Pep reveals Utd admiration

Barca boss says 2009 defeat of United will only motivate them

Guardiola: Lifted the European Cup in his first season in charge of Barcelona

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Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola admits he is an admirer of Manchester United and feels Sir Alex Ferguson's men hold a psychological advantage ahead of their upcoming meeting.

Barca and United meet in the UEFA Champions League final next Saturday in a repeat of the 2009 showpiece, which the Catalans won 2-0.

Guardiola, who has been tipped as a possible successor to Ferguson when the Scot finally decides to retire, is a fan of the English champions.

"I admire them," he said. "Manchester United are a fantastic rival, but they have an advantage because two years ago we beat them.

"You can't be favourites in a final against Manchester United anyway - they are a great team.

"They sold Cristiano (Ronaldo) and they are still winning."

Scholes praise

Guardiola came up against United stalwarts Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs in Champions League clashes between the two clubs in the late 1990s.

And the former Barca captain says he would have liked to have played alongside former England midfielder Scholes, whom he rates as the best of his generation.

"Out of everyone at Manchester United, I would pick out Scholes - he is the best midfielder of his generation," he said.

"I would have loved to have played alongside him."

There was also praise for United's veterans from one of Barca's own midfield maestros, Andres Iniesta.

"Scholes and Giggs are still great players; they are a point of reference in their team," said the Spain international.

"United are a great team with great players - and they like to play good football."

Memories

Iniesta remembers fondly the 2009 final in Rome, which sealed a treble for Guardiola in his first season in charge of the club.

"It was a very special game," he said. "It was a special season and we really wanted to finish it on a high.

"Manchester United got off to a strong start, but we scored the first goal and from then on we were able to control the game."

Barca are set to have a full-strength squad available after Uefa dismissed allegations Sergio Busquets made a racist remark to Real Madrid full-back Marcelo in the semi-final first leg at the Bernabeu.

And Iniesta believes Busquets could be vital: "Busquets is such an important player for us and his presence at Wembley will be key."