Shamik Das

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Big Loius: More Mandy than Obama

Lord-Mandelson    Loius-Van-Gaal

LOIUS van GAAL compared himself to President Obama last night in his post-match interview following Bayern’s stunning away goals win over United in the Champions League. When asked if the German giants could march on to Madrid he replied “what was it Obama said - yes, we can! We can do it, we can go all the way.”

A more apt comparison, however, may well be not with Barack, undoubted God-like genius that the US President is, but with our very own First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council - Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham. Or just plain Peter to you and me.

The reasons are many, and not just that van Gaal looks like Mandy, with the swept-over right parting and flowing locks, which must surely be dyed... No, what most binds them together is their serial comebacks from the brink, their repeated success over the years, a love for Europe and a penchant for shining on the greatest stage, the one on which they were born to perform.

Mandy’s comebacks from being unfairly forced to resign from the Cabinet, not once but twice, and his triumphant return from Europe to become the de-facto prime minister are well known, his confidence, class and character imbuing genuine belief in the Labour party that it can bounce back from the near-certainty of defeat 18 months ago and triumph over the Tories.

Van Gaal, meanwhile, has become the first manager to take three teams into the semi-finals of the Champions League, having won it with Ajax in 1995 and guided Barcelona into the semis in 2000, via a thrilling 5-1 extra time win over Chelsea (just thought I’d throw that one in!) As for combating adversity, he endured torrid times at Barça, and failed to qualify Holland for the 2002 World Cup, only to return stronger and more determined.

But enough chatter, onto the bigger picture, the scintillating, heart-pumping action in the Champions League this week, with the games at Old Trafford and in Bordeaux going down to the wire and Camp Nou witnessing one of the finest displays of forward play the game has ever seen.


It’s nigh impossible to pick a favourite moment from the week, there were so many, but if you pressed me, I’d go for Robben’s stunning strike for Bayern, the sweetest of volleys; just look at the way (above right) he keeps his eye on the ball - perfectly delivered by Ribery - sets himself, swivels and squeezes the ball home, reminiscent of Zidane (above left) in the 2002 Final, though not as good.

As for Messi? Well, words cannot do him justice, no poet yet born could put into prose the sheer, unadulterated quality of his performance on Tuesday night (see link below), all four of his goals worthy of winning goal of the month, his gorgeous chip over Almunia the highlight of the match. Class. A cert for world footballer of the year, who would bet against him lifting the World Cup in 13 weeks’ time...

Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal
Manchester United 3-2 Bayern Munich


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