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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Rear View Mirror – Champions League Final Player Ratings

Written by on May 30, 2011 | 9 Comments »
Posted in Barcelona, Manchester United, UEFA Champions League

Everyone needs to find a way to decompress from Saturday so here is my offering – Player Ratings

Manchester United

Van der Sar 6/10

Drawing unfair criticism in my opinion and made a couple of very good saves.

Fabio 6/10

Had a quiet game before leaving the game injured. Most of the Barcelona attack was focused on the other side of the United defence.

Ferdinand 6/10

Made an excellent block in the first half just as Barcelona were beginning to dominate. Pinned back for close to the entire game but also made very few mistakes

Vidic 6/10

An excellent sliding tackle in the first half but with Barcelona keeping the ball on the ground he looked shakier than he does in the Premier League.

Evra 3/10

Wonderful attacking full back but against the best he has often been caught short and so it was again. Barcelona’s pace and movement often left him paralyzed as was evident on Barcelona’s first two goals.

Valencia 3/10

Much was expected but he failed to deliver. He never found the pace of the game and he was very fortunate to go unpunished for a series of early fouls. Never bothered the returning Abidal for one moment and failed to deliver one pass into the penalty area.

Carrick 4/10

With Michael Carrick there is little in-between. You sometimes get the best but often you got the worst. It was the case of the latter on Saturday although not through a lack of effort. A two man central midfield was always going to be dominated by Barcelona and so it turned out.

Giggs 3/10

His one contribution was not been called offside and almost inadvertently setting up Wayne Rooney for his goal. Essentially a non-factor in the game who went missing for large stretches of the game.

Park 4/10

Ran around and covered a prodigious amount of space as he tucked inside and would then race out to try and shut down Alves as he moved forward. I doubt a player has ever run further and touched the ball so little as Park did on Saturday. The perfect example of the ball always moving quicker than any player no matter how great their work ethic.

Rooney 7/10

United’s best player by a wide margin. He contrived and scored Unitd’s goal but he lacked support from his teammates throughout most of the match. He worked right through the 90 minutes but it was all in vain.

Hernandez 4/10

The young Mexican finally played like he is – a young and generally inexperienced player at the very top level. A lack of guile was replaced with misplaced effort as he was repeatedly caught offside. A most frustrating day for a player who has been feted and led a charmed existence since his arrival at Old Trafford.



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Nani 4/10

Made no positive impression on the game for United.

Scholes 4/10

Token substitution in the end. Any hope that he could prompt a Manchester United revival was pronounced DOA as Barcelona refused to allow United the ball.


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Valdes 7/10

Almost involved in a dramatic early mix up with Pique but as it turned out he was decisive in his decision making and his short and medium range passing was as reliable as ever.

Alves 7/10

The right back had a quiet start but as the game moved into a crucial stage at the start of the second half he took up dangerous positions and was a threat running from deep.

Mascherano 7/10

A very nervous and uncomfortable start to the game as United keyed on him at the heart of the Barcelona defence. However what he lacked in early positional awareness was more than made up for by consistent and successful passing. Grew into the game and became a solid contributor to Barcelona’s success.

Pique 8/10

As Barcelona came under early pressure it was Pique that stepped forward to quell the United attacks. A series of interceptions, well timed runs that caught United offside and general leadership helped to turn the tide.

Abidal 7/10

Rarely troubled at left back and found time to venture forward on occasion. A very solid performance all round that vindicated Pep Guardiola’s decision to play him from the start.

Xavi 9/10

He is the metronome of the Barcelona orchestra and defines the tempo and the rhythm. Brilliant again as he showed he willingness to take the ball in any position and in the tightest of spaces.

Busquets 7/10

With three minutes of added time remaining and Barcelona cruising along at 3-1 Busquets ran 20 yards to win the ball with a sliding tackle in the centre circle – sums up his attitude and that of his side.

Iniesta 8/10

Wonderful set of passing statistics but overshadowed by the superb performances of others. Nonetheless he hardly put a foot….or a pass…. wrong.

Pedro 7/10

With his searing pace Pedro is a constant menace. But few others blessed with such pace use it quite as judiciously and strategically. Took his goal well and constantly harassed the United defence when they did have the ball.

Messi 9/10

What can you say other than that over the last five or six seasons we have seen the emergence of a player who someday in the future will be rightly regarded as one of the greatest players ever to have played this game.

Villa 8/10

Went into this match with just one goal in his last 16 games but scored an absolute belter to put the match beyond United’s reach.



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Your thoughts and marks perhaps.

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9 responses to “Rear View Mirror – Champions League Final Player Ratings”

  1. Seattle_Loon says:

    Bobby. Pretty much spot-on. Splitting hairs, I would add another point for Pedro and Mascherano. The latter after a slightly torrid first ten minutes deserves great credit for not putting a foot wrong in a position he’s not accustomed to playing. You might have been generous giving Valencia 3 points.

    Would love to get your views on Ferguson’s tactics and maybe a score out of ten. They definitely made the game more open but just like two years ago there seemed to be a mix of naivete/conceit employing a four man midfield.

    (By the way great article by the always excellent Tim Vickery on the BBC today about the development of Messi and other young South American players.)

  2. rahul says:

    Can’t argue with those ratings….thats why we’re here on your blog eh?

    Obviously, Barca is great as we have just witnessed. Who out there today do you think would have the best chance against them? What about a hypothetical City match up? maybe we will find out next year…

  3. Princeton says:

    Franco Bareci stated that this Barcelona team is as great and undefeatable just as his AC Milan team in the 3 Musketeers era…

    What is your opinion on ?

  4. Podcast will be up later today as well as some statistics back up with diagrams.

  5. Princeton – It was a magnificent Milan team and an innovative one as well. I think ultimately this Barcelona side will be rated more highly than the Milan side of the late 80s and early 90s.

