Monday, 30 May 2011
Did Man United's naive tactics prove to be their downfall?
I'm sure I can go on for hours about Barcelona's immaculate execution of the Champions League final on Wednesday night - but then again, I already have done. There has been a lot said of the way the Spanish Champions conducted themselves against Manchester United - forbidden was the diving, and the play-acting nonsense, and in came the beauty that we so often associated the Catalan's with. They warranted their medals with that enthralling performance, and there was no argument about it, but I'd like to have a little look at United's display too.
There were people who had the basic feeling that they were simply out-played, which was right. There were also people who thought that United were brave. Wrong. In what way were United imprudent at Wembley? I'll give them credit for giving Barcelona a decent contest for the opening 15 minutes, but apart from that they genuine failed to show their true colours and could hardly get a kick throughout the 90 minutes. This season we saw Real Madrid and Arsenal fall at the hands of Barcelona, with both teams losing marginally. They were closer to beating Barca than United, yet the word 'bravery' never entered the mind of many people.
Yes, I think we can all recognize that Sir Alex Ferguson installs a winning mentality into his players, and that they never give up until the final whistle (perhaps even beyond that), and we have given them great acclaim for that. However, just because we have been presented with bold attitude throughout the course of the season, it doesn't necessarily mean that Man United were 'brave' in getting beat by the better side. I'm sure Alex Ferguson won't be boasting about their bravery for too long, as he'll be planning on a way to beat them next season.
Moving on, I believe there was a massive factor which played into the hands of Barcelona - the 4-4-2 that United set out to play. It was naive of Sir Alex to deploy such a tactic against a team who particularly favours when the formation is played against them. The United manager decided to play Carrick and Giggs in the center, who were going to go up against the trio of Xavi, Messi and Iniesta. Neither of the pair were mobile and dynamic enough to compete with dancing feet that they engrossed. It's easier to say than do, but maybe if Mr Ferguson applied a 4-2-3-1, or 4-5-1, then it would have suffocated the magician named Lionel Messi who played the role orchestrator, along with his colleagues. In the 4-4-2/4-4-1-1, there were two banks of four which was easily surpassed with the Argentine playing between the two lines. It was all too easy for the Spaniards, and with the bull-dog that is Ji Sung Park playing out on the left instead of having his robust ability in the center allowed Xavi and Iniesta to have all the freedom in the world. Playing a midfield trio of Carrick (playing near to the role of a sweeper), Anderson and Park would have asphyxiated Barca's usual tika-taka approach.
Giggs had a blossoming 6 months before the final in the middle of the park, and shone there against the likes of Chelsea and Schalke, but Barcelona is a completely different animal, and the Welshman didn't have the endurance to keep up with them. This is why I felt it was strangely naive of Ferguson to do such a thing against easily the best team in the world, by playing him in the middle, against quicker and more intelligent players, alongside a similar player in Carrick. The partnership of Hernandez and Rooney was working well, as was the midfield pairing of Giggs and Carrick, but Sir Alex was ingenuous is trying to attack Barcelona, which just doesn't work, barring the odd couple of times. United don't have the talent to beat Barca at their own game, and in thinking that they could proved to be their downfall.