Xavi warns of United's 'spectacular' standards

Ferguson's side pose a serious threat with range of options and experience, warns Barça playmaker

The Barcelona midfielder Xavi says Manchester United are operating at a "spectacular level" ahead of their Champions League final tonight at Wembley.

Although Pep Guardiola's side got the better of Sir Alex Ferguson's team in the final two years ago in Rome, Xavi retains considerable respect for Barça's opponents.

"What Manchester United have done over the years has so much merit," he said. "They have been playing for many years at an extraordinary level, they have won many trophies, they have been competing consistently, getting to Champions League semi-finals and finals. They are on a spectacular level; all the footballers are at an extraordinary level."

Xavi has been particularly impressed by the longevity of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, as well as the manager, Ferguson. "What Ferguson has done, what Scholes and Giggs have done – to be competing like they have, year after year, has a lot of merit," he said.

The midfielder believes United possess excellence throughout their team. "They haven't only got talent," he said. "They work well in defence, they are compact, they have many variants in attack. If they score a goal they close up at the back and play on the counter – they have a lot of tactical options."

Xavi was linked with a move to United earlier on his career but insists he is happy to have stayed at Barça. "I'm in the Champions League final for the third time with this generation and I wouldn't change it for anything," he said.

His team-mate Andres Iniesta admits he is also attracted by English football. "Football in England is special," the midfielder said. "It's a country with great players, the stadiums are nice, and the culture, the people – how they live football and the matches – mean that it's always special to beat the English."

Iniesta was doubtful for the 2009 final, but an intense recovery programme ensured his presence in Rome. "That final had its own situation and characteristics," he said. "All the work I did in the two weeks before the final paid off because we won the Champions League."

The midfielder has enjoyed an injury-free campaign this time around and says he is feeling good ahead of tonight's game. "I'm in good shape," he said. "The fact that I can compete at 100 per cent with no niggling injuries is great – I hope we can win it again."

Meanwhile, Barcelona's former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano says meeting his old rivals United will not make tonight's final any more enticing. "It's a Champions League final – it's special anyway," the Argentine said. "Playing against United doesn't make it more special for me, but I played against them lots of times and in general terms they are a very strong team.

"Their defence has two centre-backs, [Nemanja] Vidic and [Rio] Ferdinand, that offer many guarantees and have huge quality.

"In general they are a great team and the statistics show that: in the last four years they have got to three Champions League finals and won three leagues. They are one of the best teams in the world today."

Mascherano also praised United's Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez. "You know that when you play a final, especially against a team like United, that you're playing against some of the best strikers in the world," he said. "Rooney and Chicharito have enormous quality."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions