Monday, 12 December 2011

London Leads the Way in Europe as Manchester Limps Into Second Tier

By Tom from UnitedvCity

There was no blue side or red side in Manchester that tonight. For the first time in as long as I can remember, both Man Utd and Man City will feel an equal disappointment as both sides were dumped out of the Champion’s League.

For Manchester City and Roberto Mancini, it is not the end of the world. It is their first season in the competition and they can only improve from here. They will be back next year and should be in contention for silverware if their rejuvenated performance against Bayern Munich is anything to go by. The Citizens were drawn in a very tough group and, although they probably should have done better, they certainly didn’t disgrace themselves.

Manchester United, on the other hand, have every right to feel a little bit silly. Benfica, Basel and Otelul Galati clearly proved to be a class above (well… maybe just Benfica and Basel) and their fans must be tearing their hair out at the thought of dropping into the Europa League where the most notable teams they will meet include Lazio and Atletico Madrid. Many United fans will – I’m sure – be quick to point the finger at Sir Alex Ferguson and question whether his passion for the game remains but they should not be so hasty in laying the blame at the feet of the illustrious Scot. United will always challenge for silverware and it is very rare that their fans will finish a season disappointed or being mocked for the amount of cobwebs in their trophy cabinet. The Red Devils will win something or at least come close to winning something. I guarantee it. I do believe, however, that Fergie still hasn’t quite got the squad he wants. They seem to have a few too many liabilities in their side, a view that is shared by a Radio 5 Live listener who text in after the game in Basel to say “Fergie must be deluded if he thinks this is the best team he’s ever had.” Agreed.

So, to the capital. Chelsea got through by the skin of their teeth mathematically, but the win they needed against Valencia was achieved very easily and AVB will be delighted and slightly relieved to be in the next round with Roman Ambramovich said to be sharpening his guillotine in earshot of the young Portuguese. An added bonus for them is that they finished top of their group and will get a slightly easier draw in the last sixteen.

Finally, crisis? What crisis? Arsenal cruised through at the top of their group with a game to spare and Arsene Wenger will be loving the bragging rights he now has over his northern counterparts. Despite losing their final group game against Olympiakos after fielding an understrength side, they can be happy with the campaign so far as they overcame a potentially tricky group. The Gunners seem to be going from strength to strength at the moment but when will it stop? History tells us that around Christmas time the whole team will get too caught up in Santa Claus and the Argos catalogue and, with an average squad age of 11 3/4 (significantly older than last year), Wenger will have trouble keeping them focused. Van Persie is also due a serious injury and the wheels might start to come off the vehicle that they jump started back in September.

We look forward now to the draw for the last sixteen on 9th December while Manchester City and Manchester United will have to wait another week until 16th December before they find out their Europa League opponents.