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Josep Guardiola the Emperor as Barcelona Dominate in Rome

It was the Spanish Inquisition, and Manchester United just couldn’t find any answers. Barcelona boss Josep Guardiola must take the plaudits for an historic triumph…

Guardiola: Puppetmaster of one of the greatest Punch and Judy shows ever...

Guardiola: Puppetmaster of one of the greatest Punch and Judy shows ever...

Veni, vidi, vici.
They came, they saw, they conquered.
It may not be the most original summary of events in Rome, but it is the most accurate. Barcelona did not just beat Manchester United in Wednesday’s Champions League final, they demolished them.
They rendered their opponents mere spectators with their intricate passing game. They stood firm defensively as United probed desperately for an opening.
Like Spain in the Euro 2008 final barely 10 months earlier, the Catalan giants entered the game knowing that their opponents had a sizeable physical advantage. But by making the ball do the work, they exposed that advantage as insignificant and made sure the game was played they wanted it to be played.
From that point on, the comfortable 2-0 win was almost inevitable.
“I think the whole year we played the same way, we wanted to play well,” said Thierry Henry after the game. “We didn’t start well—United were better than us in the first 10 minutes—but once we had the ball we played the way we can.”
Once again, manager Josep Guardiola must take a huge amount of credit for the triumph. Like in the semifinal against Chelsea, he masterminded a tactical victory that belied his managerial inexperience.
Yaya Toure was again imposing as a make-shift centreback. But Guardiola gave him permission to push forward when necessary, and the Ivorian’s seemless interchanging of roles with the equally impressive youngster Sergi Busquets caused United a lot of problems.
Equally, Barca seemed to have done their homework in identifying Michael Carrick as United’s key distributor. For the first 40 minutes, Busquets surged forward to stifle Carrick whenever he got on the ball.
By half-time, the England midfielder was demoralised, and United were searching for other outlets.
In the second half, Barca had possession almost uncontested.
Carrick, like almost all of United’s players, will likely be forced to face some criticism during the game’s post-mortem. But it would be inaccurate to simply state that he didn’t perform—in reality, Barcelona just didn’t allow him to play.
“You’ve got to give credit to Barcelona, they played well,” admitted Rio Ferdinand after the match. “On a day like this you need to be able to play your best football, and today we couldn’t produce it. On today’s performance they were the better team.”
All the best managers seem to also be lucky managers, and there is certainly a case to say Guardiola falls into that category. “Pep” will no doubt accept that Barcelona enjoyed a crucial does of luck on Wednesday—just the sort of luck a team needs to win major finals.
Gerard Pique was lucky to get away with only a yellow after cynically blocking Ronaldo as the Portuguese winger threatened to bear down on goal inside the first 20 minutes.
And Samuel Eto’o’s goal—after only 10 minutes—came just as United had made an imposing start to the game, and immediately and irrevocably changed the balance of the tie.
If that first shot had not gone in, United might well have taken over totally.
Yet, even this critical moment was touched by Guardiola’s tactical hand. United seemed caught unawares as Barca started with Messi on the left, Henry in the centre, and Eto’o on the right—roles different from their traditional lineup—and Eto’o’s pace and quick-thinking enabled him to lose Patrice Evra, twist inside Nemanja Vidic, and poke it beyond Edwin van der Sar.
United were 1-0 down before they had tactically adjusted to the questions Barca posed.
“We started the game brightly and I thought we looked confident, played well, and could have been in front,” said Sir Alex Ferguson after the match. “But the goal was a killer for us. Trying to get the ball back off them is difficult, and they use it very well. They’re the better team.”
Guardiola, just 38 years of age, is 30 years Sir Alex Ferguson’s junior. But you wouldn’t have thought that from the action on the pitch. Blessed with the mercurial talents of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, two players built very much in his image, the former Barcelona captain was always going to know how to get his team purring.
Years ago, when Guardiola was captain of the first team, he took aside a young Xavi on the training ground, and directed his attention to a baby-faced Iniesta, who had just been promoted to the first team.
“Remember the first time you played with Andres,” Guardiola told Xavi. “You’re going to retire me; he’s going to retire us all.”
Little could he know that, almost three years later, the three of them would end up crushing United’s Champions League ambitions at the final hurdle.
Against arguably the best side in Europe over the last three years—lest we forget—the mercurial trio made sure the Spanish side played to the best of their ability.
That proved more than enough for victory.
After the game, Sir Alex Ferguson commented that Carrick and Anderson might have learned a lot from coming up against the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi. If United’s midfield did learn from the footballing lesson they were given, then they will be back with a vengeance next season.
But for now, Barcelona are the deserved champions of Europe.
And in Guardiola, they have a manager who already looks destined for greatness.

