Date:Monday April 21 2008
I put my neck on the line and say that United will be knocked out by Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League. You think I do not trust my team? You're wrong.
It's not because we've been stuttering a bit of late - two away draws and a deserved but unconvincing home win over Arsenal -, and not even because some of our key men look a bit off-colour. I have three fundamental reasons for my prediction.
1. Lionel Messi
The little Argentinian is back and by all accounts he's done more in 45 minutes against Espanyol than the rest of his teammates did in the last five games. He'll mainly face Evra but I'm terrified of the prospect of him running at Wes Brown... He is bound to score at least one in both games.
2. Alan Hansen
BBC's 'top pundit' has predicted that United will go through. Yeah, the same man who said 'you'll never win anything with kids'. I fear that the kiss of death has been delivered.
3. It's a Champions League semi-final
And this, chaps, is the most important reason of all. United are serial semi-final bottlers in this competition. A few stats to prove.
Liverpool reached the last four in the old and the new European Cup eight times before 2008 - and progressed to final seven times.
Our opponents, Barcelona got to the semi-finals nine times - and reached the final on five occasions.
By contrast, United also reached this stage nine times before - yep, we had more European Cup semis than Liverpool - but managed to take this last hurdle only on two occasions: in 1968 and 1999 of course.
Sir Matt lost four, Sir Alex lost three semi-finals and for the sake of mathematics and numerology, the second legendary Scot will tie his predecessor. How it will happen?
Well, I think Barca will start strongly while we'll be a bit slowly out of the blocks. They will score in the first 10 minutes and urged on by a suddenly boisterous crowd, they finally find their rhytm that was lacking in the previous months, they proceed to win 3-0 against a United side that completely lose their heads after the first goal.
In other words, we'll do a San Siro. Hopefully I'm wrong. It would not be the first time for me.
Date:Monday April 21 2008
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