Date:Wednesday April 30 2008
What a night. What a fantastic, electric, magnificent night. Manchester United have done what they've never done before: booked a place in the Champions League final at Old Trafford. It does not come much better than this.
As yesterday night's short 'article' proved we were all delighted, over the moon and just about every adjective that can describe happiness would suit us. And it was entirely fitting that such a historic game would be decided by the man who is the absolute legend, the very essence of Manchester United.
Paul Scholes, of course, missed the 1999 final through suspension. But back then it was understated because of Roy Keane's absence: the skipper's wonderful performance in Turin stole the limelights. (To illustrate this: the official 'Reds going to Barcelona' song says 'Do it for Keano' and lists Scholes among the members of the squad).
Roy is not at United any more but Scholesy is still doing the silky passing, thunderous shooting and woeful tackling. Yesterday, fortunately, we had only one little example of the latter, a clumsy challenge on Messi just outside the box... but great passing was in abundance from the man, just as vital interceptions and a goal of the highest class.
He would, of course, be humble about it but I think we should not hesitate to call it his greatest ever goal. I mean, it's stuff of dreams, worthy of a Hollywood script: a man who missed a Champions League final books his team's place in another one with a 25-yard-screamer after a World Cup winner right-back inexplicably decided to pass the ball right to him.
But it wasn't only about Scholes. Every single United player rose to the occasion magnificently. In the absence of Rooney we got our tactics spot on: Barcelona were always going to monopolise possession but with the plenty of pace our front players offered United were always a real threat on the break.
Barcelona resorted to long-range shooting, and not very accurate at that. Van der Sar, yet again, was merely a spectator for long times though his kicking was suspect, to say the least. United created much the better chances - I'd even say that only we created any real chances at all.
I wrote before the game that without Rooney United will have little chance. Well, Rooney's role was taken by Tevez - and the Argentinian did a sensational, selfless job and it was key to our victory. The movement of the front players was immense, Barcelona defenders had serious difficulties in trying to track it.
We really should have buried, sparing the fans an anxious finish: Nani's header, Park's great chance, Tevez's opportunity after brilliant build-up with Ronaldo, Nani's solo effort, Ronaldo's shot that went inches wide - on the other end, Barcelona had an Henry header that went straight to Van der Sar and a Messi shot that was saved comfortably.
Oh, Messi. Well, he's awesome. He was praised to the high heaven after the first leg, much to my bafflement. He deserves it this time: every time he touched the ball he scared the living hell out of me. What he can't do with it is not worth to learn. It's good he loves to dribble inside, not outside, as he could have got behind our wonderfully organised defence.
Everybody did an immense job, all of our players executed their tasks to perfection. Barcelona had more possession and more shots but United were the more dangerous team and fully deserve their place in the final.
No suspensions, no injuries yet - Evra, Vidic and Rooney will be all OK for the weekend - can anyone stop United this time? We shall know in three weeks' time. The big question is now: Liverpool or Chelsea? But that's worth another article.
Date:Wednesday April 30 2008
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United v Shakhtar - Starting XI`s (Tuesday December 10 2013)
More on the Transfer Front! (Tuesday December 10 2013)
Is It Too Late? (Tuesday December 10 2013)
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United Draw Premier League Opposition (Sunday December 8 2013)
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