Manchester United couldn’t have picked a worse night to not show up in one of the most important games since they were founded 131 years ago. The Red Devils were so close to history. Just 90 minutes away from being the first team ever to win two Champions League Finals back-to-back. So close to putting Sir Alex Ferguson is the record books as one of the most successful club managers in the history of the sport.
Except they were outclassed and outplayed by a vastly superior team on the night. Congratulations on a deserved victory must go to Pep Guardiola for guiding his eleven man Barcelona to being crowned champions of Europe.
For Manchester United, this was one of their worst performances in months. Their passing was dreadful (Michael Carrick, especially, was culpable). Carles Puyol owned Cristiano Ronaldo for most of the game, and as soon as the Portuguese wizard cut inside he was surrounded by two players to block his run — time and time again. Giggs’s corners were dreadful. Rooney and Tevez, although they both tried hard, were ineffective up front. Scholes was his typical self — being a liability with his late tackles. And the marking at the back was poor throughout the match leaving Barcelona players wide open on the edge of the box and, as Lionel Messi showed, open near the back to head the ball past Edwin Van der Sar into the back of the net.
This was a sub-par performance by Manchester United who had difficulty maintaining possession of the ball as Barcelona often knocked the ball around the park. As the game progressed, the life seemed to be sucked out of Manchester United and they appeared despondent in their attempts to pull back a goal to narrow the difference.
There are times when teams don’t show up, and this was such a night in Rome. Not to take anything away from Barcelona, but Manchester United’s second half performance was awful. They just couldn’t seem to do anything right. The closest they came was a ball that bounced over Ji-Sung Park’s head, and a poor header by Berbatov from a corner that flew over the bar late in the game.
Still, despite a disappointing performance by the Red Devils, Manchester United have had an incredible season beginning with the Community Shield Trophy followed by the FIFA Club World Cup Trophy, the Carling Cup victory against Spurs and, of course, the 2008-2009 Premier League trophy.
Now that the season is over for Manchester United, it’s back to the drawing board for Ferguson where he attempts to pull his team back against this summer to rebuild and prepare for another long, and in his hopes, glorious season. Don’t write their chances off too soon of returning to the Champions League Final on May 22, 2010 at the home of Barcelona’s arch-enemy, Real Madrid’s Bernabeau Stadium.