Under the weather
It’s pass the parcel time on the sportsdesk at the moment.
The only problem is everyone knows what’s in the parcel and unfortunately it’s a stinking cold.
I’ve had it, after probably catching it off Pink ‘Un Pete and others have had a go too.
However, none of us will feel anywhere as near as sick as Chelsea will probably be feeling even ahead of their inevitable (I wish!) Cup final defeat to Everton on Saturday.
While most of us must have watched the Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona and sat in awe of the Catalans’ skills, the Blues from west London must have been more than a little miffed.
As United struggled to retain the ball and struggled to stop the relentless momentum of the Barca attacks, players, management and fans of Chelsea must have been squirming on their sofas.
If you remember they made Barcelona look a shadow of their selves during both legs of their semi-final clash with the Spaniards. Indeed, it was only a last-gasp goal from Andres Iniesta at Stamford Bridge – their only shot on target in the entire match – which propelled them through the Rome showdown with United.
That master tactician Guus Hiddink had come up with a plan which enabled Chelsea to strangle the life out of Barcelona, while also getting to the heart of their somewhat shaky defence.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the Norwegian referee and some inept finishing from the Londoners, Chelsea would have won comfortably.
But why didn’t Sir Alex Ferguson and United learn? Why did they find themselves so outclassed on Wednesday night?
Well, I believe their performance and tactics just smacked of arrogance.
They believed they were good enough to beat Barcelona, without really making any contingency plans for the opposition. Some would say it’s supreme confidence and the ultimate accolade to back your players to the hilt no matter the opponents.
But it also speaks of naivety too.
How many times have we seen the Brazilians, arguably the greatest group of individuals crash out of the World Cup too early after coming up against a better, more organised team?
Domestically, Arsenal with their technically gifted stars, struggle against some of the Premier League’s hard-working, well-organised sides.
Your skill and talent will only get you so far in football.
Take the Barcelona players for instance. When they didn’t have the ball, they were like packs of dogs hunting and pressing all over the pitch.
Their urgency to regain possession was stunning and once they had it they didn’t want to give it up.
Meanwhile, United looked aimless and fairly lifeless and could not cope with the ability of Barca’s midfielders and Lionel Messi.
Their plans seemed to rely on getting the ball to Cristiano Ronaldo and hoping he’d produce some magic. Wayne Rooney was quiet and operated to little effect out on the wings, while Ryan Giggs is surely well past his best despite winning a footballer of the year award.
It seems almost churlish to say it after they’ve won their third league title in a row, but perhaps Manchester United are on a downwards turn.
Maybe they’ve peaked and it’s time for a change of personnel on the field – and off it too.
Ferguson has been the greatest manager of the modern era, but everyone has to leave the stage at some time. Maybe he should go now with another title in the bag than wait for a demise.
And of course, although Everton fans hate to admit it, he can perhaps watch the Cup final on Saturday and watch David Moyes – his heir apparent in action.
posted on 29 May 2009 09:48 byJonathan Redhead