Now that this year’s Champions League winner has been crowned, we can learn a little from the teams that competed in this competition. First off, between Man United and FC Barcelona, the two best teams in Europe were in the final. Both teams deservedly made their way to the final and each spoke with tremendous respect for one another prior to the match which is great to see in professional football.
After the 3-1 loss, Sir Alex Ferguson once again took the high road with his comments regarding his opponents. Remember, this is the second time Man United lost to Barcelona in the Champions League final.
Ferguson said ”We were beaten, there is no other way to address the situation, by the best team,” ”I expected us to do better but at the end of the day we were beaten by the better team. They are the best team we have ever played, they are at the peak in this cycle of their team.
”There was good evidence we are a consistently good European team but we were beaten by the best team in Europe and there is no shame in that. Sometimes you come up against a far better team and tonight was one of those nights.”
With regards to the goals scored against Man United I have to address this zonal defense they were playing. I agree with playing zone defense instead of chasing them all around the field but once a team is in your third of the field (therefore any shot or cross can result in a goal or a dangerous situation), it then becomes time to pressure and man-mark. This is what United failed to do on the first two goals scored against them.
The first goal came when Ryan Giggs was simply jogging along side Xavi or in other words not putting any pressure thus allowing him time on the ball to make a pass to the unmarked Pedro (once again zone marking).
The second goal was once again playing zonal defense when Messi was only 20 yards away from the net. He had a lot of time on the ball and shot right down the middle to score. Lesson…you cannot play zone defense when a team is in shooting range of net. You have to put your opposition under pressure or you’ll be the ones with a lot of problems.
Manchester had a series of errors throughout the game and with a team of Barcelona’s quality they will punish you and that is exactly what they did. The goals were not incredible goals but instead were plays where they took advantage of the errors.
With regard to his own team’s performance, Ferguson admitted United’s season had ended in frustrating fashion. ”We expected to do better, simple as that,” he said. ”We have had a great season in many ways, it is just disappointing that we have been to Wembley twice and been beaten. We are just disappointed it has ended on this note.”
As Ferguson said, they are at the peak in this cycle of their team. He, Ferguson, has been there many times so there is no problem taking your hat off to Barcelona.