Manchester United Punches Ticket to Moscow

Without their best forward in Wayne Rooney and their best defender in Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United made a fabulous 14th-minute strike from Paul Scholes stand up with a 1-0 victory over Barcelona to win their Champions League semifinal tie.

Patrice Evra put in a man of the match-type performance at left back this afternoon for the Red Devils, shutting down Lionel Messi for more than 90 minutes before being taken off in stoppage time for Mikael Silvestre.

As we all know, the team that deserves to win doesn’t always do in soccer, but Manchester United did just that today. Man for man, United was the better team and I don’t think there can be any denying it. Messi was Barca’s best player, but he was contained very nicely by Evra, as I already mentioned, and Samuel Eto’o was useless up top. Rio Ferdinand had a solid game in the center of United’s defense, and even the much-maligned Wes Brown put in a competent shift.

In truth, Barcelona never looked that threatening going forward. The stats will show that they had the better of possession, but that doesn’t matter. Edwin van der Sar was rarely tested in goal, a tribute to the outstanding work done in the center of the park by United.

Although he may not admit it, Sir Alex Ferguson will feel vindicated for his tactical choices and his team’s mindset in Barcelona last week. He was criticized heavily in the press for going there not to lose and for playing such a boring, unattractive style, but at the end of the day, his team got the job done and for people to not understand that is mind-boggling.

Just because United has a dearth of attacking players doesn’t mean they need to score three goals every game to do what they need to do, and Ferguson went to Barcelona to not concede a goal, take it back to Old Trafford in front of about 75,000 people, and win the tie there. The same people who praise high-flying teams like Arsenal and Barcelona for playing “beautiful football” are the same people who have no room to talk when those teams don’t win trophies, which the Gunners haven’t in the last three seasons and Barca won’t this year. It doesn’t matter how you play as long as you get the result you want.

For the first time in Champions League history, it will be an all-English final. Who will join United in Moscow on May 21? My money is still on Liverpool, but Chelsea has the advantage going into tomorrow’s second leg at Stamford Bridge.

16 thoughts on “Manchester United Punches Ticket to Moscow”

  1. Congrats to United and shame on Barca for their disgraceful display trying to play forward when Evra was on the ground in obvious pain.

    When you watch a match like this you realize how poor football is in this part of the world. No American player could EVER play at the level the 22 guys on the pitch played at today. Yet CONCACAF has many stars like Suazo, Marquez, Dos Santos, Vela, Bravo, Costly Guevara, Yorke and many others that have played or can play at that level. Further proof that the US is really a longshot to qualify the 2010 World Cup, despite the inflated expectations caused by hubris here at home.

  2. i dont think barcelona really wanted it. they werent motivated . frank rijkaard is done. he still will have some team to manage in the future though. i think he woould be a good replacement for arsene wenger when arsene decides to go.

    there really has to be some cleaning up at barcelona. ronaldinho, of course, but i think henry will probably leave. there is no communication between him and the others. i think eto could go to. i wouldnt be surprised if zambrotta went else where as well. maybe they will end up getting daniel alves from sevilla. samir nasri from marseille too.

    oh its just a mess. so much talent, yet they didnt have the motivation.

  3. I have a feeling that if Manchester United wins the CL, Alves could be going there, but I would agree that all those players you just mentioned (and Rijkaard) will be out the door in the summer.

  4. “Further proof that the US is really a longshot to qualify the 2010 World Cup, despite the inflated expectations caused by hubris here at home.”

    uh, non sequitur

  5. Congrats to United and the Ginger Ninja for getting his chance to play in a CL final, fitting for the last of “Fergies Fledglings.” It will be sweet to see them win it all.

  6. We don’t have to play at or near that level to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. We have to be the third best team in CONCACAF. We’ve demonstrated we can consistently do that.

    Now your point is well taken if it’s amended to say we can’t compete in South Africa because we don’t have players like that. I don’t think we’re really capable of getting out of the group stage yet, although you have to admit that American players are starting to go overseas and develop real skills. Our time is coming, hopefully in my lifetime.

    A good match today. Some drama, but it was the usual tense semifinal drama. Can’t wait for Chelsea-Liverpool.

  7. Geez Kartik, what a downer. Way to use this article as an opportunity to try to prove a dead point you tried to make in responding to another article. I wasn’t particularly looking for opinions on US soccer and lack of talent after a recap of today’s CL match, but thanks for invading my brain with the sentiment.

