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Can Ferguson reclaim Champions League?

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Phil McNulty | 16:05 UK time, Monday, 13 September 2010

Walter Smith revealed his list of ideal dinner party companions would include Sir Alex Ferguson - but the invitations will go on hold until hostilities cease between Manchester United and Rangers at Old Trafford.

Ferguson and Smith were locked in mutual admiration at Old Trafford on Monday at the start of a Champions League campaign United hope to conclude at Wembley in May.

And as 62-year-old Smith confirmed he will bring the curtain down on his lavishly-decorated Ibrox career at the end of this season, he proved as well placed as anyone to deliver an insight into what drives his long-time friend towards new goals.

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Ferguson has no regrets about omitting Rooney at the weekend

Smith, whose serious public image brilliantly disguises one of the most humorous, personable and astute characters in the game, said: "I don't think there is anybody who could handle a club of this magnitude for as long as he has. Every manager needs a level of motivation and Manchester United motivates Sir Alex as well as the other way around.

"Around the same age as I am now he maybe felt he had had enough, but then he got a second wind and I am sure everybody at Manchester United is delighted he made that decision. I am sure the calibre of players he is working with is also a motivating factor for him."

It was a second wind of such force that it sent United sailing towards more Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2008 - and the force of nature that is Ferguson shows now signs of blowing itself out.

Ferguson's enduring desire to win European club football's biggest prize for the third time was on show as he was as combative as ever at Old Trafford on Monday.

He stood full square behind his decision to rest Wayne Rooney at Everton - "I did the right thing" - and then demanded swift qualification when it was politely suggested he was working under "financial restrictions" at Old Trafford.

And he was equally firm in his belief that a United squad that has not seen any high-profile additions this summer can succeed this season where it failed in the last against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final.

United's concession of late goals and flimsy defending were at the heart of that defeat, and the evidence produced so far this season as points were cast aside at Fulham and Everton suggests old failings remain.

Ferguson said: "I don't think it's frailty, it's a lack of concentration." It might be respectfully suggested that they effectively amount to the same thing.

Rooney will return after his day off at Goodison Park, although the imminent return of Rio Ferdinand may be of even greater significance given the way United's rearguard issued those open invitations to Fulham and Everton to claim points.

Ferguson is happy with his decision not to invest in high-profile new arrivals, feeling the continued nurturing of young talent alongside established stars has secured United's future for years.

He admitted United may have to stretch the budget in coming years to compensate for the retirement of the ageless trio of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, but until then Ferguson appears happy to go with what he has got.

But will it be enough? United were not good enough to win the Champions League last season, so with Real Madrid now in the hands of the brilliant Jose Mourinho and lifted by several new signings and Barcelona investing in David Villa, it is hard to see how their chances can be better this year.

Ferguson will need Ferdinand to break the habit of his recent lifetime and stay fit for a lengthy period. Jonny Evans is an undoubted talent, but Everton's successful targeting of the youngster on Saturday confirmed that, understandably, he remains a work in progress.

Scholes and Giggs continue to defy age and logic by producing performances of the highest class, but will they be able to sustain them to the end of another gruelling season in both the Premier League and Champions League? Whether they do or not will do much to shape United's chances given their vast European experience.

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Smith is focused on return to Old Trafford

Ferguson's refusal to play what he regards as an inflated market meant he did not add the top-class central defender and midfield operator that may well be required if United are to take the extra steps that proved beyond them in the Champions League last season.

United are well blessed in attack, with Rooney a world-class talent and Dimitar Berbatov, who gave a Rolls Royce performance at Everton, suggesting he is now ready to banish any remaining doubts about his ability to flourish in Old Traford's rarified atmosphere.

Despite this, there is still the lingering fear that United may come up short again at the sharp end of this season's Champions League, despite the cast-iron confidence in their capabilities demonstrated by their manager.

True, the late collapse at Everton had a freakish element that almost had to be seen to be believed, but such frailties, or lapses in concentration as Ferguson generously labelled them, will come at an even higher cost in this tournament.

I stated last season, when United's in-built resilience and undimmed desire to collect trophies somehow took the title to the last day despite a season that was indifferent in levels of performance, that it would rank alongside Ferguson's greatest achievements if he won the Champions League. The same applies this time around.

It proved beyond them then and it may prove beyond them now, but what delight Ferguson will take in over-turning the odds and the increased strength of the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

For now his gaze is fixed on navigating a route past Smith, with Ferguson saying: "Rangers won the league again last year and you have to give it to the manager. He's galvanised them and made a silk purse out of a cow's ear. It has been a phenomenal performance."

