Carlos Queiroz

Silvestre: How Queiroz helped us beat Barcelona

Mikael Silvestre has revealed the small nuances Queiroz made to Manchester United’s tactical setup in 2008, which helped inspire our Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona.

It’s exactly 12 years to the day since we beat the Catalans 1-0 at Old Trafford to secure our place in the final of Europe’s elite competition, after a scoreless first leg at the Nou Camp a week prior.

United's defensive showing during the second meeting was a masterclass of discipline and composure, as the likes of Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o were denied a route through.

Speaking on Wednesday’s MUTV Group Chat, Mikael Silvestre explained that this solidity was mainly down to the detailed planning of Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant manager at the time.

Silvestre slides into the MUTV Group ChatVideo

“I think it was something that Carlos brought to the first team,”
the Frenchman told Stewart Gardner and regular hosts Ben Thornley, David May, Wes Brown and Danny Webber. 

“It was lots of drills and tactical positioning, knowing when to shift and when to put pressure or drop, because Barcelona can break very easily. So it’s important to stay compact over 90 minutes in both legs.

“We managed to do that and that was due to a lot of hard work. It’s not the best work, tactical work. I came from Italy and in England it was a little less [common].

“I remember as part of it, Scholesy was moaning a lot about the tactical work, but in the end it worked to help us beat Barcelona.”
Of course, Paul Scholes had a huge part to play during the second leg at Old Trafford, as his 14th-minute thunderbolt ultimately secured our spot in the final, and Mikael said the atmosphere inside Old Trafford that evening was one of best he has ever experienced.

“I don’t know why we use the word ‘electric’ but that’s how you feel as a player on the field,”
he said. 

“You see every single fan behind us and obviously you are playing the top players, so you need to be on your toes the whole time. One mistake and you cost your team elimination; that would be a disaster.

“It’s a lot of pressure. I think we are crazy, us players, we actually like the pressure. The more there is, the more we want. Old Trafford was fantastic that night.”

How we beat Barcelona in 2008Video

During his career Mikael played with - and against - some of the world’s greatest talents, but he reserved some special words of praise for former Brazil striker Ronaldo, who the defender played alongside at Inter Milan.

“He was unstoppable,”
Silvestre recalled.
“You called him ‘El Fenomeno’ then. I played against Messi and I played with Cristiano at Manchester United, but he [Ronaldo] is something else in terms of speed.

“Everything is top level. Cristiano, maybe you can guess that he has three or four tricks he would use most of the time, but Ronnie, it was always something different.

“He was inventing things on the spot, so you can’t guide him left or right because he’s going to get out of these situations, no matter what. He could score from any type of position. He was playing on one leg at some points and was still beating defenders all over Europe.”


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