First off, congratulations to FC Barcelona and their supporters; that was an epic performance. Quite simply, that is the best side I've seen of my lifetime. Having said that, I'm still so gutted but I'm still extremely proud to be a Manchester United supporter. Winning title #19 (to knock the Scousers off their f****** perch) and reaching the final of the UEFA Champions League, and lose to possibly the greatest side the world has ever seen, the season was still quite successful. To all of the critics: piss off. This United side doesn't lack fantasy, it lacks respect from many who spout lazy rhetoric. Alright, some random musings (bullet points!)...
* I'm no longer 22-years-old. Therefore, I shouldn't be attempting to have nerve-calming beverages prior to noon anymore (I'm on the west coast of the U.S.). I woke up from a 4 hour nap a bit ago... my sleep schedule is screwed.
* I try pretty hard to see things from an objective point of view and perhaps I should have stuck to my gut feeling once I realized that we would be playing Barcelona. The way this match played out is pretty much how I expected it to. However, I somehow led myself to be believe more and more as this week wore on, and especially in the past 48 hours, that we would somehow steal this game. We are a very good side, but Barca are an all-time great side. I should've stuck with my original gut feeling.
But we got overwhelmed in possibly the most crucial spot on the pitch; the central midfield. I feel ignorant for not giving this enough thought in the past few days. Michael Carrick has been brilliant during the run-in and Ryan Giggs may have extended his career beyond even next year with his reinvention as a central player, but they were no match for possibly the greatest central midfield of all time: Sergio Busquets as the holding midfielder, Xavi as the assured possession player, Andres Iniesta as the creator, and Lionel Messi coming deep into the midfield as well from his 'false-nine' role... there's a good chance that we'll never see a midfield like this again.
* Park Ji-sung and Wazza: Both should be proud of their performances. Tactically, they are asked to do so much while essentially having to play two positions. We can play this 4-4-1-1 shape and not get overrun in the midfield (unless it's Barca) because these two work insanely hard in helping out in the center of the pitch. Wazza is a withdrawn striker but provides bite as an auxiliary midfielder when United lose possession. Park is a winger who uses all three of his lungs to help out in the center of the pitch, whilst still tracking his man out wide -- he won four tackles today in the first 4 minutes! Both are brilliant players not only in quality, but tactically as well. Perhaps both are in the form of their lives right now.... it's been a treat to watch both these past few months.
* Edwin van der Sar and Paul Scholes: Despite being 40-years-old, and possibly being in poor position on Messi's goal. there is no other goalkeeper in the world that I would have wanted over the Dutchman at Wembley. Thank you for your tremendous contribution at United... you should be remembered not only as one of the greats at Old Trafford, but also as one of the great footballers of all-time.
Scholesy... I hope this wasn't it. But if it was, you are the greatest midfielder of my lifetime. If it wasn't for Park, you'd be my favorite footballer of all-time. I will be showing endless footage to mini-Gene's someday of your brilliance. You were, and still are a football savant. You may be diminutive in physical stature, but you are a ginger giant as an English and Old Trafford god.
* We still love you Antonio Valencia: Spurs and the media can have Gareth Bale, we have Valencia.... the best winger in the Premier League. He was anticipated to be our most opportunistic threat today.... he wasn't. He struggled. And big matches often define great players. But he was starved of consistent service.
His match-up with Eric Abidal was fitting... two tremendous footballers that overcame improbable adversity to play in this match. Valencia certainly didn't have a vintage performance today, but he was vital to the valiant run-in that United had. I have a feeling that Tony V will lead us to many winner's medals in the coming years.
* Coming back to Carrick: I can already anticipate my annoyance at the criticism he'll get in the coming days. He was left on an island defensively today. Giggs was poor defensively in the middle and with Messi's forays into the center of the pitch.... Carrick was doing battle on three fronts: Iniesta, Xavi, and Messi.... Carrick never had a chance. There will be lazy criticism of the Englishman by both "supporters" and media over the summer, but those that closely examine the tactics of this match, and even of the 2009 final, will realize that Carrick never had a chance. Sure, he's not as tidy as Scholes in tight spaces and when pressed (who the hell is), but he's still very good... and hugely underappreciated. He can have a spot in my midfield any time.
* da Silva twins... 2 for 1 special: What a signing(s) this was. What a monster stage this was for Fabio.... it wasn't too big. I'm a HUGE supporter for Rafael... Fabio is now equal in my eyes, despite it being him originally that was more highly rated when we signed the twins. Both the lads are so mentally tough.... both are competitors that show the true grit of the United culture. We are set at full-back for the next half decade at the least.
* Nani & Dimitar Berbatov: Not enough was said about the Bulgarian's omission from the 18. I understood it though (I think). Although, perhaps Michael Owen was a redundant option with Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez starting and the Bulgarian could have provided a tactical change whilst down 2-1. However, the point I wanted to make... I really hope, that years down the line, that the contribution that Nani and Berba made on this Premiership title run isn't underappreciated. The two attackers carried our side, especially in attack when we lacked "fantasy" in the first half of the season. Each got relegated to peripheral roles.... but both were vital in our success and deserve tremendous respect. Berba as the co-golden boot winner in the world's greatest football league and Nani perhaps the season's best attacker in the same league.
Anyway, this is some quick and spewed out thoughts that will have no editing involved whatsoever (excuse for typos and grammatical errors). I will re-watch this match in the coming days and provide a tactical analysis of the final. I will also provide an overview of the season's tactics as well in the coming weeks.
Thank you so much to all the readers, both that constantly comment and those that consistently lurk.... you make all the time that I put into this site worth it... and that weak statement doesn't even come close to the appreciation that I feel. This growing community means a lot to me and I can't wait to expand it over the summer and into the run for title #20.... stick around this summer, I will try my best to provide content and analysis that is worth reading. But again... thank you.