Manchester United v Barcelona Soapbox: my homage to Catalonia

Mesmerised by the sheer brilliance of Barcelona, who made Manchester United look what they are not (ordinary), Pete Sixsmith calms down long enough to reflect with gratitude and admiration on the Champions’ League final …

Long time readers of my ramblings may remember me drooling over the Spain team that walked away with Euro 2008. My particular favourite was Andrea Iniesta and I though that team was as close to perfection as you would get.

Cancel that statement, because I, and millions of others, have just witnessed a team performance that will be remembered by those who saw it as long as Real Madrid’s demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt has been by those of an earlier generation. The Barcelona side that summarily dismissed Manchester United in the Champions’ League Final is, without a doubt, the finest club side in history.

I sat and watched in wonderment as Iniesta, Xavi, Alves, Messi etc. made United look like an average Premier League team like Sunderland do when faced with a rampant United side. United fans will now have an inkling of what it is like to support an inferior team.

Barcelona really are a special team. The ball is not given away. Accurate passing is expected, nay demanded, at all times. When the killer ball comes, it is a killer ball and usually produces a chance. A fabulous night of footbal …

You can see traces of their style in the way that Zenden, Malbranque and Sessegnon play their football. All three of them will look for a short pass and want it back in order to continue to build. Or, they will keep hold of the ball. They do not want to give the ball away cheaply.

Unfortunately, in England, the maxim is “If you give it away, get it back quickly”. Cattermole, Henderson and Meyler are good at this and cover huge amounts of ground to retrieve situations that they themselves have created. I don’t see Xavi or Busquets doing this.

If Barcelona took more than one long corner, I missed it. Nearly every one was played short to allow players to move into space and to make life difficult for United, who are used to defending corners that rarely pass the first defender.

So many lessons to learn. Of course, the likes of Messi and Villa are fabulous individual players and clubs like ours can never attract that kind of quality. But what we can do is to start to think like Barcelona: “if we have the ball, the other team haven’t. Don’t give it away.”

A staggering performance that will live long in the memory. I expect to see it replicated at Turf Moor on the July 30. Or it’s “Bruce Out” from me.

Share this post

3 thoughts on “Manchester United v Barcelona Soapbox: my homage to Catalonia”

  1. An absolutely breathtaking performance ; my partner – who knows nothing about football actually summed it up perfectly . Sitting in a pub in Preston watching the 2nd half – she said “It’s like watching the Harlem Globetrotters ” Brilliant analogy

  2. It was breathtaking and had me drooling! It underlined for me the reasons why football has lost its sparkle for me. It wasn’t complicated at all, but based on an shared understanding about what will happen next. There was a free kick in the first half that Barca had which didn’t quite come off but it was wonderful to see the short quick pass and movement to the target player as he left the wall.

    Didn’t football used to be more like this I was asking myself? What particularly struck me was the absence of speculative punts as crosses into the box. They pass the ball beautifully between themselves even in the tighest areas. Corner kicks are used to just get the ball back into play because they know they have the technical superiority to prioritise this over hammering a ball “hit and hope” fashion into the penalty area. (I hope our Flying Pharoah was watching this and cringeing!). He isn’t even following the same profession as these Barca lads.

    Marvellous, scintillating stuff that should inspire kids to play the game a lot more. Brilliant!

  3. Good points well made Pete. I have questioned before the dubious tactic of retaining posession with a series of short passes, only for the ball to find its way back to whichever keeper happens to be playing, who then simply hoofs it upfield. This results in a series of midfield tussles in an effort to regain possession given away.

    Similarly with ball in hand, our goalies rarely look for a short pass or throw out – Gordon being less inclined than Mignolet to adopt that tactic.

    Last season there were times when the team put together a series of short passes, as well as any other, only to run out of ideas when no-one seemed to be able to find the position to create clear cut chances. But the foundations are there and a bit of fine tuning and positional nous will hopefully see a more positive outcomes next season.

Comments are closed.

Next Post