May 20th, 2009
05:50 PM ET

Inside Man Utd's training camp

MANCHESTER, England - As Manchester United near the end of another remarkable season, Alex Ferguson is in history-writing mood.

Alex Ferguson has set his sights on consecutive Champions League crowns.
Alex Ferguson has set his sights on consecutive Champions League crowns.

Not content with matching the record set by rivals Liverpool of winning the English league title 18 times, a trophy the Red Devils retained successfully in 2009 for the third season in a row, as well as taking the League Cup and the World Club Cup in the same campaign, United are now on the verge of a successful defense of the big one too - the European Cup.

Not that any weight of legacy was evident from the body language of Fergie's charges, as they trained at the club's plush Carrington training complex a week away from the final clash with Barcelona in Rome.

Despite the presence of at least 100 of the world's press in attendance the atmosphere was positively jovial and carefree, with only anxious cameramen concerned about their shots affecting the mood.

Top clubs are rarely easy to access for journalists but United's welcome embrace smacked of a club confident with its present state and rank of players. Cristiano Ronaldo is an awesome sight even in training, Wayne Rooney tricked and smiled his way around the pitch while Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes exude that thoroughbred class that has proved so valuable down the years.

Only Dimitar Berbatov failed to live up to expectations, or vice versa depending on your opinion of the Bulgarian. Slow, soporific and unable to hit a barn door with a banjo all day long he stuck out from the energetic ensemble as a lone loafer.

After training, with filming half complete, player after player then filed past the never ending row of microphones to patiently answer the same recycled questions for an avid gaggle of media bods eager to get their second hit of the day. For starved hacks used to writing essays from monosyllabic scraps, this was a feeding frenzy of unexpected proportions.

Bobby Charlton says it could be the best ever United squad assembled. This is hard to quantify, but on this showing and as someone who saw the same body language from the same players displayed before the semifinal thrashing of Arsenal in London earlier in the month, Barcelona should beware. Fergie has pen in hand ...

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  1. thensaturdaycomes

    Interesting blog.

    I agree with what you say about Berbatov. His style was 'laguid' at Spurs, but he's been found out to be the lazy miscreant he is at Old Trafford. I do think perhaps you have hyped Manchester United a bit too much – they still have a lot of weak links (especially central midfield), which are hidden by the outrageous wealth of talent in other areas of the pitch.

    Barcelona should beware, but also so should Man U. Barca have already won a league and cup double, something Everton stopped the Red Devils doing last month.

    Anyway, I'd love any feedback on my blog – http://thensaturdaycomes.wordpress.com

    May 20, 2009 at 9:47 pm | Reply
  2. Gathuki

    Everyone has their style,people have taken so many pot shots at the Bulgarian,if he was a barn door,the horse would be able to bolt without too much trouble.Actually,the bad press he gets is probably because he's different.I'm a player and I know for someone who's not naturally gifted with pace,read ronaldo and rooney,what Berba does is amazing.His touch is a thing of beauty.And languid as he seems,how many times have you seen him loose the ball,or give away possession that lead to a goal?I saw Ronaldo do that in two consecutive matches,so really,give the boy a break.Berba is very much like Fletcher,the only man he seems to please is Ferguson.But since that's the only man he needs to please,all he needs to do is keep his head down and listen to the old man.Barca are there for the taking,passing and tricks are all very well,but any football man will tell you its about getting in the tackle,taking your chances,and not conceding.Proponents of sexy football should give the yammer a break.Enjoy a robust tackle!

    May 21, 2009 at 8:56 am | Reply
  3. zakaria abukari

    yes i perfectly agree that man utd is at its best this season but no body should take Barcelona for granted because they are capable of doing anything on a very good day. though matching player to player, united seems to have the advantage but don't forget that you are locking horns with Spanish giants. there is one thing i always observed the English soccer is totally and completely different from the Spanish game so it really becomes difficult to compact when two opposite sides are meeting like this.a word of caution to both teams it will not be easy to come by a win so extra effort is needed.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:15 am | Reply
  4. d1

    man u 4 life...U know it, i know it, they know it...Be warned!!

    May 21, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  5. Armando

    Barca are on the verge of writing their own historic season if they win the CL final. They would be the first spanish league team to accomplish the treble....

