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 Jol's analysis of the CL final, from the Sunday Times

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Janek
Gary Stevens
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PostSubject: Jol's analysis of the CL final, from the Sunday Times   Mon May 19 2008, 16:21

Manchester United are back in a European Cup final and Sir Alex Ferguson is back from the brink. He is unbelievable. A couple of seasons ago, when they went out in the group stages and Chelsea were on the way to winning their second Premier League title, I thought United had gone. I felt Chelsea might be English champions for the next five seasons and I suspected Ferguson also saw that possibility. He said to himself: ďI have to do something, and fast. I have to build another great team.Ē He changed everything in just one year: an unbelievable manager.

Now it is Chelsea who, for two seasons, have suffered the pain Ferguson didnít want to suffer again Ė being runners-up. This final is a chance for them to feel good again, and I think they might take it. Two things give Chelsea a little edge. If you only go by statistics and history, they are favourites because since their current team started coming together in 2004, they have played United 12 times, lost only twice and won six times. The second factor is theyíre better than United away from home and this is an away game for both sides.

There is little else to choose between them. The final is presented as a meeting of opposites, but I donít see the clubs that way. Ferguson likes to describe United as much younger than Chelsea, and saying your team is young is a nice little managerís trick I used myself at Tottenham. But the average age of Unitedís most likely lineup is 27.4 and Chelseaís 28.4. And when Ferguson rebuilt his team he went bam, bam, bam, bam: £18.6m for Michael Carrick, £18m for Anderson, £17m for Owen Har-greaves, £17m for Nani. Rio Ferdi-nand, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo had already cost £70m between them. So you canít say itís United against the big spenders.

Another similarity is that both sides, in Europe, play in styles we donít associate with them. Chelsea have broken their habit of playing on the counter. Avram Grant says he wants to play attractive football and Chelsea have played more and more in the opposition half. If it doesnít look pretty, itís because their flank players, such as Florent Malouda, are not doing their bit. In terms of keeping possession, however, the stats show Chelsea to be among the best teams in this yearís Champions League and they have taken more shots than anyone. Their power is in central midfield, where they play with three men, compared to Unitedís normal two. They have to use their spare man positively in Moscow otherwise their advantage will be lost. Claude Makelele, all his life, has been trained to make simple sideways passes but he, or John Obi Mikel, if Grant goes with the younger man, must come further forward than normal and link with the attackers. This would force United deeper, which they didnít like when they played Barcelona in the semi-finals. After eliminating BarÁa, Johan Cruyff said: ďThis is not a great United team.Ē


Frank Rijkaard was also negative about their play. There was a bit of losersí jealousy in my countrymenís words, but also some truth. Against BarÁa, United showed they donít need the ball to win a game. They have developed a style of dropping off and breaking quickly, using the deadliness of their attackers in one-on-ones. Though they are capable of it, they donít often take the initiative, which is what Cruyff says great sides do. In this seasonís Champions League, United are only 14th best out of 32 clubs in terms of possession and 18th in terms of shots per game, but they have the fifth-best goals-per-game stat and Cristiano Ronaldo is the competitionís top scorer, which shows how efficient he, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez can be.

It was the same in the Premier League, where 85% of Unitedís goals were scored by their attackers and just 8% by their midfielders. Some 35% of Chelseaís goals came from midfield, demonstrating the threat posed by Michael Ballack, Frank Lam-pard and Michael Essien. Chelsea are more of an all-round team than United, but United can go from box to box like a rocket and score because of their attacking brilliance. They have this method of ďdoubling upĒ, where one player frees another by moving into his position and leaving the defender with two to mark. The key is movement and timing. It will be difficult for United to create space in the spine this way because Makelele is always there, but watch for Rooney, Ronaldo or Tevez making one-on-ones for themselves on the flanks by coming inside to double up, then moving wide.

Carrick, who yesterday signed a new four-year deal, is Unitedís master-mind because he often wins back possession with his interceptions and gets the ball upfield quickly, passing into areas where his attackers are moving. He makes the hardest pass in football - the forward ball - look easy. When I had him at Spurs, every attack started with him and he was the reason we should have got into the Champions League after holding fourth place for seven months in 2005-06. Since he went to United they have won the title twice. Ferguson shares my opinions about his quality, even if others in England underrate him. He sees, he passes, and hits the ball with the right speed into the right area for his teammate. Itís a sudden flash of inspiration in his brain. Itís genius.

Ronaldo makes the biggest difference. If we can say that, of the two finalists, United are the beauty queens itís because of Ronaldo, since who else is playing the beautiful foot-ball? Chelsea wonít be considered entertaining until they get quality such as Ronaldo on the flanks. Yet Grant is doing everything else Roman Abramovich wanted. It was a big challenge to take over a team who were disciples of Jose Mourinho and win their respect, and it could have been a disaster. You can only judge on results, and he has done well. There is a lot at stake for Grant in Moscow and Ferguson, too, who wants a second European Cup to elevate his place in history. The players are also motivated. Moscow is a moment of truth.

Martin Jolís tactics guide to the Moscow showdown

The Man Utd threat to Chelsea: ĎDoubling Upí United can play in all styles, but their most effective is the fast counter. Moves often start with Michael Carrick making an interception and playing a quick ball forward. The quality of Carrickís passing helps him exploit the movement of Wayne Rooney, left, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. A favourite trick is for one player to make space for another by running into his teammateís position and Ďdoubling upí on a defender. Against Barcelona, Ji-Sung Park and Rooney were stationed either side of Ronaldo and kept coming from the flank into the middle, enabling Ronaldo to vacate his central position and be in space to receive the ball. The goal which sealed Unitedís 10th Premier League title was another example.

Rooney was playing centre forward but Ryan Giggs came from midfield, allowing Rooney to drop back into the space Giggs had left. Rooney then received the ball, Wiganís uncertain centre-backs were pulled apart, and Rooney could play a through pass for Giggs to score. The key to doubling up is timing. Carrick must find the space where the Ďfreedí player is moving
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Janek
Gary Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Jol's analysis of the CL final, from the Sunday Times   Mon May 19 2008, 16:21

Anybody know what channel it will be on this Thursday morning? Starsports?
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Edgar Davids
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PostSubject: Re: Jol's analysis of the CL final, from the Sunday Times   Mon May 19 2008, 17:57

Janek wrote:
Anybody know what channel it will be on this Thursday morning? Starsports?

Probably ESPN.

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