Spain’s best vs. England’s best.
England’s best player vs. the world’s best player.
Wayne Rooney vs. Lionel Messi.
Saturday, the 28th of May will see the Red Devils take on La Blaugrana in a repeat of the 2009 UEFA Champions League final.
It seems fitting that these two teams would meet in the final this season. Both teams are aiming for the double after clinching their domestic titles with ease this season.
This thrilling contest will pit Pep Guardiola against Sir Alex Ferguson, who are arguably two of the best managers in world football right now. Over the past three seasons, there have been few coaches who have been as good as them.
May 28th will witness these teams take the field at Wembley and this one promises to be a much more even contest than the one back in 2009, when the Catalan giants steamrolled the Red Devils.
This epic clash will feature the battle between Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.
While Messi is widely considered to be one of the world’s best if not the best, Rooney generates contrasting opinions among the masses. Some call him overrated while the others see him as a genius with the ball in his feet, a true team player.
As an Arsenal fan, I am supposed to loathe Rooney and his club but I have to say I fall into the latter category. I see him as a great player and while he has some issues with his temper and temperament, I see him as a great player and right now he is the best English player out there.
So far it is fair to say that despite his younger age, Messi has had a far more successful career. Just 23 and yet he has already won two Ballon d’Ors, something Rooney has failed to do. Messi has scored 179 times in just 268 games while Rooney has managed 168 in 397 games.
While this might show a big gap in quality, the reality is that Messi is better, but not by much like some Messi fanatics would like to point out.
But on 28th all that well count for nothing as the two players take the field in an effort to bring glory for their respective teams. Last time around, it was Messi who won the battle between the two as he scored the second goal in Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Manchester United.
The two of them go into this clash in great form but they have had contrasting seasons.
Messi’s Season so Far
Messi has picked up from where he left of last season and has cemented his claim as the world’s best player right now. Last season he managed 47 goals and 11 assists but this season he has already managed to break all records and has notched up a total of 52 goals with 24 assists to go along with.
All this just goes to show what a fantastic season he is having for the Catalan giants. The impressive fact about all of Messi’s statistics is that he is not just dominating the goals scored department but he is also equally impressive when it comes to providing assists to his teammates.
He has scored several important goals for Barcelona in the Champions League and in the league, including a brace against Real Madrid in the first leg of their semifinal tie. He also scored a brace in the 3-1 defeat of Arsenal in the knockout stages that helped Barcelona overcome a 2-1 deficit from the first leg and progress into the latter stages of Europe’s premier competition.
This season Messi has taken his game to the next level and few in world football can come close to his unparalleled genius and ability with the ball in his feet. Messi has been supremely consistent this season and whatever the occasion, big or small, has delivered the goods for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Rooney’s Season so Far
Rooney has had a topsy turvy season this time around and has gone from being the villain of Manchester to become the hero once again. Rooney incurred the wrath of the United faithful when he questioned their ability to win trophies and sought to leave the club.
He finally decided to stay albeit for a larger paycheck and his decision to stand alongside Ferguson has paid rich dividends as United won an unprecedented 19th title to knock Liverpool off their perch.
Last season, Rooney was sublime has he found the back of the net 34 times. But at the start of the season, he seemed to have not recovered from the 2010 World Cup debacle and was in shambles.
His form at the start of the year was pathetic and that could be considered an understatement. The fact that he scored his first goal from open play this season on January 1st 2011 just goes onto show what a horror season he was having.
But as they say, form is temporary but class is permanent and the same proved to be true with Rooney as he silenced his critics with some fantastic performances including a hat-trick against West Ham as he inspired the Red Devils to fight back from a 2-0 deficit to win 4-2.
Since then he has been on fire and has found the net 15 times this season including 11 assists. This season he is no longer the lone striker he was like last season but is instead dropping much deeper nowadays to accommodate the fantastic, Javier Hernandez, who has easily been one of the best buys of the year.
He has been much more of a team player this season and has changed and adapted himself for the betterment of the team and it working brilliantly.
Rooney has been dropping much deeper and has been playing as a sort of second striker this season often moving into the wings. It is from the wings that he has started to produce some truly fantastic crosses into the box for Hernandez to attack.
He has started to thrive in his new role and has produced some man of the match performances. He has shown his versatility this season and despite a slow start, he has been one of United’s standout performers this season.
How to Neutralize the Threat of Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi does not have too many weaknesses and that is expected from the best player in the world.
But while Mourinho might have failed in ending the Barcelona juggernaut, the performances of his Madrid team, taught the world some valuable lessons, in how to keep the great man down.
Mourinho went with three defensive midfielders, and while Ferguson should not go with such a defensive approach, he can take a leaf out of Mourinho’s playbook and keep a man to stick with Messi at all times and track the runs of the Argentinean.
This will require the much-maligned, Michael Carrick to start and keep a tight rein over the threat of Messi. Like Pepe demonstrated in the first half of the clash at the Santiago Bernabeu, by doubling up on Messi and sticking with him at all times, he can be stopped. This will require Carrick to cramp the little wizard and prevent him from having too much time on the ball.
It is often said that Messi is over-dependent on the midfield duo of Xavi and Iniesta and while that is not true, it is essential that United cut down the supply to Messi by keeping a tight midfield and that will require United to win the midfield battle and look to congest it as much as possible.
For this to take place, midfield duo of Fletcher and Carrick will have to be tight and cannot afford to be run over by Barcelona’s talented midfield.
Manchester United must look to limit the supply line to Messi and must allow that he is allowed neither the time nor the space on the ball.
How to Neutralize the Threat of Wayne Rooney
The fact that Sergio Busquets is playing will be great news for the Barcelona faithful as Busquets’ contributions is often overlooked. But despite all that he is an essential component of the Barcelona side and his importance against United cannot be stressed.
Manchester United’s last loss came to Arsenal and in that win, it was Arsenal’s defensive midfielder, Alex Song, that kept Rooney in check and prevented him from having free rein. Busquets should look to do much of the same.
Rooney has a habit of dropping deep and launching some brilliant cross field balls that can cause havoc. Busquets cannot afford to give the Englishman any time on the ball and must look to close him down quickly before he can use his great skills into effect. Busquets must remain tight on Rooney throughout the match.
Busquets is a supremely talented player and he can do the job and the severity of the task at hand will depend a lot on what Wayne Rooney turns up on that night.
Which Player can Lead Their Team to Glory?
There is no doubt that both players are great ones and both have the ability to take their team all the way but sadly, only one player can do that and I think that one will be Messi.
Right now Barcelona are the better team but not by much. Messi has an uncanny ability to produce something out of nothing like he did against
Right now Barcelona are the better team but not by much. Messi has an uncanny ability to produce something out of nothing like he did against Real Madrid and he usually savours the big situation.
And with it not getting any bigger than this, I expect Messi to thrive on the big stage at the Wembley and I feel that he has the ability to lead Barcelona to their second European crown in just three seasons.
When all this is said done, I would still take Rooney's team rather than Messi's. Not because he is the better player. No, I do know that Messi is the better player but I feel that Rooney will have a lot to offer any team.
His adaptability and willingness to work for the team is commendable. He is one of those attackers who I see constantly helping out the defenders and this is essential for any team. Many teams often attack as a team but defensively fail to do so.
Having players like Rooney will come as a major boost as it is always refreshing to see attackers willing to do the hard work.
His technical ability is also good and while not as good as Messi, I would take him in my team, over Messi but definitely not by much. But that is merely a personal choice and I am sure an overwhelming majority of people feel that Messi is far superior.