11 Winners and Losers In Man Utd vs Barcelona Qualifying for Champions League Final

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.

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24 thoughts on “11 Winners and Losers In Man Utd vs Barcelona Qualifying for Champions League Final”

  1. I don’t think that defensive soccer lost that much. Mourinho’s argument was poorly stated, but nonetheless we’ll never know the outcome of an 11-on-11 Barca/Real semi.

    I think that UEFA took a hit in this cycle, personally. Mourinho whined about the calls Barca got, but recall his side’s ticket was punched as soon as Peter Crouch was sent off (should be mentioned that Crouch’s red was deserved, while Pepe’s was not). UEFA needs to find a way to stress discipline regarding play-acting on the pitch. The fact Dani Alves was both allowed to return immediately to the pitch, as well as then play in the second leg, is unfortunate.

      1. Agreed!

        Barcelona game in with a premeditated strategy to cheat, dive, and intimidate the referee (which is against the rules and the spirit of the game). Madrid came to play defensive, aggressive, and intimidate the other team (not against the rules or spirit of the game).

  2. Firstly the first leg of the Barca – Real game was exactly what a derby should be. Passionate, a bit crazy and definately full of controversy.

    Defensive football is not always the most attractive, but understand sometimes it has to be used. The perfect example of this is the copa del rey. Real madrid defended and nicked a goal against barca, you cant go all out attacking against Barca you’ll lose simple so to say its “anti-soccer” is stupid! Every game Real play except against Barca is 110% attacking. I completely disagree with you there.

    Lastly and maybe most importantly the performances Schalke put in with the lack of depth they had was amazing. The demolition of Inter Milan really showed the quality they had. German football should be proud of a valiant effort by the Schalke.

    1. Hard to know what their manager was asking them to do on the pitch. I have not analyzed the Shalke tactics, but players can flail when trying new/different tactics that late in the tournament. Something was definitely amiss.
      wrt defensive football, lets be realistic. Neutrals would rather watch all-out attacking football that results in a slaughter (5-0 Barca v RM, anyone?) than a tight defensive match featuring good defense and fewer chances. No surprises there, but the whole “anti-football” meme should be put to bed by knowledgeable fans.

    2. Not sure i agree with your first point. I think it is a push to even call that first game a football match. I think the best review of that game was:
      “Put a s**t hanging from a stick in the middle of this passionate, crazy stadium and there are people who will tell you it’s a work of art. It’s not: it’s a s**t hanging from a stick. ”

      I do, however, agree that defensive football is a forgotten art form. Look at Seria A in the 90’s, defensive football played at its best. Not going to win glamor points but it will win you games.

      Also agree on the Shalke point, German football is improving rapidly. I think in a few seasons time they will be really competing for the Champo League.

  3. It is a shame for Mourinho since he still got Real Madrid to the semis when they haven’t gotten back the Round of 16 for years. It took him a few years with Inter and I expect him to be back competing for the Champion’s League next year.

    His behavior is regrettable, but since there is such a talent difference between the two clubs he had to try to get under Barca’s skin. It went overboard, but Real Madrid supporter’s should be content with the results.

    1. He was at Inter for two years, winning the UCL in his second season there. I’m not sure the talent disparity is that great, either. Ronaldo, Kaka, Casillas, Ozil, Xabi Alonso, Di Maria, Higuain, Khedira, Ramos etc. are all full-fledged internationals. The key difference to me is how the teams are deployed and for Mourinho to park the bus hope to score on the counter with the kind of attacking talent that he has — at home, no less — they deserved to lose.

      1. Meh. While I agree that you have to rely on attacking talent, I disagree with your conclusion.

        Mourinho planned on bringing on Kaka and placing him behind 3 strikers. Sounds like an aggressive enough plan. Arsenal showed that Barca are vulnerable on the break late. Given that Pepe’s red card was unwarranted, commenting on tactics and who ‘deserved to lose’, *without a full squad for the full 90*, is unwarranted.

        What we seem to forget is that Barca, when playing against 11 men in this Champions League run, were down to Arsenal, and were level with Real. We always hear that for all their possession Arsenal lack the finishing product. Results prove this to be true. But I find it amazing that we don’t reach the same conclusions with Barca.

        Or- we can reach the conclusion that Barca play really well against 10 men.

  4. Why is everyone bashing Mourinho? For defensive plays? Mind games? isn’t that all about soccer? Don’t forget that Pep dropped the effusive f bombs right before the first leg only to have his players ride out in the middle of the pitch in a 1968 VW bug and tumble out of the car like a bunch of clowns, literally. Pep had them flounder like catfish on a pier to negate Josey’s defensive play that won them the Copa del Rey just a few days before. I think it’s more fair to say that both Pep and Josey are responsible for that awful first leg.

