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The Special One finally allowed emotion to get the better of him on Sunday when tears were clearly visible in his eyes after Inter Milan wrapped up a fifth straight Serie A title and the second part of a potential treble.
Jose Mourinho is normally so clinical, so self-confident. Were they just tears of joy after retaining the scudetto or did he cry because he knows he will leave Italy after Saturday’s Champions League final with Bayern Munich?
“This is not my home. This is not an easy place to work and be happy,” he told reporters after his side’s 1-0 win at Siena on the last day of the Serie A season.
“There has been no time to think. Now it’s an historic week for Inter and we want to give everything we have. Then I need to relax, spend two or three days thinking about myself and what will make me happier and then I will decide.”
Reaching a European Cup final for the first time since 1972 is success in itself for Inter Milan fans, as witnessed by the delirious scenes at Milan Malpensa airport as the team arrived back from eliminating holders Barcelona.
Jose Mourinho’s side are on for a treble, unprecendented in Italian soccer, but they have not yet tied up Serie A (two points ahead with three games left), the Italian Cup (final against Roma May 5) or the Champions League (final against Bayern Munich May 22 in Madrid).
Manchester United palpably failed to become the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era but few would bet against Barcelona managing the feat next season.
And where would be the perfect place for Pep Guardiola’s stylish side to achieve it? The Nou Camp? No, next year’s final is in Madrid and the Barca fans I spoke to in Rome after the game could not think of a better venue to show their rivals and world football that they are undisputed kings.
Barcelona deposed Manchester United as European champions with an outstanding 2-0 victory in the Champions League final at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.
Samuel Eto’o struck the opener after 10 minutes when he cut in from the right past Nemanja Vidic with surprising ease and his low shot beat United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar at his near post. Xavi cracked a free kick against a United post at the start of the second half before Lionel Messi sealed the win after 70 minutes when he scored with a beautifully timed header from Xavi’s cross.
Full-time: Barcelona 2 Manchester United 0.
Samuel Eto’o 10, Lionel Messi 70
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From Mark Meadows at the Stadio Olimpico:
- – - -
Not quite the dream final. United just didn’t turn up after that initial burst came to nothing. Barca did what they had to do without being amazing. Did Fergie’s talk of greatness in the buildup get to his men? I’ve never seen United look so nervy. Well done Pep Guardiola.
- – - - 2-0 to Barcelona. Messi nods in after a hanging cross for what is a rare header from the Argentine. Ferdinand was no where near him. Game over? A chant of MESSI, MESSI MESSI rings out from my right. - – - - Wayne Rooney, who has been quiet all night and is now patrolling the right wing, has just failed to put two crosses in to the dangerzone with United well-placed. Dimitar Berbatov is taking off his tracksuit… And he’s on for Park.
- – - - Park is a hair’s breadth from nodding in a Rooney cross, and Park’s got longish floppy hair. United resorting to old fashioned English crosses to try to get a foothold back in the game. - – - - 53: Xavi strikes the post with a low freekick and Van der Sar barely moved at first. Tevez has hardly touched it since coming on. How many packs of gum does Fergie have? - – - -
50: Messi wants a penalty for a push in the box but the referee and most of the neutrals shake their heads. - – - - Tevez on for Anderson was pretty predictable given the Brazilian did nothing in the first 45. Tevez has the chance to make a name for himself on what could be his last game for United. Henry tests Van der Sar from close in. - – - - A curious first half, that. United made such a good start that I bet many of their more pessimistic fans were just waiting for Barcelona to get one against the run of play. United were very cool after going behind. They could probably do with getting in amongst the Barcelona midfield a bit more, stop Barca winning the ball back so quickly. Plenty of time before they have to panic. - – - - 45: Messi has just stormed into the box and Van der Sar fluffed the safe and the ball nearly ran free. That’s got the Barca crowd really excited, especially with United’s midfield all over the place at the moment. Half-time. - – - - 43: Victor Valdes, who took a bit of a knock earlier and is not taking goalkicks, has just been forced to rush out of goal to prevent Ronaldo from a clean run on goal. He’ll be needing some treatment at halftime. - – - - 35: United looking a bit nervous, especially in defence with some tentative passing. Strange for the holders… The fans in Red look especially tense too. - – - - 25: Xavi curls a freekick just over. That caused a lot of ooohs from the crowd. Lionel Messi had earlier shot over but United have still had the better chances despite being behind. - – - - 16: Is former United defender Gerard Pique a lucky man? The Barca centre-back blocks a barnstorming Ronaldo run and gets a yellow, but some in the press box are howling that he was last man. Ryan Giggs shoots over with the free kick. - – - -
10: 1-0 to Barcelona: Samuel Eto’o. Completely against the run of play Eto’o beats Nemanja Vidic very easily to get into the box and his shot goes in despite Edwin van der Sar getting touch. That followed two more good chances for Ronaldo. Was Barcelona’s first attack… - – - - 2: Cristian Ronaldo, who looks dashing in all white (Real Madrid might like that) tests Victor Valdes with a long range free kick first up which the keeper spills. Park Ji-sung is unable to get the rebound on target. The United fans suddenly get noisier. - – - - 1: Barcelona kick off.
Now the teams are in, and there are no big surprises (see below) here’s Mike Collett’s view from the press seats at the Stadio Olimpico:
The new Angels and Demons movie is based in Rome so it got us thinking who might end up being an angel or a demon after Wednesday’s Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona.
Will one of the goalkeepers drop a clanger or will Cristiano Ronaldo belt one in again from 40 metres? It’s a big pitch at the Stadio Olimpico, but I can see Lionel Messi running the length of it with the ball at his feet…
The Champions League final is almost upon us and the views of the Roman locals are quite interesting.
As Paul Virgo explains above, AS Roma fans are rooting for Barcelona while Lazio supporters want Manchester United to win.
Major finals featuring the best teams and the best players, the ones we talk up in advance as being for the connoisseur, often turn out to be the most disappointing, don’t they? Maybe it’s stage fright, too much respect for the opposition or the stakes being just too high, but great teams often seem to save their worst football for finals.
There are exceptions, of course. The 2005 Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool produced exquisite football in the first half from the Italians, and drama that will live long in the minds of anyone who watched it as Liverpool came back.
UEFA are rarely willing to overturn refereeing decisions and so it proved on Monday, with the Control and Disciplinary body rejecting appeals from Manchester United and Barcelona over Darren Fletcher, Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves:
UEFA, announcing the decision on Monday, said in a statement that the two clubs had failed to get their appeals in on time, but even if they had made the deadline they would have been rejected.
There’s still a long way to go to the final in Rome but from what we saw over the first legs of the opening knock-out round of the Champions League a lot of people will be expecting another all-English affair at the Olympic Stadium.
If you take Mark’s dad as an authority, and I’m sure he knows as much as anyone, serie A sides are unlikely still to be challenging but is there anyone else capable of preventing another Premier League tour match?