PAUL SCHOLES! HE SCORES GOALS! as the old chant goes. He doesn't score as many as he used and he hadn't scored in the Champions League since 2006. This season he had only scored once in all competitions but you can't say enough about the importance of timing. Just ask Scholes; back in 1999 the ginger-haired one chose the semifinal vs Juventus to pick up his 5th yellow card of the competition and was suspended for the epic Champions League triumph over Bayern Munich. Nearly a decade later the Ginger Prince seized upon an errant Xavi clearance 14 minutes into the contest and conjured up a bit of magic to remind us all why he will be the first name on the team sheet for the Moscow final in 3 weeks time.
Scholesy's 30 yard screamer proved to be the difference in an enthralling, and at times nerve-wracking, fixture. Barcelona had their chances to equalize but at times I could have sworn we were playing Arsenal out there with Barcelona oddly reluctant to actually test us with some shots on goal. Another puzzling choice was that of Thierry Henry, so often deadly against us in his old Arsenal days, starting on the bench and only coming on with 20 minutes to play. This is surely Rijkaard's final season coaching Barcelona after another trophy-less season where he has shown he can no longer handle the many superstar personalities of Barcelona.
Now to the player ratings:
Cristiano Ronaldo: 5/10 Petulant and immature, sloppy and selfish with possession and didn't match the effort of his teammates. Predictably ineffectual in the big game once again and I was a bit disappointed he wasn't subbed off instead of Nani late on.
Nani: 7/10 Pace caused Barcelona problems all night and upstaged his fellow Portuguese high-stepper.
Carlos Tevez: 7/10 An absolute pitbull up front and did well to disrupt the flow of Barcelona.
Paul Scholes: 9/10 Scored the vital goal and showed once again why he's one of the great midfielders of his generation with his intelligent and accurate passing.
Michael Carrick: 6/10 Did well to help Scholes manage the midfield and protect the backline.
Park Ji-Sung: 7/10 Gave us an incredible level of energy from start to finish, even coming close to scoring a couple times.
Owen Hargreaves: 7/10 Overall did well protecting his flank but ineffectual supporting the attack and had a couple nervous moments defending.
Patrice Evra: 8/10 Excellent defending and never once made me worry about any Barcelona attacks from the right wing. Also supported the left-wing attack and combined well with Ronaldo.
Wes Brown: 9/10 I usually give him a hard time, but he actually played excellent in place of the injured Vidic.
Rio Ferdinand: 8/10 Led by example wearing the captain's armband. The backline was superb and
Edwin van der Sar: 7/10 Typically steady in goal.
Man of the Match: Wes Brown. Scholes is the sentimental favorite plus he scored the winner but I'm gonna give it to the darkhorse. Against, in my opinion, the most dangerous attack in all of Europe, he stepped into Vidic's place and produced a fine defensive display without which we probably would've conceded a goal late on.
All-around solid performance especially without the services of Rooney and Vidic but still much to improve, particularly from Ronaldo's end, before we can dream about lifting the cup in Moscow.