Europe’s soccer champion this year will be an English team (or at least a team that’s based in England). That outcome was guaranteed yesterday when Manchester United defeated Barcelona 1-0 on a glorious strike by the diminutive evergreen Paul Scholes. Scholes has been playing in European competition for United since 1994, but missed their victory in the 1999 final due to suspension (too many yellow cards). Now he’ll finally get his chance to compete in the Cup final, to be held in Moscow. Indeed, Sir Alex Ferguson has already promised that his long-time favorite “will be the first name on the team sheet.”
Few will begrudge the carrot-top assassin this moment in the sun, and inasmuch as he occasionally shows up at Everton matches to cheer on his ex Man U buddy Phil Neville, I certainly don’t. I also hope that ex-Everton starlet Wayne Rooney makes the final. He missed yesterday’s match due to injury.
United’s opponent will be either Liverpool or Chelsea, who are about to kick-off in London (please, no emails revealing the result). On paper, Chelsea is the favorite, having tied the Shite in the first leg in Liverpool. Chelsea is virtually unbeatable at home and has been superior to Liverpool over the course of the year. But year-long form counts for almost nothing at this stage, and everyone knows Liverpool can never be counted out in European competition. Ask Arsenal, Liverpool’s victims in the last round. For that matter ask Chelsea, the team Liverpool knocked out of Europe the past two years.