We will never beat Barcelona.
They can be beaten. But not by us. Teams like Mourinho’s Inter and his Real Madrid (if they had been a bit luckier in some departments) are capable of it. They are not invincible.
But it takes a team that have achieved mastery of defensive football. A team that can shut down the most potent attack in club football, that can absorb the most depressingly dominant midfield we will likely ever see.
We aren’t that team. We have an attacking mindset that is too ingrained, too successful most of the time to cast away.
What it resulted in last night was a game of chaseball. We just simply couldn’t get the football away from Barca for most of the match. When we did, the majority of the time we kept it for three passes or less.
Briefly, in the first 10 minutes, we were on top. Then, nothing. It was clear at the half hour point the kind of game it was going to be, a mirror image of 2009. Rooney’s goal was well worked, but fluky in the overall context of the game and was our only clearcut opportunity.
Barca were like sharks, in utter control of the space between the “D” and the half-way line. They passed and passed and passed as we ran ragged just to put up the vain impersonation of a defiant defence. They were able to slip balls in with ease, but they didn’t even have to do that.
Van Der Sar could do nothing in goal, and as his final game, this will rank as one of the most depressing aspects of the match. I wish him well, he was just the goalkeeper against the world last night. Vidic was able to keep Messi quite for a half, and then couldn’t keep up, and none of the rest of the defence shone. In midfield, Park worked hard and was our best player, but he simple couldn’t hold onto the ball enough. Valencia was quiet, a lack of supply being the reason more than anything.
The centre of the midfield failed, as it failed two years ago. Not even Fletcher’s inclusion could have stopped that. Carrick and Giggs are not capable of directing the game from those positions. It was hard to tell they were on the pitch.
Rooney and Hernandez were bit players but for their lone interplay that resulted in United’s consolation. We rallied enough to get that goal, but we could never win this game after ten minutes of it had elapsed.
But sure, screw it, we won the League and that’s always more important.
Football 10/11 is not quite over yet.