Date:Monday May 19 2008
*Note - This is not what I WANT the team to be; simply what I THINK it will be.
Van Der Sar - Its a no-brainer, barring injury Van Der Sar will be the man in-between the posts; whose job it is to stop the threat of Drogba and co. Something of a lucky charm, he is one of the few of our players to have previously won the Champions League at his time with Ajax (1995) - and so could prove to be a pivotal figure on Wednesday night.
Brown - Our defence pretty much picks itself; and Brown is a key figure of our back 5. I dabbled with the thought of Owen Hargreaves at right-back, but at the end of the day this is a Champions League Final; and anything but our full-strength team would be suicidal. Equally as suicidal in my opinion would be the decision to bring Gary Neville back for the final; a rumour which has gathered an unnerving amount of momentum in previous days. To bring a player in that has played little more than 20 minutes of professional football in the past year and a half would be ridiculous, and sentiment aside, I believe Neville should not even be included in the squad; something that I will look at in more detail later. Brown also has previous experience of winning the cup.
Ferdinand - Non-united fans will no doubt have other ideas, but in my opinion there has been no better defender in Europe this season than Rio Ferdinand. His presence both on and off the pitch has oozed maturity and confidence; and I expect the very same against Chelsea. Why he wasn`t in the nominations for player of the season and Gerrard was is baffling, but that`s another story all together. Like all season our defence will be key on Wednesday, but in Ferdinand I think we have both the player and captain to guide us to momentous glory.
Vidic - The other half of our rock-solid defensive partnership, I think Vidic is in for a big game on Wednesday. Having conjured up a recent personal feud with Chelsea, and in particular the ever-dangerous Drogba; Vidic will be returning to the city in which he enjoyed so much success with Spartak Moscow; chomping at the bit to get at Chelsea. He`s been described as our "weakest link" by the laughably naive Salmon Kalou. All I can say to Mr. Grant is underestimate Vidic at your peril.
Evra - Arguably the best left-back in the world at the moment; Patrice Evra will be as important from an attacking point of view as a defensive one. As Chelsea`s game does not rely heavily on the wings, I think Evra will be given more of a licence to get forward than in the Semi-Final against Barcelona, and if he manages to link up well on the left and gets forward regularly I think he can Chelsea`s right-back position; a known weakness of Grant`s team, confirmed by the recent signing of Boswinga.
Hargreaves - Its a tough one. In my view Hargreaves, Anderson and Fletcher are vying for one place, and though I may personally sway towards the side of Anderson; I think Hargreaves experience in the Cup may see him in the starting line-up. If he is given a more attacking role, as he was against Roma in the second leg of the Quarter-Finals; I am confident he can produce a similar performance; linking up with Ronaldo on the right.
Carrick - I don`t think anyone can begrudge Carrick a place in the team. In my eye`s he has been our most consistent performer in the centre of midfield; and his performances of late have more than justified his £18.5 million price tag. With the attacking qualities of Lampard, Ballack and Essien all likely to be on display, Carrick`s job will no doubt be difficult, but he has relished the big game of late, and I believe both his defensive and attacking attributes will be vital if we are to lift our third Champions League trophy on Wednesday.
Scholes - Already certain of the start from Fergie, Scholes` inclusion may contain a slight amount of sentiment behind it. However one could argue his inclusion is merited considering that without his goal against Barcelona, we may not have been in this situation. Nevertheless, Scholes will no doubt pull all the strings in midfield and I think his impact on the team will be controlled largely by Avram Grant`s own team selection; does he go for an attacking midfield that will leave space open for Scholes to exploit; or does he go for a more defensive formation that may not hold the same attack going forward, but may be able to mark the likes of Scholes and Hargreaves out of the game? We will see.
Ronaldo - No doubt this will once-again be labelled as the game in which Ronaldo must prove himself, but you know what, he doesn`t have to prove anything to me, or any other United fan. 41 goals, top-scorer in both League and Champions League, won almost every personal award under the sun is more than enough for me. He IS the best player in the world at the moment, so lets just put that argument to bed. End of, lets all move on. As for Wednesday, I actually don`t think he will be our most influential player; due in large to Ashley Cole, one of the only defenders that can boast to having the upper hand when it comes to one-on-one duels with the Portuguese. Having said that, he is the kind of player which can create something out of nothing, and in Finals of this magnitude, to borrow an old cliché, it is often either a mistake or a piece of genius that decides it. Luckily for us, we have the ultimate football genius in our ranks.
Tevez - I realise that in previous articles I have said that I don`t believe Sir Alex will choose Tevez in this match and instead will opt for his workhorse, Park-Ji-Sung; I feel that along with Carrick, recent performances must grant him a place in the starting 11. His strength and desire to hold up the ball and bring in others will be crucial to our attacks, and in Tevez we also have a very adaptable player; half way through the game he could switch positions with either Rooney or Ronaldo, or if we have a lead he can act as additional defensive cover. Nowadays, a player like Tevez is extremely unique, a player that can both defend and attack to a very high level, a player with huge drive and whether we are chasing a lead or defending for our lives, he is always of use to the team; which is why I think he will play. Many Chelsea fans indeed label Tevez as our main threat due to his ability to get crucial goals, so lets hope he can do what he has shown in the past and grab a decisive goal.
Rooney - Our big game player, Rooney will play in any position given to him, even in goal. Personally, I think playing Rooney on the left does neutralise alot of his threat, but if it is a choice between Rooney on the left tor Rooney on the bench, I know what I would choose; he is just so crucial in a game of this scale. We have seen it in the past, he makes our team tick, and without him we are not the same team. Also, like Ronaldo and Tevez he can interchange positions; allowing us to have a fluid front line full of unpredictability; something which could be pivotal in getting the victory we all desire on Wednesday.
Formation - (4-5-1/4-3-3)
Van Der Sar
Brown - Ferdinand - Vidic - Evra
Hargreaves - Carrick - Scholes
Ronaldo - Tevez - Rooney
Subs - So that leaves the subs; a task which Fergie describes as his toughest, and I`m afraid a little bit of guesswork is involved in this part. Kuszazck is a certainty, as are in my eyes, Anderson, Nani, and Giggs. The other three places I believe will be occupied by Silvestre, Saha and O`Shea; who can double up as a defender or midfielder.
So in my eyes, the players to be left out of the squad will be; Foster, Neville, Pique, Fletcher, Park and many others. From those five, I think the only two that could perhaps feel hard-done by are Fletcher and Park, but when you have such a deep squad as ours, there will no doubt be disappointments, and I`m sure Ferguson and Quieroz will let them down lightly.
So, there are my predictions. I know people may disagree, so please comment YOUR predictions below. Until then we must all wait with anticipation for what will one way or the other be an unforgettable night.
Date:Monday May 19 2008
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