Ahead of Saturday's UEFA Champions League final, Europe's leading coaches and experts have spoken to UEFA.com to give their view on how they expect the Wembley showdown between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC to unfold.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Dwight Yorke – European Champion Clubs' Cup winners with Manchester United – and victorious Barcelona pair Andoni Zubizarreta and Giovanni van Bronckhorst offer their thoughts on the likely outcome.
Now coaching Norway's Molde FK, Solskjær is the former United striker who will forever be remembered for coming off the bench to score their stoppage-time winner against FC Bayern München in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.
Fellow forward Yorke was part of the same triumph – United's second – seven years after a Barcelona outfit captained by Zubizarreta had won their club's first European Cup at Wembley. A second followed in 2006 when Van Bronckhorst featured throughout their 2-1 victory over Arsenal FC in the Paris showpiece.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær
It's the ultimate stage for a player and the United players are not scared of that game, they are looking forward to it. The manager has been fantastic – he is the best psychologist there is because he gets the players into the right mental state for these games. He's just a wonderful boss and human being. He is hungry, he really wants 100% from you – from every single player. He demands that loyalty and professionalism.
Barcelona have been the world's best team for the last two or three years, for the way they play as well as the way they conduct themselves. But if you look back to the 2009 final, for ten or 15 minutes you think 'this is going to be our night', and it looked like that until they scored and [Lionel] Messi started floating with Xavi [Hernández] and you could never get hold of them. [They played with] two wide strikers, so you always had a man or two less in midfield so you couldn't get possession off them.
But I'm sure the manager's got a plan. I'm sure he's watched that game and thought about it and he's looking forward to playing them again. He will relish the challenge to test the boys. I don't think its going to be a tactical battle. I think it's about going out there with the right attitude, with the right belief and composure. United, playing the way they normally do, have a great chance, because they are a special club with a special winning mentality.
For those of us who were there in '92, the ones who played in that final and won Barça's first European Cup, the name Wembley brings memories of happiness. We were playing at Wembley, and football people, and those who know English football, all know that Wembley is more than a stadium. We know it is no longer Wembley, but the new Wembley, so we'll have the opportunity to repeat the scenario.
It is difficult to compare the two Barcelona teams. I think we all have the same football philosophy – we did it in the 90s and they're doing it in the 21st century. They are two teams who have had a similar length of time playing together and both like to have the ball. We were a team who blended well together and we were very quick from midfield onwards with players such as Hristo Stoichkov, Julio Salinas and [Michael] Laudrup – people who pass the ball well. We had a very similar way of playing.
Pep [Guardiola] was there climbing the famous Wembley steps to get the trophy. He was very young then and now has a lot more experience having lived through a lot. He knows what it is like and he passes it to the team. He has evolved, improved and developed with everything experience has brought him.
Manchester United have won the Premier League and they're in the final of the European Cup. That says a lot for the players and they deserve a lot of credit. People say they're not pleasing on the eye and they're not as good to watch but there's nothing mixed about it.
[Sir Alex Ferguson's] broken the record with a 19th Premier League title – his 12th since he started. Magnificent. Words can't begin to describe the immense respect he's got and what he's achieved. He's phenomenal, a father figure for everybody at the club and someone that anybody can go back and talk to. He's a great man and a one-off. There are not many other people you can say that about in management. He's done it year after year and he still seems like he's got the hunger for it. Come Saturday he'll be looking to lift that trophy again.
Outside of the [FIFA] World Cup, if you ask any player this is the ultimate trophy that everybody wants to lift. To have the opportunity to do it again – for a fourth time for United – would be absolutely phenomenal. A lot of people look at Manchester United and say maybe they're not up there with the Milans and Real Madrids in terms of winning this trophy. That's something that needs to be put right. Winning their fourth would set a benchmark to show they're not far behind the ultimate teams in Europe. I'm going for 2-1 to United.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst
We had a great team when we won the Champions League but this Barcelona have stepped it up a level. The core is similar and they've developed as a team. They're very consistent now and every game they play they reach their level. You need to applaud that because you don't often see a team that's so successful for so many years in a row.
But Manchester United are capable of stopping Barcelona. It's going to be difficult but it's a final so anything can happen – the favourite doesn't always win. Sir Alex has done a great job. To be involved with one team for so many years, you don't see that a lot. Ferguson has won so many prizes in his career and even after all those years he's still successful. I really respect that. He's a great example of how a manager needs to be.
Wembley's something special. The old stadium was special, but this new stadium is special too and the atmosphere will be fantastic. Playing for your club, it's the best prize you can win. For every young player, watching the Champions League is something special. To play in the tournament is special anyway but to win it is something you can only dream of. It's going to be a close game. Hopefully Barcelona are going to win – maybe 2-1.
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