Watched the game, made some tea, kicked around the odd thought and I'm just not seeing the same game that apparently everyone else is.
The general consensus seems to be that this was a "classic" and that Barcelona were brilliant in out playing a United side that came to play. In whose universe? Barcelona were good, exceptional even, but United played afraid.
Now regular readers know I don't bash United just for the sake of it. While most of the pundits out there were writing off Old Purple Nose and his team this year, including some that said they'd finish outside the Champion League places, I was predicting that they'd win the league. I did so because United have a good team and a great squad that is built to win championships. They don't have the best starting 11 in the world, not even in the Premier League. But regardless United always come to play.
Except tonight. Certainly United harried, particularly in the middle of the field, but at no point did United play their game. Instead they reacted to the play of Barcelona. And in that they did a competent job in the first half even if there was a troubling inability to close down the overlapping Barcelona full backs. Rooney's goal was well taken and United were good value for the draw at half time, but only in that they had reacted to Barcelona's play. At no single point in the match did I think United were in control or even threatening to take control.
Yes of course, a significant amount of that is down to Barcelona controlling possession, but when United got the ball they did little with it and were generally wasteful. Were Nani and Scholes on the bench because of their temperament, because United missed Nani's wing play and Scholes passing ability and instead looked as if they all they were doing was trying to absorb the Barcelona pressure? There didn't seem to be a Plan B for when United had the ball.
Even at 1-1 United didn't look like they ever thought they could win, but rather accepted the "fact" that Barcelona were the better team. Honestly never thought I would see that from an Alex Ferguson side. City support aside, I recognize the ability of the United manager and it just didn't seem there tonight.
Meanwhile a note on referee Viktor Kassai... In a word, impressive. Not perfect, but he kept his cards in his pocket until later in the game and where most referees would have been inclined to stamp their authority on the game with early cards for so-so tackles the Hungarian resisted the temptation with an occasional strong word.
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