No offense to Real Madrid or Schalke supporters, but the semi-finals of the Champions League this season were the worst I can remember in my living memory. The less said about the first Real Madrid against Barcelona leg, the better. Thankfully the second leg actually featured some soccer, but it was clear that Barcelona are leaps and bounds ahead of Real Madrid even though the Whites were hampered by injuries and suspensions.
In the second leg of the Schalke game, meanwhile, it felt like I was watching a pre-season friendly. Schalke looked completely out of their depth and rarely troubled Manchester United. And that was a Manchester United team that was resting a number of regulars.
So looking ahead to the dream Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona on May 28, I decided to list who are the winners and losers based on these two finalists making it to the last game of this season’s tournament.
The winners are:
- Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola. Two of the best managers in the game survived the pressure to take their teams to the final in London.
- Edwin van der Sar. The Dutch goalkeeper will celebrate his esteemed career by playing his last match in a Champions League Final. Not a bad way to end a career, ‘eh?
- The neutral soccer fan. Seeing Barcelona and Manchester United, two of the best teams in the world, compete against each other in the Champions League Final should be a highly entertaining match to watch. Should.
- TV broadcasters. Wherever you live in the world, the TV broadcaster that is bringing the final to you must be licking their lips at the prospect of a massive TV audience. Barcelona and Manchester United both carry massive fan bases and are very attractive to neutral fans. For those readers in the United States, Fox (the main network) must be ecstatic at the prospect of showing these two teams on the national network.
- Attacking soccer. Seeing Barcelona and Manchester United make it to the final two is a victory for attacking soccer instead of negative tactics employed by others.
- Wembley. This will be the biggest match played at the new Wembley Stadium since it has opened, so it’s only fitting that two of the best teams in the world will grace the pitch. With Manchester United playing in its own country, you must expect the “home field” advantage will help United a little.
The losers are:
- Jose Mourinho. If Real Madrid had qualified for the final, you would expect a lot of soccer fans to continue calling The Special One a genius. Now that they haven’t made it, the Mourinho admirers have been very quiet. I don’t believe he has reached his peak, but perhaps it’s time for Jose to return to England after the La Liga season ends?
- Bundesliga. Schalke’s woeful performance in both legs of the semi-final were not just damaging to Schalke supporters, but to the entire Bundesliga as a whole. Schalke’s performance is not the type of advertisement you want to see for the Bundesliga. Schalke aside, the league is flourishing. But you wouldn’t be able to tell that from Schalke’s two performances.
- Bad sportsmanship. The travesty that was the first leg of the Real Madrid against Barcelona semi-final was a perfect example of why many people hate soccer. Both teams displayed bad sportsmanship throughout the first leg at the Bernabeu.
- Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite trying his best to create something out of nothing, Ronaldo was a frustrated player over the two semi-final legs. Part of him may wonder whether he should have stayed at Manchester United.
- Defensive soccer. The way Jose Mourinho set out his Real Madrid team in the first semi-final leg against Barcelona was typical Mourinho. He set up his team to press Barcelona and counter attack with speed when given an opportunity to push forward. It almost worked, but once Barcelona scored, it was too little too late from Real Madrid. Thankfully attacking soccer won out over defensive anti-soccer.
What do you think? Are there any winners or losers from the semi-finals and the two teams who will face in the Wembley final? Share your opinions in the comments section below.
Learn more about how you can win Champions League gear from Heineken including signed shirts, boots and more.