Barcelona Complete Pep’s Dream Season
Barcelona 2 Manchester United 0
Barcelona are so often exponents of the ‘beautiful game’ but less often have they turned this into tangible success. In Rome last night they upset the Champions League odds and made history in a way that not even Real Madrid have done before – a Champions League title the final ingredient of a historic League, Cup and European treble.
Eyebrows were raised last summer when Barcelona named ‘Pep’ Guardiola as manager, following the departure of Frank Rijkaard. Guardiola may be a former Barca captain but with no managerial experience to his name, the task of turning around a team in turmoil looked daunting to say the least. However he has proved the doubters wrong in spectacular fashion; last night the icing on the cake of a truly remarkable season.
To win and win alone is one thing but for Barcelona this has been a season of style as well as substance. In the league their domination was almost total as they racked up an impressive 86 points and 104 goals. Against Manchester United they replicated this dominance – it may have been the leading lights of Eto’o and Messi that got the goals but every single one of their players made a significant contribution.
No team is perfect however and Barcelona required more than a little luck in their semi-final with Chelsea. They were outplayed at Stamford Bridge and came within minutes of defeat. In the first 10 minutes of the final the Catalans may have feared a repeat, looking nervy as Ronaldo went close for United. Unfortunately for the English side this passage of play represented a mere blip and after Eto’o slotted past Van Der Sar, Barcelona never looked back.
With Iniesta and Xavi superb in central midfield, United were rarely in the game and the score could easily have been more one sided. Xavi hit the post early in the second half and Carlos Puyol went close on a number of occasions but in the end it was Lionel Messi who put the game to bed with a perfectly placed header.
For Guardiola the last 12 months have been nothing short of a dream. The rest of Europe will be hoping he wakes up soon.