Two years later, a little older, a bit different, Manchester United and Barcelona go head to head again, both gunning for their Fourth Champions League title. Alex Ferguson, with his under fire team but another title in his stuffed cabinet despite the criticism against Pep Guardiola and his own dream team led by the never ceasing to amaze Lionel Messi.

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Lionel Messi – The best player on the pitch, the best player in the world. You need numbers? 31 goals and 18 assists in the league this season, 52 goals and 24 assists in all competitions. He has scored 11 goals in 12 matches this season in the competition. He scored a goal last time Barcelona met with Manchester United in the final, sealing the 2-0 victory. There’s no one who can do what he does, except for Ronaldo in Madrid. United’s defense is stronger than Real Madrid, but I don’t see Ferguson putting one man like Pepe to kick the hell out of Messi for an entire match. If inspiration falls upon the Argentinian genius, like in his second goal against Real in the Semi Final, we’re going to see some fireworks.

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Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez – One went through the toughest year of his career and still managed 11 league goals. Scandals off the pitch, the whole Ferguson-leaving United ordeal in the beginning of the season. Rooney isn’t the scoring machine he was last year, but he’s as hard working as ever, playing in any role Ferguson gives him. Probably behind the striker this time. Nani, Berbatov and Hernandez have better numbers than Rooney, but there’s no doubt he is United’s best and most dangerous player. Javier Hernandez on the other hand had a dream of a debut season at Old Trafford. Chicharito scored 13 league goals and after a while became Ferguson’s favorite man up front.

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Ferdinand, Vidic and facing the Barcelona Attack – Forget about 2009. United lost that game in the middle of the field and by being a Ronaldo-centric side, something that is proven to not work against Barcelona time and time again. United once again have the most impressive defense on the continent. Still, whatever they’ve learned and remembered from that final won’t be worth too much come game time. There’s no striker, and Messi can roam far away from Patrice Evra who’ll be more busy handling Pedro probably.

Vidic and Ferdinand don’t see formations such as this one in the Premier League. United’s defense is far from being solely based on those two, but Ferguson will have to come up with a way to stop Messi before he gets near them, and not draw them out of their comfort zone. When players start moving out of place, Barcelona’s passing game easily kills the game.

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Midfield – The dream team midfield, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, create the perfect triangle in the middle with Lionel Messi. They’ve got either Mascherano or Busquets behind them, and that Spanish trio eliminated the German team completely in the World cup and pretty much anyone standing in their way. Manchester United aren’t exactly the strongest in Europe in that department. Improvising all the way, Ferguson keeps changing the tandems and trios in the middle. It’ll probably be Carrick and Giggs, but that just means Rooney will be doing a lot of work in the middle of the park. I don’t think Ferguson will start with Nani, who has fallen out of favor as the season reached its finals stages.

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Guardiola vs Ferguson – Unlike the Mourinho battle, this one is all praises, respect and love in the air. When you don’t play each other once every couple of months, it’s easier keeping a normal relationship between managers. IF Barcelona win with some help from the referees, get ready for some Ferguson fire. But forget about that. The game will come down to Alex Ferguson’s ability to find a way and disrupt Barcelona’s game. Guardiola has no reason to change anything. Small adjustments, more focus here and there, nothing much more. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.

For Ferguson? He has more options for change than Pep. Not creative ones, but he’s got more depth. They may not be enough. The way he uses Nani and Giggs, the two players who give the unexpected results, for good and bad, could mean the game for Feguson, who’s dying for a third Champions League title.