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So what could United have done differently against brilliant Barcelona?
Published : 30 May 2011 01:57:13Rss feed
ShareAfter Manchester United were totally out-classed by Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley, we ask Sportsmail's top names what more could Sir Alex Ferguson's men have done? JAMIE REDKNAPP It's easy to criticise Michael Carrick after that, but that was impossible for him. United were outnumbered in midfield - and outnumbered by the best technicians in the world. Play like that and you are dead. But if United had played eight in there, they might not have stopped these boys. We can all be smart after the game and you have to accept that Barcelona are incredible, but Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi will not have had an easier evening all season. Underrated: Sergio Busquets is the type of player that United are lacking United played into their hands. I can see why they wanted Javier Hernandez in the team. His form forced him in. But the alarm bells were ringing when Pep Guardiola praised Hernandez, as if he wanted him to play. Playing two forwards made it easier for Barcelona dominate the ball and space. Their three key players were excellent, but Sergio Busquets is important to them too. He protects the back four with relish, but can join in the play, too. United didn't have that player. Fit of Pique: Gerard Pique (right) showed why he is one of the best in the world JAMIE CARRAGHER When United fell behind to Pedro's goal, a clear pattern of play had been established but it would have been very difficult for Ferguson to take off Javier Hernandez, one of his main goal threats, to get an extra body in the middle. Once Wayne Rooney restored parity, though, the change could have been made at half-time. United needed three in midfield, where they were being overrun. An option would have been swapping Hernandez for Nani and moving Park Ji-sung inside; alternatively, Darren Fletcher could have come on, allowing Carrick to drop deeper, as Busquets plays for Barca. Two of the goals Barcelona scored came from them playing in between the lines where a holding midfielder would have been but, then again, I think whatever changes were made, the outcome would have been the same. Gerard Pique showed why he is one of the best defenders in the world, Xavi the greatest midfielder of all time and Lionel Messi displayed the form that has made him the greatest player of all time. Run ragged: Park Ji-sung (left) put in a tiring shift MARTIN KEOWN United lost to a fantastic team but the brilliant Lionel Messi could have been partly thwarted if either Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic had come out to him more to deny him space. Patrice Evra tried to fly in with him a few times but he was not the right man to do it because he had Pedro and Dani Alves to worry about. You cannot allow Messi to turn because when he runs at you it is the most frightening sight in football. You have to have someone go out to him early and force him to pass backwards. In hindsight you could also say that playing Wayne Rooney up front on his own with an extra midfielder could have worked better - but you can see why Sir Alex Ferguson picked Javier Hernandez and he might have been criticised for not being adventurous enough if he hadn't. They were outnumbered in midfield and Park Ji-sung, who worked so hard, was staggering around by the end like a late-night drunk. Long night: Antonio Valencia (right) never got at Eric Abidal and tried hard to cope with Mess (left) ANDY TOWNSEND There is no shame in being beaten by a team like that. I remember playing against a midfield three of Paulo Sousa, Manuel Rui Costa and Luis Figo of Portugal and having that horrible feeling of not knowing how to cope because they kept the ball so well. Sir Alex Ferguson might be disappointed though that United were not able to test Barcelona's full backs more. Antonio Valencia never got at Eric Abidal, who has played so little in recent weeks, and Park was too busy dealing with the midfield to test Dani Alves's defensive weaknesses. The other problem was that United's defence was so deep that when they won the ball, they had to start their attacks from 50 or 60 yards back. It is difficult to produce quality and accuracy from that kind of distance and Javier Hernandez often looked isolated and frustrated up front. Where did it all go wrong?: Sir Alex Ferguson and assistant Mike Phelan It was a privilege to be inside magnificent Wembley to witness Barcelona's beautiful tortureBarcelona 3 Man Utd 1: Pedro, Messi and Villa crown Barca kings of EuropeThere's no 'I' in team! Majestic Messi plays down Champions League heroicsMessi the magician: Sir Alex hails Barcelona as 'the best we've ever played'Kop that! Mascherano dedicates Barca's Euro triumph to Liverpool fansAll the latest Manchetser United FC news, features and opinion Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Jamie Carragher, Martin Keown, Gerard Pique, Xavi, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Jamie Redknapp, Lionel Messi, Darren Fletcher, Nemanja Vidic, Andres Iniesta, Paulo Sousa, Wayne Rooney, Park Ji-sung, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nani Places: Barcelona, Portugal