Date: 26th May 2011 at 2:15pm
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On Saturday night the eyes of Europe will be fixed on Wembley Stadium as the UEFA Champions League final is contested.

It is fitting that the contest is not only a rematch of the 2009 final but also that it takes place between the champions of the two best leagues in European football. Barcelona are already considered the best football team in club football today and could go down in history as one of the greatest teams of all time. Manchester United, meanwhile, have had an inconsistent season by their high standards but have (as ever) looked decidedly better in the latter stages of the season.

Nevertheless, the record breaking Premier League champions face a mammoth task in London. Barcelona’s starting line-up is arguably the best around and features the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Villa and a certain Lionel Messi (you may have heard of him). The question is what can United do to stop the Spanish giants and defeat them at Wembley?

There has been much talk in the past few weeks as to what team Sir Alex Ferguson will deploy in the final. Although the classic 4-4-2 featuring Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez has paid dividends for the Red Devils in the last couple of months it seems more likely that the Scot will go for a 4-5-1 with two holding midfield players and Rooney as the sole striker. This is a risk since “Chicharito” has looked fantastic this season and his movement gives even the most solid of defensive partnerships (and Pique and Puyol are the best of the best) nightmares.

Nevertheless, Barcelona control games with their possession in the centre of the park and two defensive midfielders would be a good way to break up the Catalonian’s rhythm across midfield. Once Xavi and Iniesta start moving the ball around it is difficult to get it back from them but 5 men across the centre, with Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher playing defensively, would give United a strong chance of doing just that. Of course this doesn’t account for a certain diminutive Argentinian.

Lionel Messi is the best player in football today and an argument is already being made that he is the greatest to ever step on the football pitch. It is hard to dispute those claims. His phenomenal goal against Real Madrid in the first leg of the El Classico semi-final encounter was the sort that makes you stand up in your living room  and give the Argentinian a standing ovation, even though you know he can’t hear you. The man is a footballing genius. Plain and simple. United will need to find a way to stop him from doing what he does best.

One solution for this could be to have a player man-mark Messi. With two men covering the back four, it would allow Carrick to play the traditional defensive midfield role whilst Fletcher sticks to Messi like glue and stops him from playing his game. This has been proven to work before, not least in the aforementioned first-leg semi-final clash with Real Madrid in which Messi was kept quiet by Pepe until his sending off left a gap on the field allowing Messi to do what he does best.

If Fletcher could stop Messi from running at the United defence then at least one problem will have been dealt with. After all, let us not forget that great though Ferdinand and Vidic are as a defensive partnership, Vidic does have a history of panicking when fast strikers run at him (see Torres, Fernando). If Vidic was to bring down Messi and get himself sent off it would be disastrous for United, and they would probably be dead in the water from then on. Man marking Messi could prevent these problems.

6 responses to “Beating Barca: How do United do it?”

  1. i have never see a defender that can stop lionel messi for he want to do,bcos the argentian has a time to corse in a magic,also messi world football once again@when barecelona beat man united in champions league final at wembley stadium in london and have a wonderfull season again many record have been keepin in barcelona history.

  2. jonathan says:

    I like the rumoured 4-4-2 and I feel it is more defensively sound than given credit for. In reality Rooney is doing as much work in midfield as he is up front and does his share of trying to win the ball back when on defense. Morever, Fergie is likely to opt for Park and Valencia at the expense of Nani due to their defensive abilities. Park in particular will help in the middle when needed and he has a good sense for that. Finally, Chicharito indirectly helps us defensively as their the 2 CB’s are less likely to move forward and help out in ball possession as they often do.

    If Fletch was healthy and playing to his standards of the previous two seasons than the 4-5-1 with him in it would be more tempting; but in looking out our team’s strengths presently, our CL 4-4-2 is our best option.

  3. arsalan says:

    i think we shall not think about who to play but just think about winning of man utd although glory glory man united….

  4. karlomu says:

    i really think we have a great chance with 4-4-2 because using the 4-5-1 formation does not allow us to impose our own attacking game on barca sure we need to stifle them but we also need to play to our strenghts as a team and not give them too much respect the chelsea and schalke games have proved what our best starting eleven is by means of the fact that two really good players in berba and nani have been left out because of team shape.barca are a great team and a joy to watch but so are we and we are also in great form at the moment so without being naive we should have a right go at them and show them whos boss…