Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why United Can Beat Barca

It seems certain after this week that the Champions League final will be contested by Barcelona and Manchester United.

Barca are a formidable team, and it seems at times that other sides are terrified of even trying to play football against them.

But Arsenal's 2-1 win at the Emirates against them earlier in the competition will surely give Alex Ferguson hope.

The Gunners did need a bit of luck, but they managed to get at Barca's defence and, eventually, score two fine goals, enough to win out on the night.

Their gameplan, or the game they were forced to play, consisted of sitting off Barca until they entered the Arsenal half, then pressurising them, and when they won the ball back, breaking quickly behind Barca's attacking full backs.

It worked for Arsenal, for ninety minutes at least, and United are better equipped to do it than Arsenal are. Arsenal are a possession team who were forced to play mostly on the break because Barca would batter them at their own game. United are more used to playing on the break, more adept at soaking up pressure and then striking. They are quicker, they play with natural wingers. All of their players, including those up front, seem to enjoy working hard when the other team has the ball. They are better at breaking up opposition play than Arsenal, and under pressure, their defence is much less likely to crack.

Arsenal's victory was quickly forgotten after their timid, shotless showing at the Nou Camp in the second leg, but Alex Ferguson only needs to beat Barca on one night, over ninety (or 120) minutes. You wouldn't have believed it watching lastnight's farce, but it is possible to play football against Barcelona and come out on top.

Because Arsenal are a poor man's Barcelona, Ferguson may see Sunday's game at the Emirates as a chance to again test out the game plan he will use in the Champions League final, one he has honed over numerous recent victories against the misfiring Gunners.

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