He added: "You always have to assess the manager you are facing. I know Walter personally and have worked with him twice. I know how astute he is and what a good tactician he is. I look and I can see that brain is working."

And they may have the perfect setting for that dinner party if Smith heads into retirement with another league title and Ferguson can get his hands on the Champions League once more.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    man u are great

  • Comment number 3.

    United have every chance of winning the Champions League, but luck is always needed to win such a trophy. I'd put them down as fourth favourites this year, behind Barcelona, Chelsea and Madrid.

    Sir Alex got it tactically sound last season, let's also not forget that had Rafael da Silva not been sent off in last season's quarter-final, United would have most probably made it to the Final; a third consecutive Champions League Final.

  • Comment number 4.

    It's early days and arguably Man Utd are weaker this season.
    But 'stronger' Barcelona have lost one already this season at home, while 'strongest' Real Madrid have scored only once in 2 matches. Maybe Chelsea is the one to beat?

  • Comment number 5.

    I would say that United should beat Rangers, but it will be an interesting contest nontheless. Lets see if the Scots can match the quality of an English team.

    I cannot, however see United winning the competition. Real, Barca, Chelsea and Bayern (to some extent) have far more quality in their sides when you compare.

    And just getting off subject for a moment and briefly: Phil, you will have dissapointed some of your regular readers by not mentioning Liverpool once and they may require an explanation as to how you managed it.

    And secondly, isn't Chris (post no. 2) an imaginitive soul?

  • Comment number 6.

    Very hard to see how the old guard will last the distance yet again. And the youngsters and new signings may need another season too. Might come up slightly short on both fronts. Bear in mind the League is now much harder as well with several more teams posing a genuine threat at the top and not just the usual three. There is a serious spread of talent in the Premiership. People try and say it's all gone to Spain but the Premiership will be more competitive than ever this year which could well take it's toll come the business end of the Champions League. Desperately want to be proven wrong though. United were desperately unlucky last year and should should never have gone out to Bayern. It would be such a wonderful way to wrap up the careers of Giggs, Scholes and Neville too as I will be suprised if more than one of them is around next season.

  • Comment number 7.

    More UTD articles ... why not look at if one of the London clubs can lift the champions league trophy for the first time at Wembley?

  • Comment number 8.

    Ifs, Buts, Maybes! Chances are United won't win particularly when it comes down to the lottery of it all at the business end of the season.

  • Comment number 9.

    Sycophantic ramblings, worst blog i've read from McNulty, and that is saying a lot.

  • Comment number 10.

    Man Utd won't win the champions league.

    Barcelona will.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    This is just to comment on your prose style, Phil. Most of your paragraphs are one sentence long, and almost all of them are if you exclude the full stops within quotation marks. Does that arise from an assumption about your readers' attention span? I am writing this with the benefit of several pints, so please excuse any grammatical mistakes or stylistic shortcomings.

  • Comment number 13.

    To answer the question stated in the title of the blog, no they can't. Man United have absolutely no hope of winning the champions league, Phil. Their squad has the depth of a puddle. 2-3 Injuries occuring at the same time to players such as Vidic, Ferdinand and Rooney (not beyond the realm of possiblity) will leave them completely exposed.

    In midfield far too much is made of the performances of Paul Scholes, and these days he is as likely to go missing in a game, just as often as he is likely to deliver a match-winning performance. With Carrick now very much on the fringes of the squad and Fletcher unable to exert any degree of creative influence on a game, I struggle to see where united will create from. Nani is talented, but inconsistent, while Giggs (much like Scholes) turns in his own lacklustre performances from time to time.

    Just cannot see United progressing to anything more than the Semi-finals at best, and more likely I expect a QF exit, especially if the draw is unkind to them. (which would a surprise.....)

  • Comment number 14.

    YET another Man Utd article, last week it was Rooney, when will this end?

  • Comment number 15.

    I may be biased, but I really do think that last seasons Champions League failure really was just an aberration on our part, and I think Michael Carrick is still paying the price for it and Bayern really weren't the second best team in that competition last year.

    Just to appease any Chelsea fans who might want to moan at my comments, I would easily place you guys ahead of Bayern too!

  • Comment number 16.

    United have very little chance of winning the Champions League though stranger things have happened. They are weak in central midfield and at the back. Despite the rambling revisionist history spouted by United fans, they were outplayed by Munich in 3 of the 4 halves in their tie and have not strengthened the team. Despite all his hype, Ferguson is still tactically naive in Europe (you can't argue that 20 years of domestic dominance should have yielded more than 2 lucky wins).

