday? I haven’t got a foggy. It is a cup final and form is pretty much thrown out of the window on the day as nerves and emotions take over but as I said before, I think the early goal is the decider and I would not be surprised if this game is a shut out after a goal. Let’s hope that someone upstairs is listening to Chicarito and that he can come up trumps on Saturday. All I know is that I am proud of what United has managed to do this season with such a ‘terrible squad’. Bring on Saturday and bring on a repeat of 1968. Do it for Sir Matt boys.

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