May 28th, 2009
10:44 AM ET

Move over Mourinho: We have found a new 'special one'

ROME, Italy — CNN — It was billed as a battle between the world’s top two clubs. One lived up to expectations, another did not.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Pedro Pinto rated Xavi as Barcelona's best player in the Champions League final."]

Barcelona taught Manchester United a lesson at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday and were deservedly crowned Kings of Europe. It was an historic victory for the Catalans who became the first Spanish club to win the league, cup and Champions League.

The atmosphere at the Olimpico was electric with both sets of fans singing and cheering throughout the match. It was United who were quickest off the blocks as Cristiano Ronaldo had three shots on target in the opening 10 minutes of play. However, Barcelona were not shaken and they scored with their first opportunity. Great runs from Andres Iniesta and Samuel Eto’o easily beat Patrice Evra and then Edwin Van der Sar to spark wild celebrations at the Barcelona end of the stands.

The goal inspired the Spanish Giants and they started to assert themselves, passing and moving at ease. The first “Oles” were heard after a move that involved  practically every Barcelona player touching the ball.

Ronaldo seemed to be the only one capable of swimming against the current. Every time the FIFA World Player of the Year had possession, you had the feeling something could happen. United’s midfield was clearly struggling to create goal-scoring opportunities though, and that led Sir Alex Ferguson to withdraw the disappointing Anderson and introduce the energetic Carlos Tevez.

United showed intent, but it was still Barcelona who was oozing skill and class. Thierry Henry could and should have scored and second and Xavi hit the post. Ferguson then put on Dimitar Berbatov in a desperate attempt to get an equalizing goal, but the move backfired as their opponents struck a deadly blow. Midfield maestro Xavi with the cross, and Leo Messi, one of the shortest players on the pitch, rose majestically to head the ball past Van Der Sar.

This time, there was no miraculous comeback like there had been at the Camp Nou in 1999. Barcelona held on to become worthy winners. They had the best attack in the competition, scoring 32 goals in 13 matches and they played the best football. Yes, there was an exception – the second leg of the semi-final against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But fortune favours the brave and they rode their luck to make the title match.

Last but not least, what can we say about Pep Guardiola? In his first ever season as a professional manager, he wins the treble! He also became only the sixth man to win the European Cup as a player and as a manager. What can he do for an encore?

Move over Jose Mourinho, there is a new special one in town.

Hot and Cold

United’s best – Van der Sar. Made six saves and kept the match close thanks to his quick reactions and safe pair of hands.

United’s worst – Anderson. Looked lost in midfield and was chasing shadows in the first half. Ferguson withdrew him at the break.

Barcelona’s best – Xavi. The ease with which the midfield maestro sets the tempo and pulls the string in midfield is phenomenal. Assisted Messi for his goal and hit the post from a free kick.

Barcelona’s worst – Sylvinho. The veteran never really got in the game and never posed a threat on the wing. Was average on a night everyone around him was a step above.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Themba

    Barcelona's best – Puyol. He played a captains innings even though out of his normal position and was unlucky not to score. Rooney and Ronaldo will remember him that's for sure, he fought for the Catalans with every stride and breath.

    May 28, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  2. Tony

    Undoubtedly the triumph of class over hard work. Good to see the further advance of two of the revelations of Euro 2008 – Xavi & Andres Iniesta.

    May 28, 2009 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  3. hideaki nagano

    I think a new special one.It is good or bad.I think a new way.

