Wembley was the host of the Champions League Final contested between Manchester United and Barcelona. The Spanish champions saw off rivals Real Madrid in the Semi Finals of the competition but were beaten in the Copa Del Rey final by Madrid. Manchester United were joyous after a nineteenth league triumph and overtaking Liverpool's record title haul. Pep Guardiola was clearly the manager in the favourable position with his labelled 'Best squad to ever be assembled' even though opposing manager Ferguson had won over 25 trophies for his side. An emotional return for Barcelona's Eric Abidal after months out of action due to cancer prompted his selection as captain. A prime example of Barcelona's philosophy, Mes Que Un Club (More than a Club) showing their care and interest in each other rather than their next payday. At full strength, Barcelona were able to field a formidable side forcing Sir Alex Ferguson to change his style of play to adapt to Barcelona's. Wayne Rooney showed a phenomenal turn of form to overthrow Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea in the semi finals and his hot streak was to be Fergusons most dangerous asset.
Barcelona started off at their normal pace and kept possession effortlessly. Manchester United kept to the Spaniards' speed and sat back ready to break when Barcelona lost the ball. Park Ji Sung was the only real threat to Barcelona's possession even though Xavi and Iniesta continued their famous telepathic passing.
There were no real chances until a quick pass from the Barca defence left Xavi in yards of space in the middle of the park. Xavi cut inside and slipped Pedro in on the right side of goal and the World Cup winner slotted the ball past Van Der Sar and into the net. A typical Catalan roar silenced the United crowd and for a moment Barcelona owned Wembley. A goal of such craft and innovative thinking left the United defence standing. United knew they were facing an exceptional side but nothing like this. Wembley sounded like the Nou Camp for the duration the Catalan celebrations and the Spaniards' unorthodox chants mystified the bemused United faithful.
Rooney kicked off and United had a task at hand. A ferocious English fire burned in the eyes of Rooney as he led the fight back from the front. Minutes later he struck a blow into the Spaniards with lethal precision. A neat 1-2 with Ryan Giggs set Rooney in against the readily awaiting Valdes. Renowned for having fantastic finishing, Rooney placed the ball in the top left corner. United fans in disarray as Rooney slid to the corner flag and his team mates celebrated the goal. Half time loomed but with only 11 minutes left, the half was far from over.
The scores locked 1-1 at half time, the sides resumed and United started slowly to adjust to Barca's tempo. An inspired strike from World number 1 Lionel Messi shook the ground when the Argentine was allowed to shoot just outside the United box. Ferdinand and Vidic were unsure whether to close down or to block as the genius waved his magic wand once again. His antics in the last final in which Barca met United were dissimilar as he belted his shot in to the bottom corner whereas he silenced everyone with a tidy header previously. The tides were in Barca's favour and the Spaniards started to cruise through the United defence.
It wasn't long before the tie was over as Messi's tight control allowed him to evade 3 tackles in the space of as many yards and then pick out David Villa near the penalty spot. The World Cup join top scorer the season before had no problems tucking away a difficult chance and at that moment, the world stood still. Such grace and sophistication displayed by Messi and his strike partner's clinical finish sent the Barca fans into a different dimension and as Villa's team mates swarmed him.
Unlike I have ever seen before, there was an emotion so raw and pure it tingled my spine and it was the most unreal explosion of feeling. You could clearly see the delight and elation on the players' faces and as his team mates tackled Villa to the turf, there was an unbelievable vibe. There was a real sense of achievement and you knew you were watching the finest side you would ever see. Absolutely unbelievable, almost extra-terrestrial in the way the Barca players were so modest and down to earth in such a moment. Not one of them jeered of made a controversial gesture, Barcelona showed extreme professionalism and maturity that night. I believe they became the best side to ever play football. Just sensational, beyond my wildest dreams. I could never hope to emulate such a side.
The celebrations light up Wembley and the greatest side on this earth took their positions in their half of the pitch. United were beaten and there was 35 minutes to play. Even the most experienced players on the United squad could have an impact on the tie. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were cast a shadow over and beaten in every way. Wayne Rooney's goal was the only time he really posed a threat and Barca were all over United. In typical Barcelona fashion, the Catalans kept the ball for the remainder of the match and barely lost possession at all.
You couldn't say that the sky is the limit for Barcelona. They had already landed on the Moon. With such a philosophy, calmness and maturity and immense skill, who could prove better? At very young ages the players are taken into academies of football and taught that if they pass and move they will get the ball back. This philosophy has clearly worked miracles and the Barcelona academy is still doing the same thing. Taking the young players away from home teaches togetherness and the ability to form stronger friendships quicker. You can see the year's worth of work coming together when the Barca players put the Champions League trophy on the centre spot and danced around it. They were a unit and whatever happened to them, they will stay strong.
On the pitch, one player can cover one anothers back and off the pitch they are as strong. Even the older players like Xavi and Puyol showed extreme maturity as they paraded the trophy and set a class example to young players. Their mentality is second to none and remarkable. Look forward to a generation of world class Barcelona bread players with the same mentality and ideas. You can see why the Barca's motto is Mes Que Un Club. You will never see such togetherness and unity in a group of such talented footballers and neither will I. The only way to fully appreciate their grace and elegance is to sit back and watch carefully. Watch the passion erupt and break down any opposition they face within the blink of an eyelid. We cannot deny them, cannot put them down or criticise them. Nor can we believe quite how good Barcelona are, however, we can enjoy them. We can witness their supreme craftsmanship and creativity. We will only see such a team once, so I'm going to be firmly planted in front of the nearest T.V when Barcelona come to our screens. Will you?
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