  8. Well it was a very good match played by two harden teams. While I believe you saw some of the most skilled players in the world on the pitch, I know American players can compete at any level with the proper development. I simply do not know how Kartik, whom I have the highest opinion of in more then one area of his various interests, can conclude American does not belong in 2010 WC based on the game.

    Need I remind anyone that when Sir Alex started rebuilding his current squad he turned to America in a big way with Tim Howard and Jon Spector. Will it be long before we see Adu and Altidore in CL matches. A memorial match for sure, why this reflects on American soccer I do not know.

  9. Fellas I know the statement was provocative but I actually follow CONCACAF closer than just about anyone and can tell you both the US and Mexico have issues, and the rest of the confederation is improving.

    Consider that I saw with my own eyeballs in the Home Depot Center last year the “performances” the US gave at home against two of our three first group stage opponents in the Gold Cup. Against Guatemala they choked up the middle of the pitch, took everyone except Landon out of the game and only lost 1-0 two months after drawing 0-0 with us in Dallas. In our last qualifier down there in 2000 we escaped with a 1-1 draw, but they are much better now and we are arguably worse.

    Than take T&T, who actually qualified for the last WC. I saw them in the Gold Cup with a “B” sqaud which gave the US fits and forced Kasey Keller to make some real quality saves of point blank shots in the first half. Donovan was supposed to have the night off, but he was pressed into duty as a sub at halftime and he set up a great goal for EJ and controlled the midfield. But our “A” team beat T&T’s “B” team only by 2-0 and in qualifying we have to play them home and away. Add to that complication of playing Cuba in Havana with all the political implications just months after they drew with us 1-1 in Olympic Qualifying.

    Another complication is that we have ZERO proven striking options right now with the int’l retirement of McBride and the advancing age of Josh Wolff. Our midfield is a mess and we have begun playing a “bucket” formation with two holding midfielders at all times to stop the leaking of the oppositions attack.

    In other words chances of getting out of the first group stage are 50-50 at best and a lot worse than that if Landon Donovan who has been remarkably healthy for years now despite being over worked by club and country gets hurt sometime soon.

    If we do get out of the first group stage and advance to the Hexagonal we will make the World Cup for the 6th straight time. But getting to the Hexagonal is going to be tougher for us than it has ever been before.

    When it comes to CONCACAF and the national team I have a lot more perspective than some of you who are simply passive observers.

  10. It was an intense game but not a game of quality that we expect. Sure Barcelona can play square passes very well and believe me it was a beauty to watch but its the same possession barcelona of this season, lacking the final pass. I was very disappointed with the Barcelona line up, iniesta their consistent and likely player to pry open the man united defence was relegated to the left when a half fit deco and a defensively minded toure sat in the middle. The balance was clearly not there and the phenomenon that is messi can only do so much.

    I didn’t think evra did the man of the match performance some outlets were describing. Messi whenever he got the ball beat the first man consistently but it was the players around him who were incredibly poor i.e. Eto’o and the general closing down of the whole man united defence and midfield that stopped a clear cut chance being made. Evra did get up the pitch a bit to no real effect i can remember but i may be wrong. The bbc ratings had messi on top last time i checked…the way he schooled scholes on the byline brought a smile to my face. What a player…

    Park had a very good game. I have to say for me it was inevitable that the game was over as soon as man united scored. The team balance for barcelona just wasn’t there and not winning at camp nou IMO snuffed out any chance of winning this tie. Decisions have to be made at barcelona for next season, zambrotta is on his way out, so is ronaldinho, perhaps henry as well…what barcelona team turns up next season i wonder?

  11. It interesting that despite all the criticism of Henry the two closest things Barca had to real scoring chances in the tie were off his foot. Says something about the lack of quality of the rest of the Barca squad and why for the 2nd straight year they are going trophy less, this time against a non Galactico Real Madrid side.

  12. I thought Barcelona looked a lot like the Arsenal of last season . It is hard to believe with the injuries to the back line of Man United Barcelona was not able to score a goal. Honestly for as much possession as Barca had I remember very few decent shots on goal. The center of the defense for Barcelona also looked very shaky in both games. There will for sure be a overhaul of that team.

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