  5. Mourinho has had one season in charge of Real Madrid and took them to the semi-final of the CL where they lost to arguably one of the greatest teams put together in the history of club soccer in a very heated and controversial match. Think he shouldn’t just pick up and leave every time he doesn’t win Europe.

    Ronaldo, has been at his boyhood club for two seasons and averaged a goal every 1.13 matches. I think it’s harsh to suggest he should have stayed at United.

    I have way more respect for Messi and I also respect Guardiola, but I have to give cred where it’s due, both Mourinho and Ronaldo are two of the best at what they do.

  6. I kind of disagree about Schalke. This is a team that had a fire sale over the summer that lost them the Bundesliga’s leading scorer (Kuranyi) and one of the best defenders in the world (Westerman). That they had enough left in the tank to get as far as they did is astounding. That they hit the wall hard is to be expected. I’d figure the bigger loser would be Inter who got annihilated by Schalke.

    The Bundesliga, at the moment, is far more volatile than the BPL, La Liga or Serie A. This year’s CL contestants may very well not make it to the CL next year. All three of them. Teams that were in the CL just a year or two ago are fighting off relegation. There’s no telling if Dortmund can keep up the form they’ve had this year, but if they can they will most certainly be expected to go deep in the CL.

    Sure I would have liked a better showing against MU, but all said, I’m proud of the Konigsblau. Schalke ist die macht!

  7. I am not buying it. This is the Schalke team that took out a resurging Inter(they haven’t been the same since that beat down from Schalke) with ease.
    Manchester United dominated Schalke in the 1st leg but destroyed them in the second with their reserves.

    Pundits are ridiculous for saying that this is the worst man utd team ferguson has had. I can’t see how that can be true since they are one of the two best teams in Europe.

    1. Schalke are also 10th in the Bundesliga, which is really poor and United’s team is not that strong merely because their central midfield is at 50% strength (Carrick, Fletcher are worthy) and need a better and younger creative midfielder (read: not Giggs, Scholes, or Anderson)

      1. Wow. Hold on hold on hold on. Scholes and giggs are to this day two of the best creative midfielders in the game.wayne rooney said scholes is still the best player he has ever played with. I agree we need to strenghen this summer but never they both have another season at the top flight in them.

        1. It may be the case that Giggs and Scholes are able to create chances, however, after 45 minutes, Scholes poops out and Giggs is less consistent at 37. Of course, they are both LEGENDS, but compared to Europeans elites our midfield is quite weak.

          Giggs should stay one more year, but Scholes should retire. Especially, if we win the title numero 19!!

          BEL19VE!! UNI4ED!!!!

  8. Losers: UEFA, RESPECT Campaign, Sportsmanship

    — whether you are a Barca fan or not, the constant diving (Alves, Busquets, Pedro, and Di-Maria, in particular) and a weak referee damaged the game more than Mourinho’s physical and defensive approach.

    — same happened in Barca vs. Inter last year (Busquet’s peek-a-boo) was a disgrace

    — how did Pedro avoid yellow after his blatant (and constant) diving antics. Even the ref spotted it in the box but did not card him.

    — Gaffer, don’t count on final being a spectacle anymore so than the World Cup final was :) It will be tight anti-Barca tactics from United, as one cannot beat Barca and their diving.

  9. Although a dream match up at the start, we have no guarantee that United won’t play defensively and hope to catch Barcelona on the counter. However, if I was a betting man, my guess is that Ferguson will be determined not to lose as meekly as in 2009 and probably go for Barcelona’s Achilles Heel in their uncertain defenders when driven wide.

  10. Diving definitely won. Which is really just another way of saying that Barcelona once again gets rewarded for diving. They represent all that is wrong with soccer. If you so much as breathe on them, they launch themselves into the air and writhe in agony on the ground until a free kick or card in awarded. Then they stage an instantaneous and miraculous recovery. It really is pathetic. They represent everything that soccer detractors cite as their biggest reason for not following soccer.
    The worst part is that they don’t need to resort to such shenanigans. They’re good enought to win based on the enormous talent they have on their team.
    Until they clean up their act, I’ll be rooting for Man U in the final.

  11. An irresistible force meeting an almost immovable object. Chelsea or Real Madrid would just park the bus and hope. bleah. Ferguson will come up with a high intensity midfield game, Two Lung Park will start, and Rooney will probably do some high and aggressive defending.

    Ryan Giggs head not being in the game, and those distractions, will severely hurt Man U. I thought Barcelona were crazy to get rid of E’to, but his style wasn’t really theirs, and Villa is perfect for them. Basically, they are the Spain team, swopping out Torres, for Messi.

    I would say Ferguson and Man U have the best chance of anyone to stop Barca, but they still won’t.

    2-0 Barca

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