Barcelona may have com away with the 2-0 victory, but the game was no classic.
United started well and nearly scored after two minutes but for a fantastic challenge by Pique.
Perhaps it was against the play, but with their first strike on goal Eto'o and Barcelona scored. Vidic seemed flat footed when Eto'o cut inside and toe poked the ball past Van Der Sar near post.
For the next fifteen minutes United was rattled but Barcelona didn't pounce for the crucial second goal, or run them ragged. United slowly got back into the game yet they created little. Neither did Barcelona in a conservative first half which was played in midfield.
Giggs was pushing on to help Ronaldo—this seemed odd as it left United two against three in midfield—in a post match interview Ferguson mentioned he wanted Giggs to play up front with Ronaldo.
For all his years in management Ferguson made some tactical mistakes in the final.
Barcelona controlled the midfield when United had Giggs, Anderson, and Carrick in the first half and it was a bit baffling that he would replace Anderson, who had not had a great game so far but was at least hustling the Barcelona trio in midfield.
With Tevez on and United playing a 4-4-2, Barcelona had far more control of the midfield and for a period of 10 minutes after the restart looked to score again.
United now had no one apart from Park who was willing to hustle players—its't not Giggs or Carrick strong point. So when Park was taken off for Berbatov there was no one left to break up play and it was no surprise that within minutes of the change Messi the smallest player on the pitch drifted into the far post to score a header.
Would this have happened if Park had been on the pitch?
Without Park, Fletcher, or Anderson on the field Barcelona had far more of the possession and most importantly chances. Overall they had 53% of the possession and had 12 shots on goal to United's eleven, but crucially seven on target to United's two.
Is it any coincidence that of the five losses in the Premier League and Champions League Carrick and Anderson have started four of those matches in midfield and Fletcher has only played once in a losing game against Fulham?
Carrick is best when he has two energetic midfielders with him and to work from deep. Without this energy United were flat after the first ten minutes.
The irony of the match is that all of the talk was of Barcelona weak back line but it was United central defenders who had nights to forget as they were both at fault for the goals. It was no surprise that Barcelona had the better of the dual in midfield but this was helped in part by Ferguson substitutions which played into Barcelona's hands.
In the end the best team did win but Ferguson must rue his tactical mistakes.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!