Champions League Final: 10 Things Learned from Manchester United v Barcelona
As the dust begins to settle on a phenomenal Champions League Final in which Barcelona completely dismantled Manchester United at Wembley, a lot of things were learned from the showpiece event.
It was a final that broke global TV ratings records, with over 300 million viewers tuned in to see Barca show off their amazing tiki-taka style of play.
Such is the appeal of these two clubs, the two richest and most popular in world football (Real Madrid aside), and many have called this game the match of the century.
It was an incredible final, and undoubtedly a victory for football. But what exactly have we learned from this colossal spectacle?
2011 Champions League Final Was Most Lucrative Yet
According to a report by Champions League sponsors MasterCard, this final was the most lucrative one yet.
FC Barcelona, as winners, are set to receive the equivalent of £110 million due to winning the trophy, thanks to official prize money from UEFA, improved TV and media rights as well as an increase in the transfer market value of their players and a greater brand equity (i.e. Barca become an even more attractive club).
And even the losers, Manchester United, will have earned around £64 million from reaching the final, while host city London has pocketed a cool £45 million, thanks to the sudden boom in visitors for the match at Wembley.
Overall the final was worth £320 million, an increase of £15.2 million from last year's final in Madrid between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, two clubs with less global appeal than United or Barca.
Manchester United Were in Awe of Barcelona
If one thing was certain following this season's Champions League finale, it was that Manchester United seemed completely in awe of Barcelona's style.
The first 10 minutes aside when the Red Devils looked to assert their authority, United seemed unable to handle Barca, and appeared to give them too much respect.
They weren't immediately closing down the likes of Xavi Hernandez or Andres Iniesta when they had possession deep into United's half, and they weren't getting too stuck in to try and stop Barcelona playing.
Manchester United seemed like a team too scared to go in hard on Barca, just in case they were caught out and would find themselves another goal down.
In the end though, it was that sort of thinking which ultimately led to their downfall.
Dimitar Berbatov Should've Played
As we all know, hindsight is a wonderful thing. In hindsight, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson might well have started with Dimitar Berbatov, or at least put him on the bench.
In a match where Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez spearheaded the United attack, the Red Devils were crying out for a player to hold the ball up in the final third and bring others into play.
Unfortunately, Chicharito wasn't that man, with the young Mexican naturally suited to running channels and trying to get in behind the Barcelona defence more so than dropping deep and holding up play.
Dimitar Berbatov on the other hand, would've been that man. A strong player who naturally comes deep looking for the ball, his own game plan would've helped United's plan massively, i.e. keeping possession in the final third and bringing teammates into play.
Dimitar Berbatov Will Probably Leave Manchester United
No matter how politely Sir Alex Ferguson would've told him the news, it was a huge insult for Dimitar Berbatov not to be involved at all in the Champions League Final.
The joint-Premier League top goalscorer, Berbatov has been in indifferent form as of late, yet has still managed to play a big role in United's season, and was their best player in the club's last Champions League match, against Schalke 04, before the final.
Of course it seemed logical for Javier Hernandez to partner Wayne Rooney up front for Manchester United in the final, but for Michael Owen, a player who's scored just five goals this season, to take Berbatov's place on the bench certainly came as a surprise to many.
And for Dimitar Berbatov, it could be the biggest indication yet that he's viewed at Old Trafford as a £30.75 million mistake the club want to offload.
Nani Should Have Started
When Nani came on after 69 minutes in the final, Manchester United instantly seemed a more invigorated team against Barcelona.
The winger's ability to carry the ball deep into Barca's final third and push their defenders back certainly helped United, and gave them a bit more belief in scoring against the 2009 champions.
It was clear the inconsistent Nani was having a good day this time, and had he been playing from the start, United may well have had much more possession, seen much more of the ball in Barca's third, and could well have given the likes of Javier Hernandez more chances on goal.
Then again, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
David De Gea Has a Tough Act to Follow in Edwin Van Der Sar
As this final has proved, Manchester United legend Edwin Van der Sar will be a tough act to follow.
The flying Dutchman kept United in the match at times against Barcelona, producing a string of saves to deny the likes of Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodriguez.
A commanding presence in his own penalty area, Van der Sar was the calming influence that allowed Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand to perform at such a high level, not just in the match at Wembley, but throughout the season.
The Dutchman's £18.3 million Spanish replacement, David De Gea from Atletico Madrid, may have the technical ability of his goalkeeping counterpart who's twice his age.
However, it remains to be seen whether he has the commanding presence, and control over the defence, that has seen Van der Sar be such a pivotal part of Manchester United's season.
FC Barcelona Were Simply Superior
It's gets quite monotonous singing Barcelona's praises all the time, but one just has to admit, this Barca team was totally superior to Manchester United in every aspect at Wembley on Saturday.
United had no answer for the way Barca were able to keep possession so brilliantly, while the defence didn't have a clue as to how to prevent Lionel Messi, David Villa or Pedro Rodriguez from breaking through on goal.
And when in possession, the Red Devils didn't know how to keep the ball under relentless pressure from Barcelona; they just couldn't match La Blaugrana's style.
In the end, Manchester United simply succumbed to the greatness FC Barcelona.
Never Out-Barcelona FC Barcelona
For the first 10 minutes of the 2011 Champions League Final, Manchester United tried to play Barcelona at their own game, and it worked.
It worked for all of 10 minutes before the relenting pressure from Barca became too much and United started looking for an easier way to play the game.
And it was at that point all strategy United had seemed to go out the window, as they soon became in awe as to how Barcelona could keep possession for so long.
United tried to match Barca, and when they realised they couldn't, it had a huge psychological impact on the players, who became so hypnotized they seemed to forget their plan B.
Moral of the story? Never play FC Barcelona at their own game, it'll leave you tired after 10 minutes, and shocked when Barca show you how it's done.
Pep Guardiola Is World's Best Manager
Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola is the best manager in the world.
Such is the superiority of his tactics, evolved from those of Johan Cryuff and his 1992 Barca dream team, Barcelona had the game won against Manchester United on Saturday before a ball was kicked, immediately emerging in the psychological warfare between the two clubs.
And such is his man-management skills, these Barca players looked a real close-knit unit, knowing each other's individuals game plans and styles inside out, and appearing visibly willing to work for each other and the team.
When putting perfect tactics with perfect man-management together, and there you have arguably the world's best manager, a coach who has won 10 trophies in just three seasons, including two Champions League titles and three consecutive league titles.
Wembley Stadium Is One of the World's Best Sporting Arenas
With 87,695 spectators packed in to see the greatest spectacle in club football, the atmosphere inside Wembley Stadium for the Champions League final was absolutely sensational.
Clear to see even on TV images, Wembley was rocking as the two sporting giants engaged in battle for the most lucrative prize in football.
A stadium which has hosted FA Cup Finals, NFL matches, as well as a whole host of music concerts, has now finally added the prized trophy to make it a true sporting great when it comes to stadia.
After hosting the UEFA Champions League Final, and providing such a sensational atmosphere for it, Wembley Stadium is undoubtedly one of the best sporting stadia in the world.
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