Will we be having another Shan meltdown? I do think the MUFC fan is more mature and I’d see the likes of Braz or Juhniallio more likely to blow their top publically in the event of a Catalan triumph.
I have already negotiated with the Madridista that they are willing to put their distaste for all things Barcelona aside for a couple of weeks in a unified support for the latin game against the neandethral football played in England.
A decent article below on the role Fletcher could play in the United midfield:
Darren Fletcher can be final piece in Manchester United midfield jigsaw
Most of the United side is settled but who will face Chelsea and Barcelona at the heart of Sir Alex Ferguson’s master plan?
Ryan Giggs had a shocker in the European Cup final defeat at the hands of Barcelona two years ago. But then Giggs was not half the player at 35 that he is at 37, or so he has made it seem this season, his renaissance presenting Sir Alex Ferguson with just one of the problems that must be solved if Manchester United are to succeed in the two games, against Chelsea at home on Sunday and in the rematch against the Catalans at Wembley on 28 May, that will define their season.
Those dilemmas are confined to the area between defence and attack. Ferguson knows his strongest back five, his two most effective and complementary strikers, and the three wide players from whom he must choose two, with the other ready to come off the bench. That leaves a pair of starting places open in the crucial area of central midfield, with six players – Giggs, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Darron Gibson and Anderson, in order of seniority – jostling for inclusion.
This time, for once, the manager stands a chance of going into both matches with every member of his midfield present and correct, suspensions having cost him the presence of Scholes and Roy Keane in the final of 1999, and of Fletcher 10 years later. The last-named, in whom he places so much trust, returned for 20 minutes of action against Schalke on Wednesday after being out with a virus since early March, to audible sighs of relief from Ferguson.
Critics who claim United are on the brink of winning trophies this season without actually playing like champions tend to identify central midfield as the area in which their qualities are spread thinnest. There is no single player who drives the team like Bryan Robson, who bullies opponents like Keane, or who is capable of inventing the game with the imagination and deftness that Scholes in his prime could supply. Instead there are players who have identifiable characteristics but not in sufficient quantity to shape the team’s direction.
Which is why any decision Ferguson makes will contain an element of risk. Each of the six is capable of rising to the occasion, as Giggs did when he scored a quick-witted goal against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen. Even the much derided Gibson played a prominent role against the same opponents at Old Trafford on Wednesday, measuring a perfect pass from which Antonio Valencia opened the scoring and then forcing Manuel Neuer into the error that doubled United’s advantage. But these feats, it could be said, were achieved against opposition so weak that their appearance in a semi-final seemed a bizarre aberration.
Gibson, with only nine Champions League appearances to his credit, is unlikely to find a place even among the substitutes for either of the big matches. The re-emergence of Giggs’s form will make Ferguson think hard, and the Welshman may well appear against Chelsea, but to give him a starting role against Barcelona’s masters of pass-and-move would be to court a repeat of that unhappy Roman night in 2009. A year earlier, when United beat Barcelona 1-0 on aggregate over two legs in the semi-final, Giggs – then thought to be a fading force – was on the bench for both matches but appeared only for the final quarter of an hour of the second leg, at Old Trafford, as United withstood the Catalans’ final assault.
Scholes and Carrick started both games against Barcelona in 2008. Trying to predict Ferguson’s selections and formations is always a tricky business – the unforseeable and near-catastrophic experiment with David Beckham in central midfield in the 1999 final in the Camp Nou remains a vivid memory – but Scholes, a little slower now at 35, may have to content himself with starting roles in United’s last two league matches, against Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool. He can still pass a ball beautifully, as he showed on Wednesday, but it would be asking a lot to expect him to match the strength of Chelsea’s midfield, against whom he started in the 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge two months ago, or to help contain Barcelona’s will o’ the wisps without giving away free-kicks in dangerous areas.
Carrick and Anderson were paired for the final in 2009 and also for last Sunday’s tired performance in defeat at the Emirates. The Brazilian scored his team’s celebratory third and fourth goals on Wednesday and has recently seemed to be growing into the role of a United player. But it is the Englishman who seems to have regained a stronger measure of Ferguson’s favour, showing once again his ability to screen the defence without fuss and to distribute the ball accurately over a variety of distances.
He and Giggs were the combination preferred by the manager for the two victories over Chelsea in the quarter-final of the Champions League and it seems most likely that, with so much at stake, they will be his choice for Sunday’s rendezvous. But Fletcher will again be on the bench, hoping to get as much game-time as possible in the fixtures leading up to the climax at Wembley. Ferguson may feel that the 27-year-old’s athleticism and focused aggression are precisely what was missing two years ago as United struggled to disrupt Barcelona’s intricate passing.
“He’s catching up all the time,” Ferguson said on Wednesday night. “Some players are big-game players and Darren’s a big-game player. We’ve got three weeks to assess the situation and he’s looking OK.”
Barcelona’s players will be familiar with Fletcher only from the last 15 minutes of the 2008 second leg, when he came on with Giggs to help preserve the narrow advantage. At Wembley Ferguson could well have a more proactive role in mind for this underrated player, hoping for the sort of contribution against Xavi, Iniesta and Messi that Sir Matt Busby received from another lean and combative Scottish midfielder, the great Pat Crerand, against Eusébio, Torres and Simões on the same patch 43 years ago.