For all their haters and critics this season, this Manchester United team has recorded a remarkable achievement. Coming from the disappointment of missing out on the final in Madrid because of a technicality last year, they've responded in typical Manchester United style---bouncing back to dispose of Valencia (in the group stages), Marseille, Chelsea and Shalckle 04 to reach the UEFA Champions League final for the third time in four years. It could easily have been four in four but we'll take three---not least because no club in Europe can match that level of consistent success in Europe.
After accounting for the exits of Valencia and holders Inter Milan in the knock-out rounds, the media was all about how the Germans could prove to be a banana ski for us. Granted, they do play attacking football--which is credit to them, but I thought in praising the Germans so much, many forgot that the lesson United learnt in the San Siro in 2007 will forever be a part of this group of players in Europe. We are statistically the most difficult team to beat in European competition, and perhaps what scares opponents is that we are better away from home than at home---which is i harp contrast to our league form. That we have let in just four goals throughout the tournament going into the final is one of the reasons as to why I have certain inbred confidence about this team going into a final with Barcelona who will be everybody's favourites. However our final opponents is a topic for another day.
Right now, we must revel in the fact that we have another opportunity to further honour the Busby Babes and the 1968 European Cup winning team by winning the trophy from the scene of our first triumph. Many people tend to forget that United's history is largely built around European competition. It therefore means that success in the Champions League is only right and fitting for a club who boast the biggest fan base in World football.
Sir Alex shocked just about every fan with his team selection and he admitted that he lost sleep about how his second string would perform. It's good to see that the likes of Evans, Smalling, Gibson and Rafael are being trusted by the manager to see out a Champions League semifinal. The experience will do them good. They also managed to help the team register an even bigger victory margin than in the away leg. A total 6-1 aggregate against the Germans is a Champions League record for a semifinal which the club will add to its stock of records.
We were made to ask ourselves why we were worried by the team news as the players seemed to enjoy themselves more than anything. I mean when the likes of Anderson are chasing hat tricks by the 70th minute then you know United are having fun on pitch. Gibson got another Champions League goal for himself with a trademark shot and maybe Mr. Pep Guardiola will at least have been pleased to see one of the sure starters in the final in Antonio Valencia---otherwise one can argue that his trip was more of a formality than business.
For Manchester United, there's never enough time to mull over victory or defeat. The league still has to be won and we have an opportunity on Sunday to do that. We need to beat Chelsea on Sunday if not for the mere fact that it will be sweet to do to them what they did to us exactly a year ago.
Onwards and Upwards!
Labels: UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE