Barca vs. Man United, the same final as in 2009, this time at Wembley in what was to become a memorable night for those present or watching at home or in a pub. Barcelona left no doubt about which team is the best in Europe this season and the team that will be the standard for the coming years in terms of fluid, one touch football.
Man United deserved to be there. Out of all serious contenders this season, they were the best. They outwitted Chelsea and outplayed Schalke 04. And it seemed that finally another great Man United team was emerging. This impression lasted until Saturday night, about twenty minutes into the game. After that it was only Barça playing and the game was to go their way. Sir Alex Ferguson showed grace in accepting defeat and admitting that the Catalans were the best team they have ever faced. The man must know a bit about that, he’s Man United’s manager now for almost 25 years. During this time, his team have won the Champions League twice and Barcelona have done so four times.
While many hail the impact of home-grown players at Barcelona, their English counterpart seem to look for a new “class of 1992” like Beckham, Butt, Scholes and Giggs to name a few, which have won trophies for the club. Ever since then the source of talent nurtured in their own youth academy has dried out or at least has been reduced to a trickle as sufficient recruits have not established themselves at the club or in English football.
Admittedly, Barcelona have spent some money on foreign and domestic talent, but the core of players have gone through La Masia, their academy, most notably, Lionel Messi, man of the match, player of the season?, player of the year? player of the decade? In stark contrast, Manchester have bought their squad together, with Giggs and Fabio the only home-grown players starting the match, later to be joined by Paul Scholes. In order to surpass Barcelona Sir Alex will be given significant funds to strengthen his team. Whether or not they will be able to achieve their aims, only time will tell and we’ll see next season. Or not. It is not a given that either club will make it to the same stage of the competition next season. But the lesson learned will be that money can buy domestic trophies, while it doesn’t guarantee European glory, which is what Sir Alex and his disciples are aiming at.