Veni, vidi, vici.

They came, they saw, they conquered.

It may not be the most original summary of events in Rome, but it is the most accurate. Barcelona did not just beat Manchester United in Wednesday’s Champions League final, they demolished them.

They rendered their opponents mere spectators with their intricate passing game. They stood firm defensively as United probed desperately for an opening.

Like Spain in the Euro 2008 final barely 10 months earlier, the Catalan giants entered the game knowing that their opponents had a sizeable physical advantage. But by making the ball do the work, they exposed that advantage as insignificant and made sure the game was played they wanted it to be played.

From that point on, the comfortable 2-0 win was almost inevitable.

“I think the whole year we played the same way, we wanted to play well,” said Thierry Henry after the game. “We didn’t start well—United were better than us in the first 10 minutes—but once we had the ball we played the way we can.”

Once again, manager Josep Guardiola must take a huge amount of credit for the triumph. Like in the semifinal against Chelsea, he masterminded a tactical victory that belied his managerial inexperience.

Yaya Toure was again imposing as a make-shift centreback. But Guardiola gave him permission to push forward when necessary, and the Ivorian’s seemless interchanging of roles with the equally impressive youngster Sergi Busquets caused United a lot of problems.

Equally, Barca seemed to have done their homework in identifying Michael Carrick as United’s key distributor. For the first 40 minutes, Busquets surged forward to stifle Carrick whenever he got on the ball.

By half-time, the England midfielder was demoralised, and United were searching for other outlets.

In the second half, Barca had possession almost uncontested.

Carrick, like almost all of United’s players, will likely be forced to face some criticism during the game’s post-mortem. But it would be inaccurate to simply state that he didn’t perform—in reality, Barcelona just didn’t allow him to play.

“You’ve got to give credit to Barcelona, they played well,” admitted Rio Ferdinand after the match. “On a day like this you need to be able to play your best football, and today we couldn’t produce it. On today’s performance they were the better team.”

All the best managers seem to also be lucky managers, and there is certainly a case to say Guardiola falls into that category. “Pep” will no doubt accept that Barcelona enjoyed a crucial does of luck on Wednesday—just the sort of luck a team needs to win major finals.

Gerard Pique was lucky to get away with only a yellow after cynically blocking Ronaldo as the Portuguese winger threatened to bear down on goal inside the first 20 minutes.

And Samuel Eto’o’s goal—after only 10 minutes—came just as United had made an imposing start to the game, and immediately and irrevocably changed the balance of the tie.

If that first shot had not gone in, United might well have taken over totally.

Yet, even this critical moment was touched by Guardiola’s tactical hand. United seemed caught unawares as Barca started with Messi on the left, Henry in the centre, and Eto’o on the right—roles different from their traditional lineup—and Eto’o’s pace and quick-thinking enabled him to lose Patrice Evra, twist inside Nemanja Vidic, and poke it beyond Edwin van der Sar.

United were 1-0 down before they had tactically adjusted to the questions Barca posed.

“We started the game brightly and I thought we looked confident, played well, and could have been in front,” said Sir Alex Ferguson after the match. “But the goal was a killer for us. Trying to get the ball back off them is difficult, and they use it very well. They’re the better team.”

Guardiola, just 38 years of age, is 30 years Sir Alex Ferguson’s junior. But you wouldn’t have thought that from the action on the pitch. Blessed with the mercurial talents of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, two players built very much in his image, the former Barcelona captain was always going to know how to get his team purring.

Years ago, when Guardiola was captain of the first team, he took aside a young Xavi on the training ground, and directed his attention to a baby-faced Iniesta, who had just been promoted to the first team.

“Remember the first time you played with Andres,” Guardiola told Xavi. “You’re going to retire me; he’s going to retire us all.”

Little could he know that, almost three years later, the three of them would end up crushing United’s Champions League ambitions at the final hurdle.

Against arguably the best side in Europe over the last three years—lest we forget—the mercurial trio made sure the Spanish side played to the best of their ability.

That proved more than enough for victory.

After the game, Sir Alex Ferguson commented that Carrick and Anderson might have learned a lot from coming up against the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi. If United’s midfield did learn from the footballing lesson they were given, then they will be back with a vengeance next season.

But for now, Barcelona are the deserved champions of Europe.

And in Guardiola, they have a manager who already looks destined for greatness.

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May 28, 2009 - Posted by | Sport, World Football | , ,

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