Ahmed has written at length about the game, but being writers here, we can’t have enough of analysis, can we? So here is one more. Let’s get it out of my system as soon as possible.
Manchester United were out-thought, out-fought and out-classed. Three things that about summarized the semi final. But for a detailed analysis read on.
Sir Alex in the pre-match talked about continuing with their philosophy of playing attacking football. But their nervousness was epitomized by the very first back-heeled pass that Ronaldo misplaced, just 30 seconds into the match. That United gave away the ball far too often than they have been known for during this season, has been the major cause for their undoing. Hardly did we get to see the ‘attack at speed’ that characterized their best moves prior to this game.
I thought they needed at least 15-20 minutes to settle their nerves and that of the boisterous San Siro crowd by passing the ball around, but that was not to be, as Kaka scored well before the 15th minute. The second goal was a needless gift, nothing more, Heinze culpable on that occasion in the lead up.
Reluctance to win the ball
Try as they might, United struggled to close down Milan’s crowded midfield. Pirlo, Seedorf and Kaka were given acres of space to do their thing. United backed off to Seedorf to give him his goal. (A glance at his compilation videos would tell you not to do so) Michael Carrick didn’t turn up. Although Scholes played much better than the rest, the yellow card might have played in his mind.
Milan on the other hand did the opposite. They closed down every potential United attack with consummate ease, Gattuso taking the major honours here. He also used his knowledge of Scholes and Heinze being on cards in his attempts to wind them up, as well as doing his bit of cheerleading with the San Siro crowd. The result: Dida’s mostly uncertain goalkeeping was hardly tested.
Ferguson’s management style may not be as tactically dependent as that of Benitez or Mourinho or even Ancelotti, but when the 4-5-1 formation was clearly not helping, he might have considered shuffling things a bit, maybe even throwing Alan Smith in (instead of a half fit Saha) as early as the hour, as against the 70th minute introduction of Saha.
I know, I’ll get some harsh things from people for this, but honestly Smudger has shown much more movement ever since his return to the first team than he’s been given credit for, and maybe things might have worked out. Hell, that’s hindsight speaking, so there! Milan were tactically spot on. They have always been clinical, and they really don’t need much chances to score, do they? I believe Liverpool would do much better than United.
Credit to Milan, though. Not taking anything away from them and their crowd. Their experience helped them, and they must now be firmly focused on their revenge mission at Athens.
Of United, they must put this defeat behind them, concentrate on the one trophy that is really their priority. Wrap that up and stay focused on the FA Cup. Win or lose, I thank SAF for giving us a team that, for much of the season, have played breathtaking football. That, I believe, is tonic enough for me to look forward to the years to come.