This was more of the game everyone wanted to see. Not loaded with chances but a very dramatic tilt as United clung to their one goal lead with some desperate defending as they dropped everyone into their own half to nullify the Barcelona attacks. Backed by one of the louder Old Trafford crowds in recent memory, United hung tough and with some key personnel missing, persevered to make it to the finals for the first time since the treble season of 1999. I was glad to see Paul Scholes substituted so that he can start the final. He was key to the run in 1999 but missed the final due to suspension (as did Roy Keane).
Barca’s desperation became evident as they started to look for long passes over the top of the United defence — not a typical Barcelona approach and ironic considering Johan Cruyff’s comments about United simply being a “longball” team.
There was a touch of bad news for United as Patrice Evra had to be stretchered off in injury time with a knock to the head after a heavy collision in the penalty area with Deco and Ronaldo. It remains to be seen how serious the injury is or if it was just a bit of serendipitous time wasting.
Where do Barcelona go from here? After winning the double in 2006, they have now gone two seasons without a trophy and their league form has actually seemed to regress this season. Will it be the end for Frank Rijkaard?
My man of the match would be Carlos Tevez – he did not have an impact on the scoresheet but worked his socks off and continually hassled and harangued the Barca defenders and rushed their passing movements. A nod to Edwin Van der Sar would made a number of important stops to keep Barcelona off the scoresheet. For Barcelona, Valdes did his part to keep Barca in the save and was equal to the test when called upon.
This result sets up the first all-English final in Champions League history and it’ll be a big match tomorrow to see who United’s opponents will be — Chelsea or Liverpool. United’s records in European finals is a perfect three-for-three…can they make it four?
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