    Also wondering Phil, what about Rooney's performance in his last two international competitions lead you to conclude he is world class? He is certainly Premier League class, but has not shown enough on the world stage to merit that tag.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm a huge Man U fan, but i'll be honest i don't think we'll win it, last year Gibson and 2 from Nani put us up 4-2 on agg, but silly mistakes, bad defending, (Olic's goal)& (Robben unmarked on the edge of the area) cost us true had Rafael stayed on we probably would have won, but his inexperience maybe cost us. (rash challenges and diving in against classy streetwise opponents such as Robben, Ribery, Lahm)

    But we haven't really got the strength in depth, if we get an injury to Rooney, Berba, Vida, Rio, Van der Sar, are we equiped to deal with it? are Kuszczak, Owen, (past his best and injury prone) Chicharito (needs at least a season to settle, weather, food, other adjustments), Macheda too young. I think we'll deal with Rangers even with their defensive mentality they always bring to every european game, but we need poss 2 or 3 top quality reinforcements.

    I'd like us to buy:

    :Lahm (two footed and can play RB or LB & he supports the attackers)
    :Akinfeev or Julio Cesar
    :Van der Vaart would've been excellent espcially at £8 mill. & what about Arteta he can pass a ball, likes to keep it on the floor not hoof it, and is creative, surely deserves a chance at a bigger team than Everton.

    P.s. Why does everyone always say Chelski Chelski Chelski for Champ lge, they never have that flair or invention in their team, like Barca, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, United, Rooney, Scholes, Berbatov, Milan had Kaka and Pirlo, Even Arsenal had Fabregas when they got to the final in 2006.

    Chelsea just rely on their physical strength, Terry, Lampard, Drogba, Essien, Ballack (when he was there) they released arguably their most creative midfielder in J.Cole, not to mention Deco.

    Man U and Celtic for the respective Prems!!!
    Champ Lge, not sure but it ain't gonna be Liverpool ha ha ha

  • Comment number 18.

    I don't fancy Man United for the Champions League this year strongly. It isn't because they're a bad team, far from it, they've got some superb players. But since they won it, they have got weaker, while the competition has got stronger. Chelsea are a lot better than in 2008, Barcelona are too (which United found out first hand) and you can never write off Real, Bayern and Inter. Deep down Fergie knows his team have gone backwards from the triple-title winning European Champions, and for that fundamental reason, I don't think they can win it. Fergie's record when Man United have been slightly weaker in the competition isn't good. He's not the type of manager who can win cups like that, in a way that Benitez maybe can. His skill is in assembling a brilliant team from the off and letting them play their way to the top.

  • Comment number 19.

    Manchester United:

    van der Sar, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Scholes, Fletcher, Carrick, Nani, Rooney.

    Chelsea:

    Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole, Essien, Mikel, Lampard, Anelka, Drogba, Malouda.

    Barcelona:

    Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Mascherano, Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Messi, Villa.

    Real Madrid:

    Casillas, Ramos, Carvalho, Albiol, Marcelo, Alonso, Khedira, Ozil, Higuain, Ronaldo, Benzema.

    These are pretty much these clubs' best respective teams. On paper, Man United are 3rd or 4th strongest I reckon.

  • Comment number 20.

    Not exactly the most stimulating of blogs...

    Can SAF win it again? - not answered by the blog but yes

    Will he? - maybe

    What are his obstacles? - the other top teams in Europe, an aging core to his side and lapses from his defenders

    Wow, I feel so enlightened...

  • Comment number 21.

    But are any of the England squad world class?
    You Mention Rooney.

    England always do it in qualifiers but in the tournaments when it matters? And they always look for a scapegoat, Beckham, P. Neville, Rooney/Ronaldo, etc....They're always labelled as favourites but they never seem to play as a team, show passion, and none of the central midfielders (Gerrard, Lampard) can dictate a game, against top class opposition England maybe don't have a world class player/players who can step up and inspire the others around them like the media have us believe, Terry, Gerrard etc, England were outplayed and had no answer when Germany thumped them, and if you cannot do it in a huge classic like Germany vs England then...is the problem with the English players:

    1 Over confidence
    2 Lack of hunger/desire/motivation
    3 Overrated.

    How come the USA can play with so much passion, and on paper their team aren't as good as England, People say Gerrard and Lampard are too similar & like to get forward, but Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas are similar to each other yet they can play together...they all like to keep possession, and look to dictate the rythym of the game/attack.

