Talk Of Tiki-Taka Death Does Real A Disservice

Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale are not in the Champions League final because Pep Guardiola has been 'found out'; they're there because they're brilliant...

Last Updated: 29/04/14 at 22:52 Post Comment

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'United fans- this is our philosophy ! Scrap that tippy tappy crap!! Fast/ furious / aggressive and real!'

That was Gary Neville's Twitter reaction to the opening 45 minutes in Munich that saw Madrid blow away the European champions with an irresistible display that was indeed fast, furious, aggressive and, well, Real. Neville will not have been the only United fan purring in reminiscence of a sepia-tinged time when Ronaldo was part of a dynamic Red Arrows formation with Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney. That was the last time United were truly breathtaking, the last time United provided pure entertainment as well as silverware.

Incidentally, that's one reason why Ryan Giggs is seen as a viable candidate for the Manchester United manager's job despite no actual managerial experience - 'he knows the club' and he knows the fans want to see explosive football. Whether he can deliver is another question but it seems that simply 'knowing' is enough if you're a legend. In his case, knowledge really could be power.

But it's Neville's dismissal of 'tippy tappy crap' that is interesting - along with thousands of other knee-jerk reactions to Bayern's demolition at the hands of Carlo Ancelotti's alloy of organisation and dynamism. There were plenty suggesting that Pep Guardiola had been 'found out', that tiki-taka was now dead, that possession had been supplanted by power. If it all sounds familiar it's because we have heard it all before - when Inter beat Barcelona in 2010, when Spain lost to Switzerland in the World Cup later the same year, every sodding time Jose Mourinho triumphs over a Pep Guardiola, Arsene Wenger or Brendan Rodgers.

To dismiss Real's victory over Bayern as the triumph of one system over another is doing a disservice to the talents of this Madrid side, who were simply far, far better than Bayern over two legs. Victory may have owed a great deal to Carlo Ancelotti and his wonderful knack of producing free-scoring but defensively sound teams (note Chelsea's goal difference of +71 in 2009/10 and marvel, and then note the Daily Telegraph's headline of 'Louis van Gaal's desire to appoint five coaches paves way for Carlo Ancelotti at Manchester United' on Tuesday and giggle at the notion), but it owes more to a set of players who have been remarkable in their pursuit of immortality in the form of La Decima.

Ronaldo has scored 16 goals in just ten games; Luka Modric has been the complete midfielder; Gareth Bale is becoming a tour de force; Karim Benzema has been steadfastly impressive in the face of cynicism; And, perhaps most impressive of all, the oft-erratic Pepe and Sergio Ramos were superbly disciplined against a seemingly unstoppable Bayern machine who could not breach them in 180 minutes. These players did not triumph because Bayern play an outmoded form of football or because Guardiola does not have a Plan B, they triumphed because they were excellent and because a bizarrely nervous Bayern cannot defend set-pieces. On another day, they might not have been quite so excellent and we would have been reading about how tiki-taka was alive and well and living in Munich; it certainly looked alive and well when Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United were left chasing shadows against that 'tippy tappy crap'.

Neville is not alone in wanting to see his team play like Real Madrid but perhaps this particular Real Madrid side are alone in being able to play this way in this particular season in pursuit of this particular trophy. Sometimes we should forget narratives about eras and philosophies and instead praise a remarkable set of players.

Sarah Winterburn

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