Luke’s Note: Corey Dowlar is a Florida State University alum (where I just graduated law school) and currently works as a blogger, writer, and editor for Noles247, a website that focuses on all Florida State Seminoles sports, but specifically American college football recruiting, which I could explain is extreme detail, but will let Wikipedia do the legwork for me. Anyway, Corey has graciously agreed to do a short interview with us and give a Manchester United fan perspective on the match, specifically that of an American. You can follow Corey on Twitter if you are so inclined at @cdowlar. And remember kids, be nice in the comments, Corey is a guest, and as a Seminole, he’s better people than you anyway. 🙂
Firstly, how did you become a Manchester United fan?
Well, must admit it was arbitrary as many followers are on this side of the large pond we call the Atlantic. Back in 2006 during college at Florida State, me and my roommates all selected teams and chose to follow them with the rule being everyone had to have someone different to make things interesting. I found myself taking a real liking to the game. Now I’d have to say it dominates my thoughts in the realm of sports. I have taken a lot of time to research on the youth teams, club history, and other facts, so I feel justified in calling myself a supporter these days.
You seem to be a prodigious follower of soccer, or as our blog title snootily calls it, “football,” on Twitter, even though your from Amurka, did you ever play the sport?
Competitively, no. On the Florida State IM fields, yes. Was a big target man forward that was less skillful than brute and I have a nice unrepaired torn ACL in my left knee to show for it.
As we all know, this is a rematch of the 2009 final, what is your most vivid memory of that final?
Has to be Park’s miss in the opening minutes. United fielded a squad built to hit Barcelona on the counter attack and had a golden opportunity. Park was unable to convert and soon the Spaniards did. It was probably all over at that point. Ferguson’s army had to chase the game – and the ball too. It was never going to happen then, was it?
Do you hold any animosity toward Barcelona over that final? Or are you one of those fans who just generally hate Barcelona for their “tapping up” and diving?
Not towards the final, but their tendency to mix scuba diving into the fray is quite annoying at times. I understand all teams do it, even Manchester United. It is reality. The most annoying part, for me, is the swarming of the referee. Four, five, and six Barcelona players will all have their say and quickly. I’m not inclined to agree completely with the self-proclaimed special one that there is some conspiracy, but there is a large amount of evidence that something is giving Barcelona the benefit of the doubt on a lot of crucial decisions. Could be based entirely on reputation, who knows.
Moving forward to today, what do you see as the key matchup in Saturday’s final?
A lot of it depends on what team Sir Alex intends to employ. It’s no mystery how Barcelona will play, I don’t think. It isn’t broken after all. I think it would be safe to assume Ji-Sung Park will be closely marking the Argentine wizard as he normally keeps tabs on the opposing dangerman on European nights. Two-lung Park has completely taken players out of the game before and will be expected to do the same – to the best of his capabilities – in the final. I think we’ll see two tired footballers at the final whistle.
Other than Messi, which player worries you the most? I’m assuming Messi worries you most, you are a mortal correct?
Well, I think I touched on this previously. I think Xavi/Iniesta actually hold the real keys to the carousel’s effectiveness. Those two will have to find ways to spot runs and use their creativity to unlock an organized defense. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic against Villa will be an interesting battle as well.
If you’re Sir Alex and you’re looking for a big advantage, which Barcelona player do you attack and overload, and why?
Anyone in the back line. None of them are that overwhelming on the back foot and we have first-hand knowledge of Pique. Fortunately for Barcelona, they usually don’t need to be as they hold the ball for 60-75% of contests. I don’t think you will see much ‘overloading’ at all. Most of the attacks will try to hit back on the break.
As Barcelona fans, who should we worry the most about exposing the team’s super porous (right commenter’s, right?) defense?
Has to be the boy Wayne. He is certain to play in some type of trequarista role whether in the odd-man midfield or the two forward system. He has a keen eye for the killer ball wide or through the middle, and can score himself, you know. Also possesses the ability to win a header in the air and find the back of the net.
Even if you don’t answer “Chicharito” to the previous question, I will assume you did. If he scores, which part of his body will he do it with? I’m looking for a “nose of god” moment myself.
Does he play? I don’t think it is a certainty yet. Ferguson said after the last final he knows how he would beat Barcelona if they played again – that was before Hernandez arrived. It will be an interesting headache leading in. The 4-4-2 counterattacking system has been extremely effective of late, but does he use it? We’ll see. If he scores, has to be a back heel, right?
What is your prediction for the game? A Manchester United victory? Iniesta causing another Catalan baby boom?
I have zero feel for it this far in advance, I really don’t. It is going to come down to whoever scores first, that I am very comfortable in saying. It is absolutely essential United score before Barcelona if they want to win this one, or it might be a very similar one to the Rome affair. I guess you will force me to say something though. Barcelona have to be considered favorites, I think, given the perception of the club and the most recent contest. But I have a good feeling about this one, for whatever reason. It has been a special year for United. Hasn’t always been pretty, admittedly, but they’ve figured out ways to get things done. Might be biased, might be delusional, but 2-1 to the England side.
Looking then to the offseason, what position are the Red Devils most in need of upgrading for the 2011-12 season?
Obvious answer is the goal keeper. Edwin van der Sar will retire and certainly be missed. He’s been tremendous, absolutely tremendous since his arrival. Keepers don’t grow on trees, especially ones that stop shots in the biggest games. It looks like it is going to be Atletico’s de Gea, but don’t rule out the Ajax man Steklenburg either.
Beyond that it is midfield, midfield, and midfield. Owen Hargreaves, I am convinced, will never return to fitness. Paul Scholes very well may retire this summer. Tom Cleverly could be treated as a new signee when he returns from a successful loan spell, but I still think there is a need for a legitimate boss in the midfield. Modric has been mentioned often, but big money moves like that typically don’t happen at Old Trafford with the exception of a Ferdinand, Rooney, or Berbatov.
Varane of Lens in France seems a certainty, an 18-year old defender that can play in a defensive midfield role. Wouldn’t expect him to play straight away, and could very well be loaned back to France at a club such as PSG.
Finally, if you can only choose one Man U jersey and one player’s name to be on the back of it, who are you going with to celebrate the 19th English championship?
Must shake my head at the term ‘Man U’ but will forgive you. I think it is going to be John O’Shea. He’s been a loyal servant of the club, played a big role in the last several titles, and I am Irish.