    Just glad i don't support England, and i hope Rooney proves he's world class....well for United anyway!!!

    But too early to say who'll win the champ lge yet ( i just hope it's Man U)

  • Comment number 22.

    Can Ferguson reclaim the Champions League? No.
    And if they do will United fans stop going on about the Liverpool not even being premiership champs when they won it, since they aren't the champs this year, nor were they in 1999?
    Anyway, its a moot point, SAF does not have the tactical awareness to solve the big teams, and this year will be no different.

  • Comment number 23.

    Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, please say this an April Fools prank come early?

    Manu will never win the Champions League again in the next decade!

    They have enormous financial problems and as a team this season will expose all the flaws that have been steadily eroding for the last year or so.

    Phil you should do something more constructive with your time, like posting about the huge financial problems and this being Fergie and Rooney's last season at the club :)

  • Comment number 24.

    I suspect that Sir Alex said "made a silk purse out of a sow's ear" rather than "cow's."

  • Comment number 25.

    Can they? Yes. Everyone can. Will they? Most likely not. Inasmuch as United fans have come to appreciate Fletcher's battling qualities,United will rue not investing in proper defensive cover. The much acclaimed Makelele role. I hope Rio is fit and on form.
    Rooney is a good player. I used to advocate he was world class but evidence fails me. However,if we start with one up front it should be the Berb. He's done absolutely nothing to deserve being benched.
    That being said,Spurs against Bremen looks to be an interesting one. I would have hoped you'd comment on that instead.

  • Comment number 26.

    Who cares. The Champions League is just a cash cow for the rich European clubs to get richer.

    Anyway, it's not a league and it isn't just for champions so they should seriously consider renaming it back to the European Cup.

  • Comment number 27.

    #16 cousinkev - "stranger things have happened" Too right, Liverpool 2005 springs to mind, and I say that as a Liverpool fan
    So in answer to the Blog question "Yes he can". However, if the question had been "Will Sir Alex Ferguson reclaim the Champions League at Wembley next May?" then that may have given rise to a completely different answer

  • Comment number 28.

    Of course he can. He's won it twice already, and is still in it this year. Was that a serious question?

  • Comment number 29.

    Ferguson has got the balance absolutely spot on in the squad now. Ok, they got a couple of fairly poor results early on in the season, but there is a real verve and panache to United's play when going forward and they look seriously dangerous. Defensive blips happen, but history tells us when they have, more often than not they aren't repeated in a hurry.

    Ferguson is very shrewd, and I don't have any doubts that his decision not to make any big-name signings this summer was an entirely deliberate one. It takes the spotlight off United, who are constantly hounded by journos, and allows the big sending sheikhs on the other side of Manchester to receive a bit of glory/P.R from the media(although that multi-million pound bench didn't look too happy a couple of weeks ago, eh?!)

    One thing I will say about United's Champion's League campaign is DO NOT WRITE THEM OFF. If there is a club capable of the magnificent, dramatic, theatrical, then it is Ferguson's United. Good luck to Rangers, but I don't think United will be looking to take many prisoners, especially on the back of Saturday's draw.

    Oh, and good luck to all the other English teams in the CL. I hope that both Arsenal and Spurs enjoy some success this season, or can a least continue to entertain us with their incredibly attractive and watchable brand of football.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    You can't knock Ferguson's record in the EPL but in Europe it's pretty ordinary. 2 CL finals in 25 years isn't outstanding by anyone's standards especially when you consider the resources available to him. Ancelotti,Mourinho, Van Gaal and Benitez are all younger and have much better European cv's and Paisley won it 3 times in 9 years.

    The problem is their away form in Europe has never been anything special and if it doesn't improve neither will his record. They'll thrash Rangers and easily get out the group but that's where their problems normally begin

  • Comment number 32.

    Barcelona and Chelsea are favourites. Barca should have won it last year and probably will this time.

    United still have a chance but their midfield's not good enough. It will be interesting to see how Inter and Real Madrid get on - Mourinho should help Madrid overcome their last 16 jinx.

    http://footballfutbolfitba.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 33.

    Phil,
    It seems to me you are being overly cautious in your comments so as not to be seen as being critical of Sir Alex.
    As a Man Utd fan, I'd be pleasantly surprised if we the CL but I'm not expecting too much. The squad looks very weak in midfield and Fergie's decision not to strengthen in the summer means one of two things. Either we can no longer compete financially with the biggest clubs or the club is no longer as ambitious as it used to be. I'm afraid it may even be both.

  • Comment number 34.

