“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You have to accept the fact there is always a team better than yours. But just you wait. Winning isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Next year is yours!” That was what my Dad said when he found out that Barcelona beat Manchester United 3-1. As far as I’m concerned, moving on is something I’m pretty good at. I have not, however, properly moved on. Maybe I need a day or two to recover. Maybe it is a process. Apparently, this is the real test of sportsmanship.
Well, before I find the grace to accept defeat, let me talk about the decision to exclude Dimitar Berbatov even on bench. This decision has led my friend and some fans to conclude that something is fishy. According to Sir Alex Ferguson, “With Dimitar Berbatov, it was a difficult decision tonight. Picking my team I found easy but picking the subs I found very difficult. I overloaded on the midfield positions because I felt that area was the most important in terms of the way Barcelona play and the work you need in that central area. I gambled and played only one defender on the bench, which allowed me to get those midfield options. It came down to a choice between Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov and my view is that if you’re looking for someone to nick a goal in the last few moments of the game then Owen has the experience, which is why I took the decision.” I honestly think it was just a wrong move to leave Berbatov out, but nothing suspicious or devious (I have proof!). Do you really believe that Berbatov is leaving Manchester United just because he failed to make the squad for the Champions League final? Do you also think that Berbatov’s participation would’ve made a big difference?
I’m tempted to discuss the other relevant matters—the absence of an astute tactical switch at half-time, the three preventable goals, the ineffectual midfield (don’t get me started!), the tireless Valencia on a fouling roll, the zealous Chicharito a.k.a. “Mr. Offside,” and so on—but I decide against it (you can check the player ratings here yourself), because at the end of the day, this bitterness stems from the disappointment of losing in the Champions League final. We have to muster up the courage to acknowledge this defeat; otherwise, it would be difficult to move on. I guess it’s harder this time around because Manchester United just won their 19th English title. But if Sir Alex Ferguson can admit that Barcelona had been the better team, and he’s the manager, then so can we. All right, the team could’ve done better, but Barcelona played brilliantly and nobody can deny that.
Barcelona’s performance was just exceptional (again!) so we did not disgrace ourselves. In the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, “We were well beaten. There is no other way to address the situation. We were beaten by the better team, a fantastic team of course, but I expected to do better. We expected to do better, it’s as simple as that.” Likewise, United legend Gary Neville felt the same way. He said, “Barcelona were brilliant. Their second goal was a knockout blow and flattened us, but they were simply the better team. With a group of players as good as Barcelona have, it’s just fantastic to watch at times.” Of course, our very upset Chicharito also expressed his frustration. Chicharito said, “The defeat obviously hurts. There are lessons to be learned, and we have to learn them. Now I have nothing to celebrate, nothing to shout about. I’m hurt: these losses always hurt, even moreso in a final. You can call this a failure or a disappointment. We would have liked to have lifted the cup, but instead we have to applaud.”
As we all know, Manchester United got thumped 3-1 by Barcelona. Yes, the truth hurts, but the right thing to do is to accept it. Losing is part of the game. It doesn’t mean that we’re no longer the CHAMP19NS. In fact, we are, so technically, this season shouldn’t disappoint us at all. We may not the best club in Europe, for now, but definitely the best in England. We could always tear them apart next time. I suggest that we all move on together and focus on the transfer market.
“There is sourness that is central to the experience of supporting a big team, and you can’t do anything about it apart from live with it and accept that professional sport has to be sour if it is to mean anything at all.”
—Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch