UEFA Champions League Final: 5 Reasons Why Manchester United Lost to Barcelona
Saturday's UEFA Champions League Final saw Barcelona outplay and outclass Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.
The Spanish juggernauts won their fourth Champions League title, breaking a three-way tie with their English opposition and 2010 champions, Inter Milan.
With the league champions of both Spain and England facing off, the Final was billed as a match for the decade. The two clubs had different footballing philosophies and brought contrasting styles of play that created a dream match-up for the Final.
Although United were determined to avenge their 2009 Final loss to Barcelona, the Spanish side were too much for the English champions.
In a comfortable 3-1 victory over the Red Devils, Barca put on an absolute masterclass of possession-based, attacking football.
While the Catalan giants entered the Final as favorites to lift the trophy, United will feel that they could have done better.
Barca proved that they were the better team on Europe's biggest stage.
Here are five reasons why Manchester United lost to the great Barcelona.
The Invisible Chicharito
Although Chicharito has been a revelation this year for the Red Devils, he was invisible for the full 90 minutes on Saturday.
The Mexican striker has forced his way into the United first-team this season with a fantastic return of 21 goals in all competitions. Chicharito delivered a remarkable tally for his first season in England's top flight, tying Berbatov as the club's leading goal-scorer.
Ferguson's faith in the Mexican cannot be understated as the experienced Bulgarian striker could not even make the substitute's bench at Wembley.
Chicharito was expected to play a key role in the Champions League Final. However, the young Mexican failed to make an impression.
Seemingly called for more off-sides than touches on the ball, Chicharito never got into the match. As United's leader of the line, he failed to use his blistering pace to exploit Barcelona's backline.
As a natural goal-poacher, Chicharito needs solid delivery into the box to succeed. However, the young Mexican was starved of any service from wide areas. Although he was isolated upfront for large portions of the game, Ferguson will have been expecting a better performance from his frontman.
With United playing a 4-4-2 and Rooney frequently dropping into midfield, Chicharito was never going to see a lot of the ball due to Barcelona's possession-based style of play. However, his failure to make any sort of impact made it seem as though United were playing the match down a man.
While Chicharito earned a starting spot in the Final, his lack of impact and influence on the game put United in an impossible position.
Poor Tactics and Defending
Longstanding Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson may be one of the greatest of all time. However, the Scotsman got his tactics all wrong on Saturday.
Arsenal and Real Madrid are the two teams to enjoy the most success against Barcelona this season. Both managers played the Catalan giants with three in the middle, which helped stop Barca's fluid style of play.
Ferguson, however, stuck to his traditional 4-4-2. With Giggs and Carrick as the two central midfielders, they were always going to be second best to Barcelona's diamond. Guardiola uses Busquets in a holding role, Xavi and Iniesta as true central midfielders, and Messi as the central attacker. In any third of the pitch, Barcelona overmatched United's midfield duo of Carrick and Giggs.
Although Park often interchanged with the ageless Welshman, Ferguson's team kept their standard shape. While the 4-4-2 has been successful in England's top flight this season, it is not the system to beat Barcelona.
The Gunners and Madrid have shown that the keys to beating Barcelona are staying tight to the three maestros and attacking quickly on the counter.
In addition to Ferguson's poor tactics, United gave a terrible defensive performance in the Final.
Pedro's first goal was a direct result of Xavi getting in behind Carrick and United not closing down the stand-in captain. The Spaniard was given too much space and played Pedro through on goal.
Vidic was also at fault for the goal as he failed to track Pedro when the winger pulled out wide. The United captain got sucked into the middle and, with Evra tracking Messi, Xavi played an simple pass to Pedro that led to the opening goal.
United's poor defending was at fault for Barcelona's second goal as well. Iniesta played a square pass to Messi who had acres of space. The Red Devils failed to close down the little magician, seemingly inviting the Ballon d'Or winner to shoot on goal.
United failed to make things difficult for Messi and the backline were unable to get a block as the Argentine scored the winning goal. Van der Sar also bears some of the blame for being caught wrong-footed, however the Barcelona No. 10 should never have been given that much space and time at the edge of the box.
While Villa killed off United with a spectacular curling effort from range, Ferguson's men were responsible for the third and final goal. Nani had just been introduced into the game and a miscommunication at the back resulted in Villa's wonder-goal. Carrick attempted to pass the ball to Evra, however, Nani thought he was the intended target. The Portuguese winger stuck out his boot to control the ball, but it ended up deflecting to Busquets. The holding midfielder then passed to Villa, who delivered the killer blow.
Although Barcelona were deserved winners on Saturday, United will feel that poor tactics and defending made it too easy for the Spanish giants.
Failure to Contain the 3 Magicians
The FIFA Ballon d'Or's top three players of 2010 were all on display Saturday, each wearing the colors of Barcelona.
Messi, Iniesta and Xavi have become an unstoppable trio. Although each player is world-class in his own right, the three make magic when on the pitch together.
Ferguson was well aware of the three magicians and their threat to United's title hopes. However, the Red Devils were unable to contain the little maestros of Barcelona.
The Argentine's goal was a snapshot of United's failed efforts to stop the trio. Messi, Xavi and Iniesta were in a straight line outside of the box. United's Park and Carrick had dropped to shield the back-four. However, the two midfielders were unable to mark all three Barcelona playmakers.
The United duo covered the two Spaniards, leaving Messi with acres of space at the edge of the area. Park was too slow to pressure the Argentine and the backline failed to step up and put pressure on the ball. With that amount of time and space there was only one possible outcome, a goal.
Although Messi's strike highlighted Ferguson's poor tactics, United failed to contain the three maestros throughout the entire game.
The Argentine star and his two Spanish teammates were given the freedom to roam all over the pitch. Carrick, Giggs and company failed to pressure the ball and close down the little playmakers.
All three of Barcelona's key men were given space and time to turn and run at defenders. Although Xavi is more of a pass-master and midfield dictator, he was able to run at the United backline and slip in Pedro for the opening goal.
Ferguson and United were always going to struggle with their tactical system. However, allowing the three magicians to consistently take up dangerous positions sealed their fate.
Messi is one of the greatest players the world has ever seen. To give such a brilliant, elusive and explosive player that amount of freedom is unacceptable. The Argentine was able to drift into space and penetrate the soft United midfield and backline.
When Ferguson looks back at Saturday's Final, he will see that United's inability to contain Barcelona's three maestros was a key factor in their losing effort.
United Lack a True Defensive Midfielder
Although Carrick has been solid in the heart of United's midfield, the performance at Wembley revealed the club's key missing pieces.
After the departure of Roy Keane, Ferguson has searched for his natural replacement in midfield. Fletcher had been excellent in that role prior to his injury and Carrick has performed well as a holding midfielder in the last two weeks of the EPL season.
While Fletcher and Carrick have been big parts of United's success this season, neither are the formidable defensive midfielder in the mold of Keane.
The Scottish captain is still more of an all-around central midfielder, with the stamina and determination to excel as a box-to-box player. The Englishman, on the other hand, has developed into a deep-lying pass-master. Although both players are good tacklers and have above-average positional awareness, they do not have the tenacity and defensive prowess of a true defensive midfielder.
United's loss to Barcelona highlighted Ferguson's need to find a combative midfielder.
In the second-half, Park switched with Giggs, taking up a central midfield position alongside Carrick. The South Korean boasts an exceptional work-rate, but does not have the defensive qualities of world-class midfield enforcers such as Michael Essien or Nigel de Jong. Carrick, on the other hand, has good tackling technique and reads the game well, but lacks grit and toughness.
Ferguson will not be looking to completely reshape his current squad during the summer transfer window. However, the Scotsman should look to sign a natural defensive midfielder to fill the role vacated by the injury-prone Hargreaves.
Realistic and inexpensive targets for United would be Juventus' Felipe Melo and Madrid's Lassana Diarra.
Barcelona Are the Best Football Team in the World
Barcelona's victory over Manchester United in Saturday's Champions League Final proved one thing—they are the best football team in the world.
There is currently no national or club team better than La Blaugrana. They have been the most attractive team on the planet and deserve to be called the world's best team.
Under Guardiola, Barcelona have won two Champions League titles and become the gold standard for possession-based football. With world-class talent all over the field, Barca have emerged as the top footballing team of 2011.
The Catalan side will undoubtedly enter next season as the team to beat.
Barcelona have played the best football, beaten their strongest European competition in Madrid and United and have emerged Champions League winners once again.
Without doubt, at this moment in time, Barcelona are the best football team in the world.