UEFA Champions League: Barcelona 2011 vs. Manchester United 1999

Adi-Oula SebastianCorrespondent IIMarch 16, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) Lionel Messi, Daniel Alves, Eric Abidal, Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez, David Villa, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and goalkeeper Victor Valdes pose for a team picture prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League group D match between Barcelona and Panathinaikos on September 14, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

As of now, some of Europe’s biggest clubs are still in contention for yet another treble-winning season. Historically, the treble is only won once every decade. However, the last two years have produced two treble-winning teams: FC Barcelona and Inter Milan.

Even before last year’s Champions League Final was to be played, one thing was certain: One side would achieve the treble. Both Inter Milan and FC Bayern Munich already accomplished the domestic double prior to the 2010 final.

Is it because the winning teams are becoming stronger or is the challenge—apart from a few domestic rivals—close to non-existent?  

Bayern Munich came close and plies their trade in one of the most competitive domestic leagues, the Bundesliga. This season, the 2010 Champions League finalist are not even challenging for the Bundesliga crown and occupy an abysmal fourth place in the league. For one, it is a testimony to the competitiveness of the Bundesliga as well as to Luis Van Gaal’s shortcomings as a manager.

Among the teams still alive in all three major competitions (domestic league, cup and Champions League): Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Manchester United & FC Barcelona. Out of those four heavyweights, only Real Madrid haven’t achieved the treble. But in Jose Mourinho the “white house” has hired the architect of Inter Milan’s treble campaign.

Manchester United and FC Barcelona are still well and alive in all competitions, with both topping the domestic standings.

Comparing two sides from two different eras is quite difficult.

The 1999 treble-winning Manchester United squad and the current crop of FC Barcelona players are much more alike than one might think. For instance, both squads boast(ed) a number of academy products and a penchant for attacking football. By all accounts, the way in which Manchester United accomplished their treble was in much more dramatic fashion than FC Barcelona’s quest for dominance in exactly 10 years later in 2009.

One has to look no further than the 1999 Champions League Final; Manchester United came back from a 0-1 deficit to score two quick goals, almost at death.

I was born and bred in Frankfurt, Germany so nothing pleases me more than seeing Bayern Munich lose out—I’m human, after all. But the look on then-Bayern Munich manager Uli Honeß was priceless; he was already unpacking the “Champions League Winners” T-Shirts only to be gobsmacked by Manchester’s goals.

It’s safe to assume that we’ll have to wait for a very long time to witness something as dramatic as that memorable final again. But then again, anything can happen.

The current FC Barcelona side is, more or less, dominating the domestic league in rather comfortable fashion. In addition, Pep’s squad is already qualified for the Copa del Rey final against none other than eternal rivals Real Madrid.

Aside from a minor hiccup against Arsenal FC in the first leg of their Champions League tie, the Blaugrana have been ruthlessly efficient and entertaining in equal fashion.

One can argue whether they deserve to be mentioned alongside the greatest football sides ever. But there’s no contest that FC Barcelona are the most entertaining football side anywhere on the globe. This might be the most evident difference between the Manchester United side from 1999 and FC Barcelona, apart from the titles won.

Manchester United’s 1999 treble is perhaps, the hardest ever achieved by a club side and should FC Barcelona achieve yet another treble, it’ll be the one won by the most consistent and stylish team of the year.

But even as a FC Barcelona supporter, something would be way off in world football if we were to witness three treble campaigns in succession.