Saturday, April 19, 2008

Looking Foward to Nou Camp

The great Johan Cruyff recently termed Manchester United as a long ball side and commented that they expend all their energy on closing down and chasing long balls and that they can be beaten by playing the ball horizontally and around them. Like any other football fan, I have the greatest respect for Cruyff as a footballer, and there is no doubt that he is a living legend and a footballing god. People say that when Cruyff speaks you sit up and listen. I am not too sure I am ever going to do that again. To describe Man United as a long ball side is preposterous to the say the very least.

Along with Arsenal, Manchester United play some of the most beautiful football in the world. They are capable of fantastic wing play and some of the interplay between the front four, which is normally composed of Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo and Giggs is quite simply out of this world. I do however agree that when required they are not shy to play the ball long. Some times the nature of the game requires you to adapt and play the occasional long ball. Scholes and Carrick, the first choice central midfield partners both possess a fantastic range of passing and it would be stupid not to use their talent of picking out players from the deep positions that they tend to occupy. But even when the ball is played long, it is very rarely direct. It is usually raking balls played behind the full backs for the wingers to run into and set up the attack. Both Scholes and Carrick are also equally capable of threading balls through the opposition’s defence for the forwards to latch on to. I think it is this ability to adapt their game plan according to different situations that has helped Manchester United lead the race for the Premier League title and reach the Champions League semifinals.

It will be fascinating to see how Ferguson sets up the team against Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night. I think he will play with Rooney up top on his own and Ronaldo and Park on the wings. Carrick and Scholes will sit deep in midfield and Hargreaves will be given the job of closing down Xavi inside Barcelona’s half. Or like he did against Roma in the first leg, there is a chance that Ronaldo may be asked to play as a center forward with Rooney being given a role on the left. Barcelona is no doubt a magnificent team with highly talented individuals. The Champions League is the only competition that they are still competing for, which will mean that they will be pumped up for the game at the Nou Camp. I expect to see lots of goals much like the last time these two teams played home and away in the Champions League when both legs ended 3-3. Irrespective of the formation employed by the teams, it’s going to a truly fascinating tie. I cannot wait for Wednesday night.

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