Mark Hughes BarcelonaManchester United are set to take on Barcelona in the semi-finals of the European Cup, which has mouth watering prospects for the viewers. Both clubs are advocates of the game, playing football as it should be played, but plenty of emphasis on attacking and skills. Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney, Henry, Tevez, Deco, Scholes and Ronaldinho are players who’d feature in any manager’s fantasy team, and the idea of them fighting out for a place in the final is exciting for any football fan.

Anderson has today spoken out, saying this will be the biggest game of his career so far, and that he will be treating it as though it was the final. However, what he fails to realise is that the game that follows could be the biggest game in United’s entire history.

United have beaten Barcelona before in a European Cup final, when in 1991 two Mark Hughes’ goals saw United win their first European competition in 26 years. The Champions League is certainly more prestigious, and no doubt, we’d take huge pleasure in getting another victory over these Spanish giants.

“For me, it is like playing the final,” Anderson said. “Playing against Barcelona will be the most important match of my life and I think it will be like the final of the Champions League. Barcelona’s squad is excellent. I like Iniesta and he is my favourite player at Barcelona. And then there is Xavi, Deco, Eto’o, Henry. It is a great team.”

There is no denying what a big game this is for United and whilst they are favourites on paper, there are no guarantees in cup football. I, for one, am intrigued to see how this current side fairs against one of the best sides in Europe. Whilst both Lyon (best side in France) and Roma (2nd best side in Italy) were tests for United, our new team passed with flying colours. The new additions of Hargreaves, Nani, Anderson and Tevez were bought for occasions like these, and now it’s time for them to step up to the plate.

After being knocked out by such a strong defensive team last season, it will be interesting to see what problems an attacking minded side would pose us with. United currently have the best defence in the Premiership, although look decidedly shakey in the absence of Nemanja Vidic, who should be back for both games, if all goes to plan.

Barcelona are a massive club in Europe and have also already won two European Cups, however like United, will feel as though there should have been more of this European silverware finding its way to the club. I can recognise what a big occasion this is for United and I am both nervous and excited in anticipation. However, what is likely to follow a victory over Barcelona is the occasion I’m really building myself up for.

With Liverpool and Chelsea being drawn against each other in the other semi-final, there is a large possibility that it will be our old foes that we would meet in the final. The stakes of massive here, they’ve never been bigger. Whilst we’ve all enjoyed these past 18 years of titleless years in Merseyside, and seeing Cantona’s incredible strike hitting the back of the net in 1996 FA Cup final was truly a moment to behold, however few things come close to this.

If United claim the Premiership this season, they will be just one league title away from equalling Liverpool’s record of 18 English titles. The moment we overtake that title will be special. But considering the importance Liverpool put on the European Cup these days, their arm twisted by the Fat Spanish Waiter (TM)’s failure to compete in the league, to beat them in the final of this competition would be incredible. The thought of Gerrard’s crumpled face, Carragher holding his head in his hands, and scousers everywhere grieving, could be enough to bring a tear to my eye.

However, the alternative to this result is complete and utter misery. Painful, sickening, searing misery. The chants revolving around beating us in the final and winning it six times would be enough to make me gag. How could I go on living in this country if Liverpool beat United in the European Cup? How could I ever come in to contact with a scouser ever again? Whilst bragging rights are traded freely now, of European Cups, Trebles and titles, there could be no retaliation to a snipe about us losing to them in the Champions League final.

So whilst I appreciate Anderson’s sentiment, there is only going to be one European Cup final this season, and it isn’t when we play Barcelona.




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