Starting the season with 18 League titles, knocking Liverpool off their perch had to be our number one priority. Therefore, having completed this goal, regardless of the result on Saturday, we have had a very successful season.
Personally, I think Barcelona will prove a massive test, in the Final, and a victory for us would not only shock most of the world but be the icing on the cake of a great year.
Looking at the scenario we find ourselves in, we are in a win-win situation; if we win, we have beaten the best team in the world and if we lose, we have lost to the best team in the world.
As we all know, to be the best, you have to beat the best. Although, of course, even the best teams need the odd refereeing decision to go in their favour, and the odd stroke of luck as a ball falls in just the right place, there are many things the Red Devils can do to increase their chances of triumph, at Wembley, on Saturday.
1. Pick the Right Bench
Everyone, including the man in charge, has learnt lessons from that dreadful night in Rome, but I am sure Sir Alex loves the fact he has the opportunity to make things right second time round.
With the majority of the starting XI selection pretty much picking itself, apart from the full-back positions, Sir Alex’s biggest selection dilemmas are on the bench. With 7 subs to choose from, there are going to be some big omissions from the match day squad.
On the bench, Sir Alex needs to pick a good mix of versatility and impact players, so that they can assist in determining the final result, when needed. In all, Sir Alex has 6 selection dilemmas, with Nani the only certain inclusion on the bench…
Firstly, Sir Alex needs to decide whether to start the shaky Kuzczak or Lindegaard, along with the probable drop of a Da Silva twin, as O’Shea’s versatility almost guarantees him a place on the bench. In midfield, one of Scholes, Fletcher & Anderson is likely to face the cut. Even the Barclay’s Premier League top scorer may struggle for a place on the bench, following his poor display against Blackpool.
All these tough decisions will need to be made but I am sure Fergie will put emotions to one side and make the best decision for the team.
Who’ll Inhabit the Bench on Saturday?
2. Fight Fire With Fire
This time round, we need to take the game to Barcelona and simply play the United way, attacking from the outset. Although Barcelona may have a range of mercurial talents going forward, we must not forget that their weakness lies in defence, ready to be exposed.
Knowing this, I believe Fergie will take the game to them, fighting fire with fire, even though memories of that shocking night in Rome will still be on the players’ minds. Regardless of the history between the teams, Saturday is 90 minutes, 90 minutes in which anything can happen, 90 minutes in which one club will win their 4th European Cup.
Regardless of how many players we put in midfield, Barcelona are still going to monopolise possession. However, with the players at our disposal, we have more than enough to hurt the Catalans.
On the rare occasion that we do steal possession from Xavi & Co, it is paramount that we counter attack with speed and precision, through the likes of Giggs, Valencia & Rooney. Who can set up Hernandez, who will be ready to pounce, considering the high line Barcelona play?
3. Stop Messi
Keeping the world’s best player at bay for a whole match is, nearly, impossible but limiting his chances in a game is certainly achievable. Like all the best players, Messi is a match winner and even though he can be kept under wraps for 89 minutes, if you give him 1 chance, he can produce a goal or assist when it matters most.
However, United have the best defensive record in the Champions League this season and should rightly be confident about their ability to silence Barcelona’s attacking threat. After all, if anyone can stop the diminutive Argentinean, it is (in my eyes) the world’s best defender, Nemanja Vidic.
4. Get Behind the Full Backs
Considering the form of Valencia, Nani & Park, we have a selection of some of the best wingers in world football at the moment. Whoever is selected on Saturday will be up against Dani Alvez at RB and either the ageing Carlos Puyol or returning Eric Abidal, at LB.
Ji Sung Park will most probably be deployed on the left, where he will track the dangerous runs of Dani Alvez. However, the Brazilian rarely finds a Barcelona player with his crosses, due to their aerial weakness. Therefore, the South Korean may let the Brazilian go sometimes, leaving him with the opportunity to get behind him and run at Pique, who will be distracted by both Rooney & Hernandez.
On the right, I expect Valencia to get the nod over Nani, considering his defensive discipline and consistent final ball. Having terrorised the world’s best LB in Ashley Cole recently, the Ecuadorian certainly has enough in his locker to get the better of whoever plays against him on Saturday.
5. Be Clinical
Against a team like Barcelona, chances are always going to be few and far between. However, in our ranks we have a natural goal-scorer in Chicharito who generally scores when he gets a chance.
However, we also need consistency from the rest of our team, who are not as clinical in front of goals. Rooney will need to show balls of steel, if we happen to get a penalty, and Park will have to continue his recent run of 8 goals in 24 games
Nonetheless, I will take anything on Saturday; a deflected shot, an own goal because after all, the only thing that anyone remembers is the final score.
Barcelona are a going to be a mighty challenge for Sir Alex’s men, so let’s just go out and enjoy ourselves, play the football we know we can produce and do ourselves proud.
For once, we are the underdogs – we know it will be tough – but I know we have the quality to overcome anyone in this one off game.
Jamie Frank is the author of Unrivaled Passion, a blog which he uses to write about his passions and interests. Generally focusing on Manchester United during the season, Jamie is an avid fan from Cape Town. Having represented South Africa’s U18′s water-polo team, Jamie is a keen athlete who now plays for Camps Bay FC, although he never lets it get in the way of a United game on TV. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.
Tom is a southern dwelling Kendalian who is one of our editors and a weekly guest on the podcast. He has an unhealthy obsession with Jaap Stam and despite 20 years of success never expects United to win.