Barcelona, arguably the greatest football team in the history of the sport, created a magisterial performance Saturday night that made Manchester United, a world power in soccer, look like mere mortals. The Spanish side were deserved 3-1 winners against a United side that were simply outclassed in every position on the field.
The dominance by Barcelona was so one-sided that the game felt like watching a target practice at times. Pep Guardiola’s side controlled the possession, which wasn’t surprising, but they also seemed more hungry to win this game. They put on a football clinic on English soil to prove to the world how exemplary they are.
Manchester United’s first half performance was disguised by one piece of mastery from Wayne Rooney who scored a goal that Barcelona would have been proud of. The goal, which should have been disallowed because Giggs was offside, was the only shot on target by United in the first half. Throughout the rest of the half, United failed to hold possession and consistently lost the ball either by poor passing, wayward goal kicks by Edwin van der Sar or just sheer incompetence.
The three goals that were scored by Barcelona were due to a combination of brilliance from Barcelona and defensive lapses by United. The first goal by Pedro was well taken but Nemanja Vidic gave the striker too much space. Barcelona’s second goal by Lionel Messi was made too easy after Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic gave the Argentine too much time and space on the goal to rocket a shot toward goal. Barcelona’s third goal was the result of a weak clearance by Michael Carrick. The ball then found its way to David Villa who picked his spot and chipped in a delightful goal.
The defensive lapses by United were unfortunate given that it’s been one of the best attributes of the Red Devils this season.
This was a frustrating performance by Manchester United. We know that the players have the skill to put on a better performance than this, but they lacked a leader at Wembley who could step up and lift the team. The closest to that was Wayne Rooney who tried to make a difference, but when it’s one man against eleven, it’s an impossible task.
Overall, the biggest difference in this match was Manchester United’s incapability of playing football. When they got the ball, they either lost it or failed to create enough chances for their forwards to take a shot at goal. Javier Hernandez was practically invisible. The addition of Nani failed to create much other than a tame shot. Park Ji-Sung, while defensively sound, was unable to create the golden chances that a club needs to try to win a match. They need new creative midfielders to help their forwards.
Nevertheless, congratulations to Barcelona on a well-deserved victory. In the battle between the best team in the world versus the best manager in the world, the best team won. For United, it’s back to the drawing board.