Manchester United’s clash with Barcelona in the Champions League Final Saturday will be the club’s biggest test in recent history. When they’ve played against others recently, whether it’s the Premier League or Champions League, Manchester United have dominated most of their matches and rarely have played second fiddle. But in the Champions League Final at Saturday, even if they win, they’ll still will have less of the possession and will be less in control of the game than they normally like.
However, I’m sure Sir Alex Ferguson will be comfortable seeing Barcelona walk the ball back-and-forth in their own half. But when Barcelona brings the ball forward into Manchester United’s half, that’s when the real battle will begin.
The question is, how can Manchester United defeat Barcelona?
There are three ways Manchester United can go. They can either go out on the attack and push Barcelona’s backs against the wall as Arsenal did in the second half of their match against Barca in the Champions League. Or, they can play uber-defensively as they’ve done on many occasions in the Premier League this season where they’ve had a seemingly impenetrable wall of six to seven players lined up across the back. Or, they could do a combination of those two tactics, hoping to break on the counter or pushing forward with pace when necessary.
As fans of the beautiful game, we would hope that Manchester United will go out on the attack but it’s quite possible that Sir Alex Ferguson will play a very defensive game to frustrate Barcelona and hope to be at nil-nil by half-time. That’s not a style of play that we’ll appreciate too fondly, but Ferguson is there to win games, not to dazzle TV viewers. That’s what Barcelona is there for.
Regarding Sir Alex Ferguson’s formation and tactics, we won’t know for sure what his plan is until we see the first 10 minutes of the match. There have been reports that Michael Carrick will start instead of Darren Fletcher. Carrick hasn’t been at his best for a couple of years, but he’s still a hard-working midfielder who played exceedingly well in Man United’s 2-1 victory against Chelsea a few weeks ago. Carrick worked well with Park Ji-Sung that day, and it’s very likely that Ji-Sung will be in the heart of midfield again as he hounds Xavi Hernandez and tries to prevent the Spaniard from playing his effective game.
The key to winning the match will be midfield in my opinion. Whether Manchester United can prevent Barcelona from playing their game and pressuring their players when they get the ball will be a true test. If they can do that, and then break forward with pace and float balls into the box for Javier Hernandez to latch on to, they have a fighting chance.
But what do you think? How do you think Manchester United can slay Barcelona? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.