The truth is obvious and the facts cannot be argued. Barca were by far the best team on the night and without a doubt, are the best team in Europe. There is no shame in losing to a team filled with creativity, precision and possession of the highest order. When the 3 nominated World Players of the Year are all in one team, no matter who you are, you will struggle to get a grip of proceedings and most likely play second fiddle to the world’s best. Add Pique, arguably with Vidic the world’s best defender & Villa, Spain’s highest scorer, and you have one mountain to climb. I thought we could do it, though I knew in my heart that going into the game we were 65/35 underdogs, but we could work with that. However, on the night, the class and experience of this Barca team shone through. Pure football domination in every aspect, from possession to shots on target to corners - they had it all and that stats don’t lie. Their combined experience of winning trophies with both Barcelona and Spain has created an unbreakable winning mentality when it matters most, which cannot be matched by anyone.
For United, it really wasn’t a case of players not performing or showing up for the big occasion. We were there, and we tried, and somehow managed to get into halftime at 1-1. But as the game went on, we grew tired of running around and chasing shadows, which unfortunately stemmed from Barca’s dominance. And even though the goals we let in could have possibly been avoided, I’m sure Barca would have found an alternative route to goal. The ref had no part in the outcome and man for man; they were and are far superior. But far superior not only to us, but to any team out there. Man for man, the only team that could possibly match them with individual quality would be Real Madrid. But as we saw over the 2 legs of their semi final, they are not half the TEAM Barcelona are. At United, we are a team but definitely do not have the players to compete with the kind of player power and class which they have in their ranks.
Where to from here?
Well I’m not going to start demanding we buy players and slating the players which helped us knock Liverpool off their perch and claim our 19th league title. As I have said many times before (see all my previous articles), winning the league was always the priority and anything else should be seen as a bonus, which we unfortunately we could not claim this time round. Considering our performances over the past 4 seasons, we can rightfully claim to be the second best team in all of Europe, having reached 3 finals in 4 years. Had it not been for Barca, we could have easily had at least 4 European titles to our name, but it’s not to be. Our squad as a whole is ideal for winning leagues, dealing with the long seasons and with Fergie constantly changing the team, it helps keep everyone fresh and in turn allows us to rest our bigger players for the more important games. In a Final, a once off game, the classier team will generally prevail, as Barca showed on the weekend.
Fergie knows that if we are to one day beat this great Barca team; we will have to invest heavily and make some wholesale changes. We do not need a complete re-vamp of the squad, however, after Scholesy yesterday confirmed that he would in fact be retiring with immediate effect, it has left our midfield extremely thin and lacking creativity. Strengthening in midfield, and of course a goalkeeper, is vital if we are to challenge on all fronts again next season. We have lost Scholes, Neville, Van Der Sar & Hargreaves for certain and players such as Brown, Kuszczak and even Berbatov could also depart in the summer. They need to be replaced with experienced players of similar quality who can come in immediately and do the job. But Fergie knows this, he is aware of who is available and what positions need attention. I’m not going to turn this into a summer transfer targets article, but Sneijder, Modric, Young, Rodwell and De Gea are the ones that come to mind. All I ask for is for United to put in the offers, be proactive and wait for a response. Put in a 30 million pound offer for Modric. Bid 35 million for Sneijder. Let’s see how “unavailable” they really are.
With everything said and done, the season has come to an end and I call for all United fans to enjoy the season for what it really was – a success. With a team that many people saw as one of the “weaker” and “less creative” teams in comparison to those triumphant United teams in the past, winning the Premier League for a record 19 times is just fantastic and as fans we need to appreciate the kind of job that has been done. We are now entering into a transition phase; we are losing big name players with bags of experience. However, I trust in Fergie and believe that we have some promising youngsters who can hopefully step up and take their opportunities. But without a doubt, big money will need to be spent if we are to remain as dominant as we have been over the past 20 years and hopefully for more years to come.
Bel19ve in the Champ19ns!