Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

David Healy: The final showdown

It's the final that all neutrals wanted and come next Wednesday night I genuinely feel Manchester United and Barcelona will show us why.

I know there is a danger about building a game up for fear that it will fall flat, but I really can’t see that happening with the Champions League decider in Rome.

For me you have the two best club sides in the world and you have the two best players in the world.

Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi is a classic contest within a classic contest.

Over the course of the 90 minutes or 120 minutes if it goes to extra-time, we should be able to say who the finest player on the planet is right now.

Last season that was Ronaldo all the way for me, but at the moment I would have to say Messi is the top man. Watching Messi play in La Liga is a joy.

The little Argentine though has never really delivered against a top English Premiership side, so Wednesday would be a good time to start.

Ronaldo has basically delivered against everyone when playing for United. Maybe he has not been consistently brilliant this season but he has still come up with many magnificent moments that have helped Sir Alex Ferguson’s side win games.

It’s not just those two who make the final special; I’ll be looking forward to seeing how Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry, Michael Carrick, Samuel Eto’o, Ryan Giggs and Xavi perform. I could go on.

All of those mentioned are likely heroes.

I thought I’d pick out a couple of players for you who may turn out to be unlikely heroes — John O’Shea and Ji Sung Park.

Look out for those two having a big influence on the match. And if Jonny Evans plays, you can bet he’ll do well.

In terms of sheer footballing ability Barcelona might just edge it, but I can’t see United adopting negative tactics like others have against the Spanish champions.

Yes, they will try and stop Barca from getting into that wonderful free flowing pass and move style, but United will go to Rome to attack, not defend and hope for a breakaway.

After all, they go into the final as European Champions. They don’t have to bow down to anyone.

For Ferguson this is a match he has been waiting all season for.

He’s equalled Liverpool in terms of league titles and now he is desperate to close the gap in terms of European Cups. If he wins this one, United will have four to Liverpool’s five. Overhauling the Anfield club will keep him going for a few years.

I can’t wait for this final. I’m confident it will be a classic and I’m going for a United win.

Why? Well, I’ve tipped them all season and because in a match oozing attacking talent, I feel United have the strongest defence.

That, in my opinion, should just about earn them a thrilling victory.

Sunny side up - hopefully

It's going to be an extremely nervous afternoon on Sunday.

And not least for all of us at Sunderland.

We are still involved in the relegation battle and it remains possible that we could go down to the Championship.

We shouldn’t be in this position, and have missed countless opportunities to get ourselves out of trouble.

I have read and heard much talked about the final games for all the sides in the mix. We host Chelsea, Newcastle are at Aston Villa, Middlesbrough travel to West Ham and Hull are at home to Manchester United.

I’d like to say that regardless of the team that United put out at Hull, it won’t be that result which defines the destiny of the teams down at the bottom. The other 37 games will have played a big role too!

And if we go down, which I hope and believe won’t happen, we’ll only have ourselves to blame, not a weakened Manchester United XI.

Out of the four sides in bother, I feel we have the toughest game as Chelsea will be keen to finish their league campaign on a high for departing manager Guus Hiddink. Having said that I’m sure that Villa, Newcastle and Middlesbrough would rather be in our position.

We have to go all out for the win against Chelsea, but there is still a chance that we will stay up if the result goes against us because both Hull and Newcastle need a win.

Middlesbrough will need a miracle which do not happen too often in football, so that would be one north east side down. It would be terrible for the area if another makes the drop. We have to make sure if that proves to be the case, it won’t be us.

SPL race is not Dun yet

Hibs have certainly played a major role in the SPL title race lately.

First they drew with Rangers, doing Celtic a big favour.

Then they did Rangers an even bigger favour by drawing with Celtic last weekend.

The 0-0 scoreline was a good result for Hibs and a great one for Rangers.

Now entering the final day of the SPL season on Sunday, the title is in the hands of Walter Smith’s men, who are two points ahead of the Bhoys.

I fancy it may go down to the final few minutes before we know who the champions will be.

I believe Celtic will beat Hearts at Parkhead meaning Rangers must defeat Dundee United at Tannadice.

I like the way United play football, they have a fine manager in Craig Levein and some very good players. Rangers are going to have to go some to beat them.

But surely after Hibs helping them out, they won’t blow it, will they? One team already celebrating are Abbey Villa after they won promotion in the Amateur League.

Congratulations to Rodney Ferris and all the boys at Abbey Villa.

I’m sure you will all have a cracking summer.

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