It’s happened…yes it has….Manchester United and Manchester City are OUT of the Champions League. I wonder how many Wrigley’s spearmint Sir Alex will be chewing in the dugout in the Europa League now. Also Man Millionaire City will be joining them too. So maybe the saying is true – that money is not everything.
Firstly a shocking result for United. Basel are no world beaters. In fact the couldn’t beat an egg but its seems they can beat United. I’d like to state that since the Premier League began, United have been head and shoulders above any other team. It pains me to say it. They deserve to have knocked Liverpool off their perch and while doing it have played some mesmerising football. Even while playing average at times, they have outclassed most teams in the league. But this season tells a different story. Out of the Champions League for only the 3rd time in 17 years, 5 points behind their city rivals and now have lost their Mexican starlet for up to 5 weeks. I’m not saying its all doom and gloom but its bit grey, isn’t it? The thing is, United are the type of team to go on a run now and take the league by storm, but Alex knows this. He knows what his team are capable of in the league. He knows what team to field at certain times in the year to maintain their form. His burning desire is the European Cup. He’s said before that for all their years in the Champions League, they should have done better. Well, they won’t be improving on their record this year. If I look at the United squad I feel it’s not that great. For the domestic games yes, but for Europe, no way. In Europe the key battle is midfield. This is where games are dominated, possession is gained and attacks begin. Against Basel United’s midfield of Jones, Giggs, Park, Nani and Young were just not good enough, especially in the middle.
Jones is an amazing talent. One for the future; but going from Blackburn centre back to crunch game in Europe in midfield is a huge jump for a 19 year old in one year. I’m afraid the game was a bit too much for him. Yes, a late goal for him was impressive but he didn’t command the game they way he can in England. Giggs, well, what a legend, but I’m afraid he is no longer influential starting games and especially in Europe. Out of all of the midfielders I don’t see one player who could dictate a game. Now, I know Man United fans will cry “we have said this all along”. So if you have said it, and I’m saying it now, why hasn’t Sir Alex acted on it? He is a clever man. Why hasn’t he broken the bank and bought Sneijder or Modric? Why not get rid of Berbatov, who he doesn’t rate, and buy a midfielder? It’s not rocket science. Jones is just not ready to take on that responsibility. Rooney has been played there a few times but you’re taking one of the best strikers in the world, and putting him in midfield. Come on Sir Alex! Now I know this may sound like blasphemy, questioning the great Sir Alex. I’m not doing an Alan Hansen on this but what I will say is, with his current squad, his team won’t be at the top for very long. The Europa League beckons and 14 hour flights to Kazachstan on a Thursday night will not please the United boss. Look what happened to Liverpool. It’s been a difficult road for them since they slipped out of the Champions League berths.
As for Man City, well, I really expected them to qualify. I think we all did. I know some say it’s a work in progress but for a team who average 3 goals a game and unbeaten in the league so far, I thought Europe would be perfect for them, especially with the technical players they have. Unlike United, City do have midfielders who control can games. Yaya Toure is a European veteran from his time with Barca and Silva is a top quality player. Barry…well… average. But their whole squad is unreal. Nasri, Johnson, De Jong, Balotelli and Aguero. With a squad like this, I expected City to finish at least second in the group. Mancini has massive experience in Europe so I have no doubt he tells his players the way to play in Europe. His Italian coaching will instinctively build a solid defence and possession game, but for all of their money and all of their players, they end up in the Europa League. Now I never expected City to win the Champions League in their first year, but I did expect them to go far. People will say it takes time for a team to gel. Listen, good footballers can play with other good footballers. It’s not like Silva is playing with Conference level players here. They are all excellent players so I don’t buy into the excuse that they need time to gel. I admit, their group was a hard one, very hard, but I still feel they should have qualified.
So who is under more pressure or scrutiny? Sir Alex, for not have the right type of players for Europe or Mancini, for having the right type of players and still going out!? But here is what it all comes down to: Europe is a mountain English teams find difficult to climb. United have been there so have Liverpool, but the majority of the time, they fall short. United need a big time player. A world star. The fans deserve one. They really do. Before it was Ronaldo and Rooney. Now it’s just Rooney. City players need to start earning their money. 5 points clear is in the Premier League impressive, but there is a long way to go and a heavy Xmas period will test the will and grit of some of City’s stars. Now Europa League games will take their toll on both clubs. Will they field young teams and concentrate on the league? Who knows?
All we know is that they are out of the Champions League and we are all shocked!