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The best in England but not Europe

by Sam Peoples

United have reached 3 finals in 4 years to win only one time

Messi weaves some space as Carrick puts the tackle in

Firstly, I want to take my hats off to Barcelona. Once again they turned up as favourites and exerted a dominance in the game that I really did not expect them to do against United. Lionel Messi once again showed the world why he is considered one of the best players to have ever graced the game as he picked up the Man of the Match award after playing an integral role in Barcelona’s victory. He really is one of a kind and no matter how many records Ronaldo is breaking, Messi still remains the best player in the world.

There really is nothing that you can do to stop Barcelona and their style of play and the thing that has to be noted here is that Barcelona are unique and cannot be replicated. Nowhere else has a team of players come up through the youth ranks together and created a style of football that utilises their knowledge of how each other plays to such an extent that passing becomes second nature. The class of 1992 at United is an example comparable to Barcelona as they are just a dominant force that seems to just keep picking up speed the more they play.

Rooney is swarmed after he scored the equaliser last night

Secondly, I want to say that I am very proud of what United did out on the pitch. Much like in 2009, we flew out of the blocks and were looking like the better team for the first 15 minutes but as Barcelona moved forward and rocked momentum with Pedro scoring, United could of very easily folded under the mounting pressure. We did the opposite and responded superbly after Rooney finished off a great passing move that showed United were not out of place against Barcelona. We were just unable to stop them from dictating the tempo of the game and as the second half went on, Barcelona finished the game off with 2 great individual strikes from Messi and Villa. That’s the problem with Barcelona: if you stop them from passing the ball into the net then they will score from outside the box, such is the talent of their squad. It was a valiant effort but not even Scholes and Nani coming on could change the game in our favour as Barcelona secured the victory.

Van Der Sar waves goodbye to the fans

Edwin Van Der Sar has now played his last match in a United shirt and I am disappointed we couldn’t send him off with a victory. Ever since that penalty save that won United the Champions League in 2008, his name has become synonymous with the top goalkeepers in the world. He has been an integral part of United’s dominance since 2005 and he is going to be bloody hard to replace. Sir Alex Ferguson has chosen David De Gea to become his replacement and the 20 year old will certainly hope to create a lasting legacy like the one that Edwin has left behind him. I want to say thanks to Edwin for what he has done for the club and good luck to him and his wife.

Something I do want to question however is the choice by SAF to leave Berbatov out of the squad completely. I wanted Berbatov to be on the bench and I can’t really see why he chose not to. Some may say that the choice to put Owen there instead of him was because Berbatov’s lackadaisical style of play wouldn’t of suited playing against Barcelona but I would have thought he would of been able to come on and calm the passing for United. To leave the top scorer of your domestic league out of the squad for the biggest game of the season just seems baffling to me.

Now that the season is over, all eyes will turn to the Summer period. United will actually play Barcelona sooner rather than later in the 2011 pre-season as the final match of their American tour. With De Gea already confirmed, the rumour mill will now churn a plethora of options and possibilities that will link many a name with United. With SAF confirming that United are looking to buy 3 players this Summer, we will hope to see 2 other signings. I fully expect a top class name to be brought in to strengthen a midfield which will soon be losing Scholes and Giggs and I believe that possibly another young defender could fill the other slot. The rise of Hernandez this season has secured United a strike force that will be utilised for seasons to come and I am already excited at the thought of next season. United have stood firm this year as the best team in England and maybe next year, if Barcelona and United were to meet in the final of the Champions League once again, we can find a way to beat them and take back the crown of being the best in Europe.

Happier times in the Champions League in 2008

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