    May 29, 2009 at 3:15 am | Reply
  4. Cris Belize

    All these comments making excuses for Manchester United seem to be of two varieties. The first explain Manchester not having a good day and did not show up to play and the second that Manchester are actually a better team than Barcelona and would have proven it by scoring first. These sort of comments either show that United fans are incredibly loyal or don't really understand football. When I saw the match I said wait a minute I've seen this script before. Rewind to Manchester United vs Real Madrid in 2000 and then again in 2002/2003 and Liverpool vs Valencia of that same era. Each occasion the English team were played off the park in the tightest of spaces. What the Barcelona demolition of Manchester United says is that technically Barcelona are superior in every way to Manchester. The way Anderson and Carrick and Tevez chased the football in vain was comical. Manchester football, Premier League football and English National football lack the technical players to contest a match against a technical team. Look no further at the last time England played Spain. It didn't matter which team Ferguson sent out there or what tactics he employed, Barcelona simply did not lose the ball. The only reason the match did not end in a cricket score was thanks to Van Der Sar who had an excellent match in goal. Neither of the goals could be blamed on him. And what is more, the way this result seems to have shocked the fans is a result of the English speaking media over-hyping Manchester who week in week out play a run and gun style of football in the Premier League while Barcelona actually has to work the ball week in and week out in Spain. All those managers like Marcello Lippi, Jose Mourinho, Hector Cuper with their navigation charts and huge egos need to recognize that football is still a game about the ball and how you keep it. This was a validation of the Roberto Baggios, Dejan Savicevics, and all the other small technical players that have been weeded out of football by managers who prefer 10 robots infront of a keeper. Phil Scolari must be laughing because he tried to turn ballerinas out of construction workers at Chelsea. And Arsene Wenger should feel very validated because this is the type of football Arsenal tries to play. This was a triumph of football.

    May 29, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  5. Cris Belize

    Another comment, with all due respect to your analysis. I think Sylvinho one probably one of the best players on the pitch. He displayed enormous composure and superb passing. I loved the way he worked the ball upfield only as far as he could recover, never leaving much space for United to tuck behind him. Granted Barca had a shaky start, I think his experience was essential in the victory and is one of my favorite players on the day. I think the most ineffective Barcelona player was Henry due to his injury and that given he corkscrewed Ferdinand off his feet, is saying a lot.

    May 29, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  6. rose

    You are 100% wrong about Sylvinho. He made some great assists that could have been goals and this is coming from a player who has been on the bench for most games and never complains. He did a great job in my opinion, especially to the task he was up to. You obviously don't watch much of La Liga, i guess all you watch is premier league right??? you even favored them to win. when will newscasters learn that statistics don't mean anything?? and by the way, no one from BCN played poorly.

    May 29, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Reply
  7. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Xavi was brilliant in Rome. The quick thinking Barça man can feed, attack and defend. Very versatile ball player.

    May 30, 2009 at 11:02 am | Reply
  8. Kiyaga Fred

    I do agree with the analysis by Cris Belize apart from the comment on Scolari, The brazilian did not provide the required passion and thrill of playing let alone winning to the chelsea team.

    June 2, 2009 at 10:18 am | Reply
  9. Agada Johnson

    Barcelona was awesome that historic night and clearly deserved to win.

    June 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  10. icedieddy

    Sweet blog. I never know what I am going to come across next. I think you should do more posting as you have some pretty intelligent stuff to say.

    I'll be watching you . 🙂

    June 4, 2009 at 3:25 am | Reply
  11. yaya

    sir alex should go!full stop!

    June 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  12. william hernandez floyd

    all coments i have reed are just about right. Barcelobna futball club played beautifull throughout the campain and it was thanks not only the great players it has,but mostly to how GUARDIOLA,a great player doring his years in the first team and his natural way of handling a bunch of great players he has. It takes a lot of right hand and phycology to manage the group of individual talent to form a great team.
    lets hope next year is similar.

    June 11, 2009 at 10:57 am | Reply
  13. thelma

    man united played as if they were kids

    June 11, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  14. Bill Bartmann

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

    September 2, 2009 at 4:51 am | Reply
  15. Amadeu Cardoso de Sousa

    My heart goes out to the Irish. As a Portuguese, I cannot help but draw comparisons from the European Cup finals 9 years ago and the last world cup...both times Portugal was robbed due to incompetent (biased!?) officiating, with the beneficiary being France. Makes one think once again whether the "small teams" of this world are sacrificed on the alter of big money and "big teams"; it just makes you wonder. Like back then, as now, if France had any sense of honour, they would demand a replay to see just who the better team really is. Shame on you France, once again.

    November 19, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Reply

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