History repeats itself like a broken record

Some of what I wrote after the 2009 Champions League final could very well have been cut and pasted as the post-match commentary for another Champions League final that some friends of mine would rather didn't happen.

Read on.

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May 29, 2009

Messi breaks his duck against English teams.
A friend and I were facebooking when he said he was off to watch Barcelona in the Champions League final. I thought I had an idea what he meant but I couldn’t resist asking him whether he planned to watch them in practice. Otherwise, I didn't see how he was going to watch Barcelona without watching Man United at the same time.

Incidentally, I need not have asked. As Jose Mourihno would say, I too saw only Barcelona. Where was Machester United, the pre-match favourite? I know the Mancunians were there somewhere on the pitch. It’s just that I couldn’t see them after the first ten minutes. Those first ten minutes gave me false hopes that I could make it in football punditry. Hopes that were to be rudely punctured as the night wore on.

In those first ten minutes Barcelona couldn’t get out of their half as Christiano Ronaldo and company launched one attack after another. Then came the sucker punch. Out of the blue and totally against the run of play, a dazed Barcelona somehow negotiated its way out of the siege, the ball somehow found its way to Andrés Iniesta’s boots who ventured forward before threading a pass to Samuel Eto’o who in turn charmed his way past Nemanja Vidic, brushed off the attentions of Michael Carrick before nursing a shot past the despairing arms of Van de Saar.

Exit Manchester United. Enter Barcelona.

Iniesta and Xavi Hernàndez, the two puppeteers in midfield,then assumed complete control. The mesmerising feet of Messi waved one magic wand after another, magic wands that hypnotised the Red Devils into spectating zombies. Almost every silky pass that Barcelona wove homed onto a Barcelona boot, chest or head. All United could do was butterfly from one shadow to another. Thought the ball was here…no there…no, no, there!

So nobody was surprised when Xavi floated a tantalising ball into the box and a height challenged Messi soared into the air, hang there in defiance of the laws of physics, leaned back and with his temple plucked and nodded it into the net. Yes, the same Messi who had never before scored against an English club. 

What a way to break his duck.

It was game over. There was to be no repeat of 1999 when United came from behind to beat Bayern Munich in the last three minutes.

What went wrong? Had United grown lethargic because eleven days had passed since their last match? Had Alex Ferguson’s over the top praise of the midfield maestros, Iniesta and Xavi, got to his players? Had the fact that Barcelona was missing several key players, and that Iniesta and Henry were just returning from injury lulled United into corkiness? Was the weight of history and experience that favoured United make them complacent? Were Ferguson’s tactics wrong? Did United miss the suspended Darren Fletcher? What went wrong?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.  All I know is that on this particular night Barcelona was just too good for United. I also know that a season that had started with United’s harbouring dreams of a quintuple, was going to close with both the FA Cup and Champions League having eluded their grabby hands. Their hopes of retaining the Champions League and keeping their record of never losing in a European cup final had been put to the sword.

As for me, Wednesday night made me realise that the confidence that I could make it in football punditry was misplaced. I’m therefore doing the honourable thing. Yes, unlike some people I know, and I'm tendering my resignation as a rookie football pundit with immediate effect.

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