Tuesday 24 October 2017

'Obsessed' United eager to exorcise Barca ghosts, admits Vidic

Rory Smith

Nemanja Vidic admits Manchester United have grown "obsessed" with the idea of exorcising the ghosts of Rome and Wembley by besting Barcelona, but the man who would be entrusted with lifting the Champions League trophy should Alex Ferguson's side make it to Munich in May is adamant they have learned enough in defeat to be confident of beating the Spaniards at the third time of asking.

Pep Guardiola's side have swept past United in two of the competition's last three finals, dispatching the Premier League champions 2-0 in Rome in '09 and, with an epoch-defining confidence, 3-1 at Wembley six months ago.

That win, in some quarters, was seen as proof of the ever-widening gulf between United and Barca. Even Ferguson himself, so rarely intimidated, seemed a little star-struck in the immediate aftermath.

United, though, have not allowed themselves to stand bowed in the shadow of greatness for long. Victory against Benfica tonight could see Ferguson's team into the last 16 of the Champions League with a game to spare; improving form in Europe has helped the fear, the awe inspired by Lionel Messi, Xavi and the rest to dissipate.

celebrate

"Yes (it has become an obsession), but we played a semi-final against them (in '08) and won that, so that is something," said the United captain. "If you look at the two games in 2009 and 2011, they were the better team in both, and they deserved to win in both. But maybe we will play again this year and we will celebrate."

The Serbian international, though, bristles at the suggestion that United have attempted to mimic the Catalans' style, inculcated in the club's players from a young age at their academy at La Masia.

Ferguson's introduction of Ashley Young, signed for £15m from Aston Villa, his promotion of home-grown talent like Tom Cleverley and his employment, in the early stages of the season, of a high-intensity, fluid, attacking-style drew comparisons with Barca.

That approach appears to have been halted -- at least temporarily -- by the need to regain equilibrium after their humbling by Manchester City last month, but Vidic is adamant it was never supposed to be a pallid impersonation of Barca's approach; instead, he says, Ferguson's side must plot their own path, forging their own style, if they are to overthrow Barcelona.

"We have not changed the way we play to be more like Barcelona," he said. "They have their own way of playing and so do we. It is not about revolution, about doing things different, it is just doing the same things better. We cannot copy the way Barcelona play." (© Independent News Service)

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