5-Year-Old Champions League Formula Makes Barcelona Favourites, Not Man United
In view of the fact that Manchester United will be facing Barcelona in England, the Red Devils could be considered slight favourites, but an effective formula says otherwise.
Some believe it is “Best Coach vs Best Team”, others believe it is “Experience vs Accuracy”. Regardless, both Champions League finalists may be in great form and have the needed support, but it presently seems destiny will benefit La Liga champions.
“Whoever loses to the eventual champion in the semi-finals comes back the following season to snatch the trophy…”
Yes, it all began in the 2005/2006 Champions League season, when Barcelona went on to lift the trophy—their first European title of the century. In April 2006, the Catalans defeated a strong AC Milan side 1-0 on aggregate to qualify into the final—only to triumph over Arsenal 2-1 in France.
The Italian giants then bounced back in the ensuing season and successfully achieved their goal. As they were placed against Manchester United in the semi-finals of the 2006/07 Champions League, the San Siro soldiers gave their all to dominate at home 3-0, after they shockingly lost 3-2 in the first leg at the Old Trafford. The Rossoneri consequently fought English giants Liverpool in the final, but “incompetence” from the referee and his assistants was just enough for them to rule their opponents and lift the cup.
Manchester United came back the following season at full strength, forcing their way through the semi-finals again, where they were challenged by a struggling Barcelona army. Despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty miss at the Camp Nou, a blistering Paul Scholes strike in the first half of the return leg turned the Red Devils fans’ dream into a reality. The tie ended in a narrow 1-0 victory for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, who progressed into the final to edge past Chelsea on penalties.
The year 2009 saw Los Cules return in the spotlight through Pep Guardiola; yet, their semi-final run in the Champions League that year was not just any run. A return-leg saga—piloted by a malicious referee, Ovrebo—did nothing but create tensions at the Stamford Bridge, as the Blues’ fans watch their team getting “robbed”. In the long run, Barcelona prevailed on away goals thanks to a controversial 1-1 away draw, and with Manchester United failing to show their power at the Stadio Olimpico, Barca only had to embrace yet another chance to be kings of Europe.
The following season, ex-semi-finalists Chelsea did not follow in the footsteps of Manchester United or AC Milan; nevertheless, it was the Special One Jose Mourinho—a former Chelsea manager—who retaliated on their behalf through the image of Inter Milan. Competing with the spirit of Chelsea, Inter reached the semis—the stage where they had the chance to complete an unfinished business with Barcelona.
In effect, without any shame, Mourinho was happy to see the Blaugrana getting “tortured” by Referee Olegário Benquerença, who helped the Nerazzurri clinch a controversial but vital 3-1 victory at the San Siro. As a result, not even a notorious 1-0 win for Barcelona back at the Camp Nou was good enough for Guardiola’s boys to sprint into the last stage. The Milanese hence received tickets for the final, with Bayern Munich turning into their victims at the Bernabeu Stadium.
This year, Barcelona are set to keep the formula alive, and having reached their Wembley target, they are just an inch away from accomplishing their mission. Can history and “coincidences” push the Spanish Cup runners-up to conquer the Red Devils? Are Manchester United prepared enough to stop the plans of Los Cules?
Since the 1992/1993 season, both United and Barca have scored 303 goals and conceded 158 in the Champions League. Who will surpass the other this evening and be the 2011 Champions League final winner?