With over 20 minutes left to play, Rooney delivered a perfect ball in to Cristiano Ronaldo to put us 2-0 up. Instead of heading it in to the back of the net, he tried to catch it.
Howard Webb marched over to Ronaldo and showed him a second yellow card for deliberate handball. Ronaldo was miming a whistle, implying he thought he had heard one, which would have made sense. He wasn’t trying to score with his hands. It would have been far easier to do that just by putting his head on the end of the cross. Still, he was sent off, and thankfully United managed to hold on to the three points.
Last night, Barcelona absolutely battered Arsenal. I thought the Champions League final in 2009 was a football lesson but that game last night was probably the most one-sided game of football I have ever seen. In the post match commentary, Jamie Redknapp bizarrely claimed that Barca did to Arsenal what Arsenal do to 99% of teams. Really? Arsenal reduce 99% of teams they play against to no attempts at goal? Hardly.
Watching United get outplayed in 09 was one of our worst moments as United fans, but in that game, we had 11 attempts (2 on target, 7 off target, 2 blocked) on goal and 47% possession. When it was widely regarded we were murdered that day, it puts the Arsenal performance in to context.
After the first half, Arsenal had just 32% possession and hadn’t had a single shot, on or off target. Arsenal had 41 touches in the opposition half in the first half, compared to 310 by Barcelona. It was a mauling.
Barca only lead 1-0 but Messi had been fouled in the box but the referee waved play on when a penalty was the obvious decision.
Then, with almost an hour played, and after already being on a yellow card for slapping someone in the face (a red card offence), Robin van Persie raced towards goal. The whistle blew and then van Persie lashed the ball as hard as he could miles off target from inside the box. There was just one second between the whistle blowing and him kicking the ball. The referee showed him his second yellow and he was sent off.
Van Persie claimed not to have heard the whistle, which would be a fair enough excuse. Although it’s easy enough to understand the referee’s position, given the striker was in a great goalscoring position and as soon as the whistle went, decided to take a wild swing at the ball. Maybe van Persie should take it as a compliment that the ref didn’t believe when he kicked the ball it was a genuine attempt at goal, although this was a harsh decision. I’m sure Barca were glad to see decisions go against Arsenal though, after what would have been one of their two away goals was wrongly ruled out in the first leg and no penalty was given for a foul and Messi.
The second half then continued on just like the first, with Barca dominating possession and Arsenal not having any attempts on goal. Luckily, Barca scored a goal for them, Busquets’ header getting them an away goal, but when the 90’s minutes were up, Arsenal still hadn’t managed a single effort of their own at goal.
By the end of the game, Xavi and Iniesta both individually (not combined) made more passes than Diaby, Wilshere, Cesc, Rosicky, Nasri, van Persie, Bendtner and Arshavin combined. Barcelona attempted 717 passes, Arsenal just 195. Arsenal touched the ball twice in Barca’s box, compared to a total of 47 by Barcelona. This was the first time since stats were analysed for Champions League games that a team has hadn’t a single effort at goal.
It was the fair result, particularly when you consider Barca also had a perfectly good goal ruled out at the Emirates. Arsenal will complain about the sending off, but if they’d had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside and penalty denied against, whilst Barca just had a man sent off for 35 minutes, we’d have been hearing about that instead. We certainly heard about it after their 0-0 draw with Sunderland, when the same decisions that went against Barca went against Arsenal.
Now, watching Arsenal get battered like that was obviously entertaining, particularly with Cesc Fabregas providing a lovely backheel in the lead up to Barca’s first goal (a taste of what next season will be like) but throughout I couldn’t help but think about the consequences it would have on our weekend’s game.
When The Best Striker In The World (TM) got in to a great position with minutes to go, I was left to wonder how they would be buzzing on the back of a result at the Nou Camp. But his awful first touch meant he couldn’t save the day for Arsenal and now the position they’re in is a lot more depressing.
Like they crumbled following that draw against Birmingham a couple of years ago, William Gallas crying in the centre circle at full-time, you have to wonder whether Arsenal have the bottle to turn things around following their humiliation this week.
Who do the players have to look to on the pitch? Fabregas is their captain and leader, although he’s going to have a hard time getting over looking like a dick at his beloved home, the Nou Camp. How he managed to retain the captaincy after last summer is beyond me anyway but regardless, he’s hardly the type of captain many fans would want (outside of North London, of course).
Whilst obviously the team will now turn their focus to the United game, it’s encouraging to see the players’ reaction, which is comparable to a bunch of spoilt little kids. Rather than accept the fact they were easily the 2nd best team, created NO chances, regardless of the decisions that wrongly went for and against them, they’ll spend this week feeling hard done by, starting with Van Persie, who believed his sending off made a big difference to the game, despite the fact they had zero attempts up until 55 minutes when he was sent off, and zero attempts for the 35 minutes remaining.
Robin van Perise: “It had a big influence. I think it was a total joke. I can’t understand the view from the ref. He has been bad all evening. He was against us. I don’t know why he was here tonight, it’s a joke. We feel betrayed.”
Arsene Wenger: “I am still convinced that in the second half we could have done a lot at 1-1 if it had stayed 11 against 11.”
Jack Wilshere on Twitter: Sorry about the result,good luck to Barca,great team! Oh yeah and the ref was good aswell….
Samir Nasri on Twitter: by the way bussaca is the best….pff
Rather than just accepting they weren’t good enough and they clearly have issues to address, they are wrongly blaming the referee for their defeat.
This will only have positive effects on our game against them this weekend, when spirits will be low, and who knows what two Cup exits will do for their morale ahead of the final few weeks in the title race…
The RoM 2017-18 Season Preview is available for just £5. It includes an EXCLUSIVE interview with Paul Scholes, a Q&A with the country's top journalists about our transfer targets, articles by brilliant United writers, and so much more. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.