‘Sir Alex said “we’re going to attack them”… we were sitting in the team meeting thinking “Oh f***”‘: Wayne Rooney reveals Manchester United’s players disagreed with Ferguson’s tactics before Barcelona beat them in the 2009 Champions League final
- Manchester United met Barcelona in 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals
- Barcelona, managed by Pep Guardiola, ran out victors on both occasions
- Wayne Rooney has lifted the lid on Sir Alex Ferguson’s preparations for the finals
United were locking horns against a Barcelona side that was entering its prime years, boasting a glittering array of talent such as Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
Ferguson looked to fight fire with fire by attempting to unleash United’s attack on a defence that was perceived as a weakness but a sublime Barcelona display saw them run out 2-0 winners.
Wayne Rooney has lifted the lid on Manchester United’s 2009 Champions League final plan
Rooney claims the United squad were stunned by Sir Alex Ferguson’s approach to the match
Barcelona were 2-0 winners in the game in Rome, with Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi scoring
Speaking to Jamie Carragher for his new book The Greatest Games – serialised in The Telegraph – Rooney said: ‘When we got to the final in 2009, he said “We are Manchester United and we are not going into the Champions League final to sit back all game. We are going to attack them and do it the right way.” We were all sitting there in the team meeting thinking, “Oh f***.”‘
‘Sir Alex went through their side, saying, ‘Let’s go at them.’ Then you saw the names like Messi, Eto’o and Henry! I was like, ‘F***ing ’ell, how much pace do you want in one team?”‘
It took only 10 minutes before Eto’o fired Barcelona ahead before Messi got the second in the second half with a stunning looping header that left Edwin van der Sar stranded.
Ferguson’s setup was particularly curious to Rooney because the season before, in 2008, United knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage.
Messi’s second goal was a stunning looping header that left Edwin van der Sar stranded
Messi and Andres Iniesta celebrate with the Champions League trophy in the Stadio Olimpico
That day, Ferguson employed a five-man midfield that overcrowded Xavi and Iniesta and shackled their influence. United went on to win the tournament in Moscow, defeating Premier League rivals Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out.
In 2011, United were back in the Champions League final but were again met by Barcelona in the showpiece event at Wembley.
And Barcelona had levelled up again in the ensuing couple of seasons. They swept United aside with a stunning passing performance to run out 3-1 winners in a game that Rooney admits he never thought United had a chance of winning.
Two years later, Rooney and Ferguson again lost the Champions League final to Barcelona
It was Rooney who got United’s goal in the first half, while Pedro, Messi and David Villa netted for Guardiola’s side.
‘Even though we knew their quality in 2009, it was not like the 2011 final before the game because although we knew how good they were, there was still a feeling going into that (2009) final we had a genuine chance because we had so much quality in our side,’ Rooney said.
‘By 2011 it was a different feeling. We were on the back end of that era. I did not think we had any chance of beating them.’
Rooney’s 2008 Champions League victory is the only one to his name and United have not won the tournament since then. Barcelona, meanwhile, won the Champions League again in 2015 under Luis Enrique, the most recent time they were crowned champions of Europe.