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As we move forward through the years football continues to evolve. The developments are not often massive evolutions such as Sacchi’s zonal congestion from the 80s or Michels’ and Cruyff’s total football from the 70s, but most frequently minor positional or role adjustments within the different phases of the game. Every goal scored for your team and every goal conceded that is prevented for your team has high value – and as analytics continue to grow within our sport, we are seeing its impact on football’s phases little by little.
A final played between two historic clubs in the Ernst-Happel-Stadion (named after the great innovator and coach) in Vienna, Austria. Both Louis Van Gaal and Fabio Capello were young coaches 20 years (!) ago at the time of this final. Neither team had any trouble reaching the final, as Ajax beat Hajduk Split 3-0 and Bayern Munich 5-2 – and AC Milan beat Benifica 2-0 and PSG 3-0 to reach Europe’s biggest stage. Though both teams were dominant on their road to the final, neither team played well enough to create more than a few chances – which resulted in the only goal coming in the 85th minute.
“The Special One” met his former mentor from their days in Barcelona on Europe’s biggest stage. Inter Milan had just come off of a legendary performance against Guardiola’s FC Barcelona, winning 3-2 on aggregate with only 10 men on the pitch. Van Gaal’s Bayern defeated Lyon 4-0 in the other semi-final (and got to that point by defeating both Fiorentina and Manchester United 4-4 on away goals).
The all English final. All of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, and United were actually in this season’s Champions League quarter-final – an impressive showing for English football. Manchester United were able to narrowly beat a struggling Barcelona with Ronaldinho on his way out, and Chelsea were able to defeat Liverpool in extra time to reach this final. It was a great game which was dictated by Manchester United’s quick possession and combination play.
This is easily one of the most memorable Champions League matches of Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. United leave this Champions League quarter-final tie with one of the most dominant score lines in the history of the competition. In the first leg of this quarter-final Roma had won 2-1 at home so it was up to United to come out and attack to survive – and that’s exactly what they did.
Pep Guardiola vs. Sir Alex Ferguson in the Champions League final. Two of the best coaches in the history of the game (and two of my personal favorites) meet on the biggest stage in European club football. Ferguson called this the best team he has ever faced – and with good reason – as Guardiola’s Barcelona was near its peak and their focus on controlling the center while maintaining the ball was too much for the Red Devils.