    May 21, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  6. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Good article.

    Manchester United versus FC Barcelona is indeed a dream final. Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi, Eto'o, Henry and Iniesta are high priests of modern day football. The two teams possess supporting stars who on their day can turn out to be match winners on their own. Such is the wealth of talent at the disposal of Alex and Pep.

    English and Spanish fan processions to Rome will look forward to sublime and memorable performances from their immensely gifted super stars.

    Rome is a perfect stage for Ferguson and Guardiola to perform their miracles and counter miracles.

    May 21, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  7. CJ....

    Berbatov is a fantastic addition to the Manchester United team. His work rate and positional play off the ball is terrific.His quality of passing and reading of the game is one of the best in the premiership without the need to be one of the energetic ensemble – probably the reason he will still be at Old Trafford next season and Teves will be running around some other ground like a headless chicken still wondering why one of the best managers in the business didn't play him for ninety minutes.. Look at the Manchester United premiership statistics for this season; most assists, Berbatov, most passes inside the opposition half, Berbatov.His ability to take out two/three opposing players with one pass is exceptional... Watch Berbatov more closely in the next game instead of " Ball Watching "

    May 21, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Reply
  8. C . Menns

    My advice to Man U is that they should go in to finish Barca. Ronaldo please no fanciful football that day, go in like a warrior . Remember what Barca did to Bayern , Real Madrid and Chelsea , do not joke with them at all . Messi ,Eto and Henry have something special in those legs , find a way to disorganise their move if you want us to drink our beer in a style after the match . UP MAN U...

    May 21, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  9. bjkim

    GLORY GLORY MAN UNITED

    May 22, 2009 at 1:32 am | Reply
  10. Sammy Lek

    I dream about the match that Man Utd will win the match with penalty shoot out. Because our name is Theatre of Dreams. Glory MAN UTD.

    May 22, 2009 at 10:47 am | Reply
  11. p.moktan

    Dear Mr. Ferguson: Look out Barca is out and they are a better team any day. The only option you have is to hold them physically and win on death penalty – this is the best MU strategy. Rome – geographically suits the other team and they have advantage of the regions support.

    Be defensive most of the time and count on your counter attack... I dont think Ronaldo will do well in this match as he will be heavily guarded. Count on your winger banks to do the match winning trick. I think it will be the mid field or the winner banks who will win the Champions league for you..........

    May 22, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  12. p.moktan

    oh well let it be glory for MANU U

    May 22, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  13. Erondu Chukwuma

    Man U 4life I we will take the cup at the end of day believ mi
    though Barca is good side but we will take day

    May 24, 2009 at 4:36 am | Reply
  14. WILLIS TOLO

    Manchester are the better side to win this game. No other Team can match them in Europe. With 27 un defated streak in Europe they are on a roll to lift this cup for the 4th time. Manchester is the most consistent side inEuropean soccer with one of the best defense in European History. Manchester United plays as a Team. They have world class players like Van dasar. Ryan Giggs, Christiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney & Nemaja Vidic who's currently the best defender in the world. Manchester United are History makers they never quit.

    May 25, 2009 at 9:30 am | Reply
  15. kofnet

    manU have to know barca will be the best that day.

    May 25, 2009 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  16. gbenga eyitayo

    i sincerely think it's going to be a good match, both sides have explosive attacks and can cause serious damage to any team anyday..but i'm a man.utd fan and i see united lifting the trophy and taking back to it's resting place (OLD TRAFFORD).....come on united!!!!!!!!!!

    May 26, 2009 at 7:47 am | Reply
  17. M kJ Myko

    Let us see who is who!!!Barca is used of praying their tricks like the way they did at Chelsea but MAN U is aware of everything.physically fit now is the one to be proved.

    Please MAN U fans,everybody should hold their pens and wait 4 the history and for us we're the witness of our team.MAN U never quit neither Sir Alex........up to the last.Lets go and hit the last nail in the coffin.
    CHEERS TO ALL MAN U FANS.........see u there in Rome

    May 26, 2009 at 10:27 am | Reply
  18. Daniel

    i think Man UTD has a chance to win this match and to be kings of europe again, but barcelona is also realy good, i think man U is going to win or they go to penalties.

    May 27, 2009 at 5:56 am | Reply

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