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International Soccer
Will United's old guard go out on top?

By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Edwin van der Sar has already announced his retirement, and Paul Scholes has yet to extend a contract that ends next month. Ryan Giggs has signed a new one-year deal, but maybe he will decide to walk away Saturday.

Could there be a better ending for Manchester United's old guard if they win the Champions League final Saturday? At Wembley Stadium? Against Barcelona?

"It is nice," Van der Sar said, "that my final match should be on an occasion such as this."

Although Van der Sar has toyed with the idea of playing another season, if the 40-year-old wins his third Champions League title - the first was with Ajax in 1995 - there is no way he comes back for another season.

The 36-year-old Scholes has been urged to extend his contract by Gary Neville, who retired earlier this year after 19 seasons at United, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson. But like Van der Sar, Scholes could win a third Champions League.

Giggs, who debuted for United in 1991 (yes, 1991), is also within reach of his third Champions League crown. And even though he signed a new contract earlier this season, could you blame him for walking away after a win Saturday?

Edwin Van der Sar has toyed with the idea of playing another season.
Certainly not if United wins. But a loss could change a lot.

What if United loses to Barcelona in the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons? This is essentially Spain, the Euro 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup winner, plus Argentina superstar Lionel Messi.

The same Barca team, plus Spain striker David Villa, that downed United 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome almost two years ago to the day.

A Barcelona team that could claim the title as the best ever with a victory in the final Saturday. Barcelona has already won two of the last five titles, and three in six years would be incredible.

Sure, Spain's champions face England's champions (could you have dreamed of a better final?), but Pep Guardiola's Barca side is the clear favorite.

But what if United wins? Three Champions League final appearances in just four years and two titles? Not bad, especially if the second comes Saturday against Barcelona.

Can you think of a better way to end your career?

But remember that if? What if Wayne Rooney, who has been underrated all season for the work he's done for United as a playmaker, fails to lead the club to a win. What if Javier Hernandez, nicknamed "Little Pea," is unable to deliver on the big stage when United needs its emerging Mexican striker the most?

What if United center backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic fail to corral the vaunted Barca attack? What if the old guard struggles?

What if United loses?

"You do think more about things you lose, than what you win," said Van der Sar - who made his club debut in 1990 with Ajax.

"When you have won, your medal goes into the cupboard or the safe in the bank. But when you lose," Van der Sar added, "you know something has slipped through your fingers.

"It makes you more determined."

Determined enough to play one or two more seasons?

Van der Sar, Scholes - who is unlikely to start but could come off the bench - Giggs and United will make the decision irrelevant.

PREDICTION: Manchester United 2, Barcelona 1.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com.

Follow Brian Westfall on Twitter and Facebook.

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