is a perception among some people ahead of the Champions League final that
Barcelona are a team who don't like it up them and can be muscled out of
saw Jack Wilshere advising United to 'get in their faces', although I'm not sure
what a 19-year-old Arsenal midfielder can offer a man with 47 trophies to his
name in terms of tactical pointers.
Barcelona team are certainly not soft touches. This season they have overcome a
Real Madrid team that seemed intent on hacking their way to victory, and they
have been on tough away trips to places like Ukraine and won.
remember this is a team with Sergio Busquets, who is certainly not afraid to
mix it, while their centre-backs Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol are not to be
Lionel Messi possesses amazing body strength for someone so small - he takes
all sorts of punishment and still stays upright.
no mistake, United will need some luck to upset the odds, and eight or nine of
their outfield players to perform at the top of their game.
Wilshere, I can't pretend I know how to beat Barcelona, but as a defender the
challenge they present is unique.
have no big men up front, and don't even have a full-time centre-forward.
Messi, David Villa, Pedro and Andres Iniesta are always swapping positions - dropping
deep, drifting wide and generally making life miserable for their opponents.
Vidic and Rio Ferdinand like to get up close to opposition forwards and engage
in a physical battle - they won't get that.
problem for those two is the way Barcelona play - there will be few aerial balls
to head clear; everything will be on the ground, and it is against nimble,
skilful forwards where Vidic looks most vulnerable and is prone to cynical
Giggs will be pleased to focus on the football after a difficult week. I don't
think it will affect him one bit - he is a tremendous professional and once he gets
on the pitch his mind will be focused entirely on the game.
played extremely well in the final few weeks of the season when all these
rumours were flying about the internet - in some ways, he might be relieved it
has come to a head.
important veteran is Edwin van der Sar, who will be greatly missed when he
retires after the game.
Peter Schmeichel left United after the '99 Champions League final and it took
them a long time to replace him properly.
Alex seems to have settled on David de Gea as Van der Sar's successor, and I
have an issue with him signing such a young keeper.
went for experience when he signed Fabien Barthez and ended up with a
bald-headed clown. The most important thing is the player has the right
qualities, and his young age gives United a chance to mould him.
der Sar's swansong takes place at Wembley, the venue of United's 1968 success,
but I don't think it will give them any sort of home advantage.
clubs got an equal ticket allocation, and the 'neutral' seats will be filled
with the prawn sandwich brigade, who can hardly be relied on to make a cauldron
are used to playing in a stadium of that size, and they will not be overawed.
For United, it is mission improbable rather than mission impossible - and in
football you just never know.