The Champions League final on Saturday night ended up being one of the most convincing victories in recent memory; Barcelona dispatched Manchester United effortlessly to win their fourth European Cup. It was a phenomenal display from the Spanish side who must surely now be regarded as the greatest club side in football history.
In an almost instant replay of the final in 2009 United began in dominant fashion whilst Barcelona eased their way into the game slowly. However, after threatening a couple of times the Catalan giants went ahead through Pedro after some wonderful work by Xavi. The diminutive midfield maestro pulled the strings for the entire game; he completed 141 passes from a possible 148 which is staggering. When you consider that United’s two central midfielders contributed 56 passes from a possible 70 it begins to tell the story.
Although United did score before half-time the result was not in doubt. The ease with which Barca picked off United would have been horrible to watch for Ferguson. His team could simply not live with their counterparts and humiliation was not too far away. Much of the blame must lie with Ferguson who believed that Carrick and Giggs could halt the opposing midfield.
After beating Schalke in the semi-final you cannot blame him entirely for feeling that it was possible; however, the difference in quality of the opposition had changed dramatically. The need for a top class enforcer in front of the back four has never been so abundantly obvious.
The class with which Barcelona went about their business was awesome to see and in all honesty I don’t feel they got out of third gear – they simply didn’t have to. When you consider the fact that this team could be together for another two or three years it is frightening. Much of the credit must go to Pep Guardiola who has masterminded this dominance in recent years.
He is an incredible man who knows the club intimately and was also a member of the 1992 squad. He played and offered guidance to a young Xavi when he first came through the youth set up and has been instrumental in bringing Messi into the middle where he can really hurt opposing defences. Having signed another one year deal earlier in the season he will be desperate to win another Champions League trophy next season before he moves onto pastures new.
It was a wonderful final and a great advertisement for how football can be played. There is too much emphasis on the physical side of the game in England and that was clear to see. The most crucial elements are technique and skill which enables Barcelona to play their sublime style of football. I, like most other football fans hope this continues for many years to come.