  6. Roberto Manita says:

    Cheers Bobby.

    I too am surprised that VdS is getting criticism from some circles. He had absolutely no chance on all three goals in my opinion and if it weren’t for him this match could have been 5 or 6 to 1. He was ManU’s man of the match for me even more so than Rooney. I would have given VdS an eight or 7.5. Any time your GK is your MotM it spells trouble.

    Evra was very poor no doubt. I wouldn’t fault him for the second goal as I would say that was Vidic’s responsibilty to step up on Messi and take away the space given. And Evra got skinned by Messi out wide right which created the third goal (along with Nani’s failure to clear the ball).

    I thought you were a wee bit harsh on Hernandez who was completely isolated. I believe he gets offside so often has more to do with the fact that he plays off the shoulder of the last man so much (very much like Villa on FCB, who is a vastly more experienced player and also is on offside machine). And as you’ve said, Pique outfoxed him a few times by stepping up at the right moment. So I wouldn’t just attribute all the offsides down to a lack of experience on Hernandez’ part. Had Tevez been playing in that spot on the day he would have been just as isolated and no more effective.

    I’m one of those that believes Fergie did get his tactics wrong. Having Messi playing as a false 9 and dropping into the midfield gives FCB a four man midfield in the shape of a diamond with Busquets at the bottom and Messi at the top. Carrick and Gigg’s primary responsibility, as the central midfielders, are to pick up Xaxi and Iniesta. Rooney’s responsibilty was Busquets. Neither Park nor Valencia, playing as wide midfielders, can be expected to track Messi either. Tracking Messi had to be the responsibility of the two CBs, Vidic and Rio, but neither was willing and most importantly able to do so. Both Vidic and Rio are relatively slow and ponderous stay at home CBs. Smalling is a much more mobile CB with younger fresher legs. I’m not saying that Smalling should have got the call in the Final and I know Fergie never would have picked him due to his inexperience. But teams stand a better chance at containing Messi with at least one of their CBs being a quick, nimble type of CB (much like Arsenal’s Koscielny, who is much maligned, but who I thought did a much better job against Messi than either Vidic or Rio, as he was both willing and able to track Messi back to the half way line if need be — at least in the first leg this year). The future in containing a team like FCB, that plays a false 9 and doesn’t send in high crosses from the flanks, lies in playing CBs that are more mobile and quick on the ground as opposed to playing CBs that are strong in the air and slow of foot.

    Fergie basically had no one who’s primary responsibility was Messi. And I’m not saying it has to be done by man marking alone (but that’s an option also). Let’s take how Mourinho dealt with Messi in the recent four Clasicos. Ultimately, Mourinho wasn’t successful, but he contained Messi much better than Fergie did through his tactical decisions (although, I will admit that Fergie doesn’t have the personnel at his disposal that Mourinho has to cope with Messi). Mou usually played a 4-2-3-1 this season with three central midfielders, two of which were holding. For the FCB matches, Mou inverted his central midfield triangle in order to mirror FCB’s. Although one could say they did not do a man marking job, Mou’s three central midfielders did have primary defensive responsibilities (Pepe was asked to keep an eye on Messi, Xabi and Khedira/Lass to keep an eye on Xavi and Iniesta). Mou was sacrificing not having someone responsible for the bottom of the diamond (Busquets) but Fergie covered three parts of the midfield diamond while leaving the top and most dangerous part of the diamond (Messi) to roam freely. Is it better to let Busquets more time on the ball or Messi?

    Also, Fergie had first hand experience playing against Messi as a false 9 back in 2009 and had the benefit of Mou’s recent four Clasicos to prepare for this match. And still Fergie decides to play a 4-4-1-1 (which is really just a derivation of the 4-4-2) against FCB’s 4-1-2-3 (a derivation of the 4-3-3). And while ManU’s 4-4-1-1 was very successful this year it was never going to be the best formation against Barça. So Fergie put his team at a disadvantage before the ball was kicked. Therefore, Fergie (as brilliant and successful as he is) got his tactics wrong. He got his player selections a wee bit wrong too but I have previously dealt with that and this post has already turned into an article.

  7. Princeton says:

    Thank you so much for the answer!

    I have one more question though, if you would allow me to ask.

    After that 1-1 in the first half, would it be possible for Ferguson to do some crazy defense tactics to hold the score like that until the end of the game, then go with all the chance with Van Der Sar on Penalty kick?

    As we all know, Van Der Sar is such a great goal keeper. If Man Utd. can hold up to that point, with all the Van Der Sar’s skills and experience that he has, do you think they will have a chance to win out? Anything could happen now right when a football game get up to that point, and to me, Van Der Sar will certainly have a much better chance or edge to save the team than Victor Valdes.

    I know you could consider this as a silly question. For instance, put all the players to defense completely all the way until the end of time even though people will dishonor Man Utd. if they really won out this way later on. But, it’s possible isn’t it? We have seen several weaker teams doing this kind of way to win out the better team, or to earn a draw out score before many times. Not only in big tournatment like this in the past, but we also see it all the time when many smaller teams have to face and fight with Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga just to survive out. Sometimes, we even see them win out due to the fact that those big teams can become frustrated and later, lose their concentration.

    Again, I know this is such a shameful or insane question haha..,but I just can’t stop thinking that it is possible. You did see it very often too right that sometimes fairness didn’t happen on a football field.

    What do you think? = )

    Very respectfully..

  8. Princeton – Surely if Fergie would have wanted to do that then he would have done right from the start at 0-0 would he not. My opinion – United don’t have the personnel to play that way. Eoin makes the same point on this week’s podcast.

  9. Princeton says:

    How can I follow you on podcast? Would be fun!

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