Two days before Saturday's Champions League final, now is probably the time for a preview. This is where people offer their opinions on how United will cope with Dani Alves' rampaging runs, why Park Ji-Sung's energy may prove to be crucial or how much Saturday's referee Viktor Kassai has been paid by Barcelona / United (delete to your taste).
But just to show how much of a maverick I am, I'm posting a review. That's right, before the Sunday papers can even think of dusting off their (t)rusty typewriters, I shall don my time-travelling cap and give my insights on why Barcelona won the 2011 Champions League final (yep, they won it).
The grand scale of the occasion, as always, first became truly apparent when the teams marched onto the pitch for the first time. Led by respective captains Carles Puyol and Nemanja Vidic, two men that probably feast on lions, the players filed past Ol' Big Ears and went about the formalities. Ballboys waved as cameras panned, pennants were exchanged and Javier Hernández prayed.
Kickoff. Michael Carrick charged into the Barcelona half, demanded the ball and duly won it after a lazy pass from Busquets. Carrick steadied himself and waited for support from his teammates. In the corner of his eye, he saw something none of the Barcelona players, his United teammates or the millions watching on television had spotted. Antonio Valencia had darted into the box unnoticed and unmarked. Carrick played an inch-perfect pass with nothing but a mere glance leaving Valenica with the simple task of squaring the ball to Hernández who converted with ease. 1-0 United.
Forgive me, my memory's quite hazy after all that time travel. That previous paragraph may be slightly innaccurate. I've just realised that it was in fact Xavi who had played the killer pass, Dani Alves who had charged into the box and Pedro who had poked Barcelona, not Man United, into an early lead. Other than that, the paragraph captures exactly what happened.
Once Barcelona had gained the lead, a certain pattern began to develop. It revolved around the Chameleon, the Xavi Hernández. Michael Carrick and his midfield partner, the evergreen Welshman Ryan *NAME WITHHELD DUE TO SUPERINJUNCTION*, soon found themselves surrounded by a flurry of Catalan triangles. After twenty minutes of ceaseless geometric passing, Carrick was seen to break down in tears in the centre circle and Fergie was forced to make the first change of the match. Darron Gibson came on for Carrick, who was last seen muttering to himself in a corner in Carrington.
Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass. Pa- Oh, who cares. Barcelona won 3-0 and managed 71% ball possession. Xavi completed 114 passes and even scored a rare goal to cap off Pedro's earlier tap-in and Messi's mazy dribble that took him past six United defenders, Edwin Van Der Sar, the referee and a streaker before stroking the ball into the net. United finished with ten men after Vidic hauled down David Villa one too many times and United's dreams of a double were over.
A superb performance from Barcelona that surely cements their position as one of football's greatest ever teams. Their victory was marred by tragedy, however, when Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets and Pedro were all killed when Wesley Brown stared in their direction in a threatening manner. Michael Owen's attempts at trying to blend in with the Barcelona team as they made their way up the stands to collect their winners' medals were thwarted when he was ejected by a steward who thought he was a mischievous ballboy.
Quite a final. Congratulations Barcelona, Champions League winners 2011.