Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's in the Stars

photo by Alëxvia PhotoRee

In which Correspondent Ed and farlieonfootie go mano a mano regarding the Champions League final:

Ed: I still hate Barca, but I have to ask: Can United beat these guys?  

farlieonfootie: Of course they can, Ed.  You don't win 18 English titles and three European Championships by being scared of the opposition.

Ed: Real, a team that I think is similar to United, had the ball all of 22% of the time in the first half.  What Barca doesn’t get enough credit for is how fast they are, and how well they shut people down when they lose the ball.  Real was taken completely out of their game Tuesday night.  

farlieonfootie: Your flaw's in your assumption, Ed.  Manchester United is like Real only in that Cristiano Ronaldo played for both teams, but the similarities end there.  Real plays like a pampered collection of stars; United plays like a team.  United may not have the pure celebrity wattage associated with Los Blancos, but I'll take a Nemanja Vidic, Park Ji-Sung and Antonio Valencia any day of the week over guys like Sergio Ramos, Kaka and Xabi Alonso.  Stars do win championships -- sometimes.  More commonly, though, they are won by teams.

Ed: All that said, Mascherano should have been tossed out for flopping ridiculously on several occassions, and I’d say about 50% of the penalties that were called in the first half were actual fouls, while 50% were pretty much touch fouls, if anything at all.  I’d also say Messi, who everyone says doesn’t flop, simply flopped on several occasions Tuesday night.  Once again, if I played like that at Wednesday night league it'd be laughable. 

farlieonfootie: Actually, your Wednesday night league performances are laughable for other reasons, but that's a story for another time.  I can't believe I find myself writing this in response to your comments, Ed, but I agree.  La Liga has been disgraced by both teams' performance in the Champions League; they were comically ridiculous.  Barca cheapened itself by allowing play-actors like Sergio, Pedro and Alves and Mascherano to sully its good name.

Ed: I also don’t understand why people continue to play a zone against Barca.  Here’s how I think you handle them.  Attack their outside defenders and have a guy follow Xavi around when they have the ball.  Stop zoning the inside, as that’s all they practice: working the zone in possession.  Attack Pujols when he gets the ball, because he can’t handle pressure and often gives it away.  Mascherano can't handle the pressure, either, so I’d attack him, too.  So pack the middle, stop the access inside to Xavi, and a force them into a cross and header game (like Arsenal), because they’re way too tiny to win that battle.  Plus you can beat them up inside when they try to do that.

farlieonfootie: Not a bad gameplan, Ed, but I trust in Sir Alex to do better.  The big questions I have relate around who's going to play in midfield, and what system SAF will employ them in.  Fletch?  He's just getting back from illness, and hasn't been in the best of form this season, but his disruptive energy could be useful.  Ando?  He's been up and down all year, too, but ended Wednesday on a high.  Carrick?  His form has been in and out, but I'm sure he wants a shot at redemption from the 2009 final.  Giggs?  I think you've got to play him, but inside, where he's been most effective lately, or on the wing?  Park?  you know Sir Alex plays him in all the big games, and we may need his grit and hustle -- plus the surprise goal or two -- on the pitch at Wembley.  Valencia?  Provides better cover than Nani on the right, and his pace may give the Barcelona defense some problems.  Nani?  His form has been in and out of late, and he doesn't provide the cover that the Ecuadorian does on the wing, but his ability to create something out of nothing could come in handy against a team that won't offer United many chances.

Let's see.  That's seven in midfield.  That should do it :).  I'd honestly hate to be Sir Alex.  Decisions, decisions....
Ed: So what do you think, can United really handle these guys? 

farlieonfootie: Yes.  2-1 to the good guys, with Michael Owen providing the late, late winner.  It's written in the stars.

This is farlieonfootie for May 7.

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