Speaking of neutrality, clearly the commentators weren’t. One of them said
“I hope United win and do us Proud”
His respect levels went down a couple of notches before he earned it all back and more with the quote of the day
“There should be no controversies with the referee. He’s Swiss and therefore certainly neutral”
In the recent years Barcelona and Manchester United have been two of my least favorite football teams in Club Football. United – because of reasons already elucidated in an earlier post and Barcelona – because they were responsible for me having a miserable May 2006. Though I was pretty close to being neutral last night, deep inside in that warm place I guess I always wanted Barcelona to pip United.
Let’s for the duration of this post neglect the fact that I am a die hard Arsenal fanatic. (Failing to neglect this one crucial detail would explain the above mentioned sentiments in the aforementioned warm place). I’d have absolutely no qualms in admitting Manchester United and Barcelona have inarguably been the top two clubs in Europe this season. Manchester United has been amazingly resilient and has efficiently gotten the job done every single time. They had their rough patches like everybody else (notable example being the game against the scousers), but they got up, dusted themselves off and went on with it. Barcelona on the other hand was an unstoppable force. The front three of Henry, Eto’o and Messi is certainly the most fearsome strike partnership in the world today (Stat: The three of them have scored 99 goals between them this season in all competitions). Add to the pot Xavi and Iniesta who were ably backed up by Yaya Toure and you had a winner all the way. Madrid briefly gave them something to think about, but the issue of the Premiera Liga was settled emphatically at the Bernebeu.
The road to Rome for these two clubs, particularly the last bend could not be more contrasting. United demolished Arsenal over two legs, while Barcelona progressed under very controversial circumstances. It is my opinion (purely from a neutral football lover’s perspective) however that Chelsea did not deserve a place in the final. True, they probably got a couple of dodgy penalty calls, but the unexciting “choke ‘em till they die” style of football that they played didn’t make them in my eyes, worthy of calling themselves ‘Barca Slayers’. And of course there is the simple logic that if you aren’t even second best in your own league, how could you be amongst the top two in Europe? This logic stands for the Arsenal Football Club as well let me reiterate.
So the last thing I wanted was to waste a good night’s sleep by watching United go the Chelsea way (something they did do in the recent past) and kill a potentially exciting game. Kudos to them though. They were at Barcelona from the very outset. Ronaldo, in the first 9 minutes justified his Ballon D’Or before an Eto’o strike utterly and strangely deflated United. I hear the Chelsea fans say “That is precisely why we played the way we played”. Utter Bunk. To have a solid defense you don’t need 10 men behind the ball. That is the way relegation threatened clubs play. What United lacked the most last night was that tiny sliver of luck that is compulsory in any sport. I’m certain if United had scored in that opening salvo we’d have seen a different set of players lift that trophy. Football is so much a confidence thing and unfortunately United lost composure as Xavi and Iniesta gained theirs. Otherwise how can you explain players of Ronaldo’s and Rooney’s caliber not being to take advantage of Sylvinho – a player who looks ready to retire any time now and Puyol – who was clearly playing in an uncomfortable position. Messi however looks ready and willing to take Ronaldo’s tag of ‘World’s best player’. Sadly Ronaldo, for all his talent has a streak of petulance and lacks grace. Something which he demonstrated by picking up that Yellow for that blatant foul on Puyol. Messi is classy – with a football at his feet or without it.
So the question is Are Barcelona now undisputedly the best side in Europe? Last night they were. However if these two teams met ten times over the course of say, June I’d think they’d plateau out at 5-5. Split right down the middle.
Last night incidentally was memorable for another reason. Carlton Palmer was actually funny a couple of times!!! Instance:
Cunt of a Host on Ten Sports: “So what did you think about the grand opening ceremony and the ladies with shields, Carlton”
Carlton Palmer: “Get them off. They’re ruining the pitch”
Oh and things must be really bad if they need to hire David Dunn to be one of the experts on the panel. Sheesh.