Wembley matchzone: The changing of the guard for United after Barcelona mauling

30 May 2011 12:33
SharePerhaps the saddest spectacle at Wembley from a Manchester United perspective was the sight of advancing years finally catching up with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

It is testimony to both players' enduring gifts that they have remained an integral part of Sir Alex Ferguson's plans in a season that has seen United win the Barclays Premier League and emerge as the second best team in Europe.

Nevertheless, Saturday proved to be a difficult night for two players who now have a combined age of 73.

Heartbreak: Giggs (left) is expected to stay on at Old Trafford but Scholes' (right) is still expected to retire

Giggs played from the start and despite setting up Wayne Rooney for United's equaliser endured a miserable evening. In the interview area afterwards, tempers briefly flared as he accused football journalists of 'battering me' over recent revelations about his private life. To be fair, his frustration and aggressive demeanour were perhaps understandable.

As for Scholes, he was sent on when United were chasing the game late on and was unable to do anything to release the iron grip Xavi and Andres Iniesta had applied to the midfield area from the 10th minute onwards.

Giggs has already signed a new contract that will keep him at Old Trafford for another season, at least. Scholes, on the other hand, is still expected to retire.

Ferguson continues his efforts to talk one of England's finest playmakers into changing his mind and it is to be hoped he succeeds.

Great players should not wave goodbye to the game on nights like this.

 PEP TALKWith Jose Mourinho's conduct at Real Madrid's semi-final defeat by Barcelona sparking consternation at Old Trafford over his suitability to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, it is no surprise that Pep Guardiola is now on the  shortlist.

Flying high: Guardiola's stock has risen after his second European crown as boss

As Mourinho's reputation crumbles, Barcelona coach Guardiola (below) is emerging as a front-runner for the United job. How interesting, then, that the man who has guided Barcelona to two Champions League triumphs in the last three years looks set to leave the Nou Camp at the end of next season.

'I will say it again, I have another year on my contract and I intend to work it out,' said Guardiola on Saturday night.

'You have girls falling at your feet when you win but that can change overnight.'

Despite being feted for winning trophies with stylish football at Barca, Guardiola knows that could be more difficult in England.

'If you play this football (like Barcelona) you need these players,' he said. 'At another club maybe I would have a problem to find these kind of players.'

 MESSI MAGICCHAMPIONS LEAGUE TOP SCORERS                                                Games  Goals Goals/gameGerd Muller                             35          34             0.97Ferenc Puskas                      41          35             0.85Alfredo di Stefano                 64          49             0.77Sergei Rebrov                        41          31             0.76Ruud v.Nistelrooy                  81          60             0.74Eusebio                                   64           47             0.73Jean-Pierre Papin                37           27             0.73Romario                                  29           20             0.69Lionel Messi                           57          37             0.65Mario Jardel                           46          28             0.61

Lionel Mess i's goal in Saturday's final was his37th in Europe's premier competition

He is 10th in the list of all-time European Cup/Champions League scorers but moves up a place when the number of games is considered.

He averages 0.65 goals per game in Europe, some way behind Gerd Muller, with 34 in 35.

Indeed, of the players who have scored 20 or more, the top 10 is dominated by those who played when fewer games were needed to win the trophy.

Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney's strike was his 25th in the Champions League, putting him level with team-mate Paul Scholes and former AC Milan forward Marco Simone.

 UEFA ALWAYS WINNO matter who contests the final, UEFA always do rather well out of their showpiece event. Among the European governing body's masterstrokes this year was to charge ?2.40 for a cup of coffee and ?2.20 for a Mars bar in the media areas, while out on the concourse things were equally absurd.

Not content with ripping off the paying public for their match tickets, UEFA ramped up their food and drink prices to such an extent that two bottles of water and a bag of Maltesers cost a staggering ?7.40.

At Tesco, that little lot can be bought for less than ?3. As for the match programme, the 115-page glossy cost ?10 on Saturday. Back in 1978 when Liverpool beat Bruges at Wembley, you could pick one up for 40p.

 ABIDAL'S PARTYGiven that he had a cancerous tumour removed from his liver in March, Barcelona left back Eric Abidal has faced greater challenges this season than the feeble attacking effort mounted by Manchester United at Wembley.

Nevertheless, seeing the France defender being asked to lift the Champions League trophy on Saturday was touching. 'When I came out of the clinic, the doctor told me I would be here,' said Abidal.

'I can't explain the emotions I have. It's spectacular. I'm so thankful for the gesture from my team-mates.'

Across the field, Abidal's international colleague Patrice Evra endured a somewhat more difficult evening. Many seasoned United watchers commented that they had never seen the usually reliable Evra play so badly.

 REASONS TO BE CHEERFULUnited's bus parade through the streets of Manchester today is likely to be a bit flat, despite the fact Sir Alex Ferguson and his players have a record 19th Barclays Premier League trophy to show off.

Little Devils: United salute their FA Youth Cup final win

Nevertheless, anyone who was at the recent FA Youth Cup final will know United continue to bring through exceptional young players.

They beat Sheffield United 6-3 over two legs and Old Trafford insiders have particularly high hopes for second-leg goalscorers Ravel Morrison and Will Keane, as well as French midfielder Paul Pogba.

 HOW MUCH?There were unconfirmed rumours in London on Saturday morning of a breakfast meeting between United owners the Glazer family and Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes. What conversation topics may have been on the menu is open to speculation.

But surely the Americans will have wanted to know, among other things, just when one of Mendes's more interesting clients the young winger Bebe intends to start playing like a ?7million footballer.

 It was a privilege to be inside magnificent Wembley to witness Barcelona's beautiful tortureSo what could United have done differently against brilliant Barcelona?Martin Samuel: Barcelona's fantastic force not enough to scare off Fergie the old fighterBarcelona 3 Man Utd 1: Pedro, Messi and Villa crown Barca kings of EuropeMessi the magician: Sir Alex hails Barcelona as 'the best we've ever played'Evra hails mighty Barca and admits vanquished United are second bestAll the latest Manchester United news, features and opinion

 Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Alfredo Di Stefano, Jose Mourinho, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Wayne Rooney, Bebe, Patrice Evra, Pep Guardiola Places: Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester, London, France, United Kingdom, Europe

Source: Daily_Mail