    You are pulling your punches and showing too much respect to a man who is not going to read this article. Ferguson got it wrong on Saturday by playing Neville. Neville is past it. Players go by him with ease, everyone knows if Neveille is on the park, the goals come from his side of the pitch, from his side of the box. He is a useless defender and still he has something going forward and can cross a ball. Not enough. Rafael can't keep his cool and will get sent off. So unless O Shea is playing right back there is no one at United who will. You don't win cups leagues or competitoins with Pensioners and has beens. Ferguson needs a right back asap.

  • Comment number 35.

    Has Fergie booked the London hotel yet? If so, we're jinxed!

  • Comment number 36.

    You need luck to win the champions league. All the usual suspects will make it to the last 16 as the group games are set up to basically protect the bigger teams. As to whether Manchester United win it again it depends on who they draw, as you would fancy United changes if they only had to play one of the top teams in the knockout stages, but if they had to play say Inter Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid you wouldn't fancy their chances. Also depends on how the team is playing in February, no one knows who will be injured or suspended in five months time, and who any of the top teams will buy in January.

  • Comment number 37.

    No CL winners medal for ManU this season. They dont have the team to do it, unless they splash out some substantial amount of quid in January

  • Comment number 38.

    In a competition such as the Champions League, some luck is needed. I do tend to agree, however, that we do not have the quality and depth to make progress easy.

    Last 16 is certain (well, if there IS such a thing as a certainty in this beautiful game), with Quarters a distinct possibility and Semis a maybe. A lot depends on luck .... the knockout draw, the form and fitness of other sides (they could also have injury concerns) and the fitness of our key players.

    Last season, it must be remembered, we played for long periods with a very patchwork back four, and had a serious deficience in midfield too. Rooney's fitness towards the end of the season was a concern, and Berbatov did not have a great season. He has started very well this time, an I am confident he will keep it going.

    We still have a very suspect defence. Evans will be a great, but is still a work in progress as you say. Rio is continually battling for fitness (he is not that young any more) and Neville is pretty much past his expiry date in my opinion. Evra is also not quite the player he was, or as consistent.

    Our midfield is also a concern. Andersen, who I always felt was pretty useful an would only get better, has been a long term injury, and it remains to be seen how this has affected his game when he does eventualy return. Hargreaves has been out so long, that we can effectively disregard him. I would not be overly surprised to see him retire before the season is out, which would be sad.

    And then we have the goalkeeping. We have no real class act to back up Van Der Saar, who is no spring chicken. Van Der Saar is also too often quilty of bad positional play or silly lapses in concentration. I have heard rumours of Van Stekelenburg possibly in the January window, and hope they prove correct.

    Without shoring up our defense, which is frail despite what SAF says, and a stronger midfield, we are going to battle.

    The thing that disturbs me the most is the new prediliction for United to switch off towards the end, and to try defend one-goal advantages, which is always dangerous ! We lack that killer instinct we always had.

    United were renound for being dangerous right up until the final whistle, but are fast becoming better known for trying to defend for the last 10 minutes and then making silly mistakes as a result.

    Against Bayern last year, and then again against Fulham and Everton, we looked decidedly panicky towards the end, and that does not bode well for our chances when the pressure is on.

  • Comment number 39.

    Can Man Utd win the CL?...yes, they are one of approx 6 teams (3 English, 2 Spanish, 1 Italian) with the resources to do so - but that doesn't mean they are the best team, which for the last 3 years has clearly been Barcelona. However, Inter demonstrated last year that you do not need to be the best to win the CL - defensive tactics, mixed with 1 or 2 stand out players, can win football matches (for the record, the Barca vs Inter 2nd leg was one of the dullest and most boring games of [anti]football I have ever seen).

    And please, can everyone stop going on about which players are 'world class' all the time? I have not seen anyone provide an adequate description or more important, a quantification, of what that term actually means.

  • Comment number 40.

    Ok own up. You were joking on the Berbatov bit right? He might be putting in a bit more this season, but still only scores either at home, or the relatively unimportant second or third goal. It's not his ability or work rate that condemn Dimitar to the eternal shadow role, it's his distinct invisibility on important occasions and against better teams.

  • Comment number 41.

    #19 - Those XI's are very much even, it's not about individuals, its about how they play together as well!

    #22 - Nobody can say a team will or wont win the CL - nobody can predict the future! United have as much chance as anyone else.
    As for the United v Liverpool thing - United were champions when they won both CL titles under Fergie - they wrapped up the league a couple of weeks before on both occasions!! :) We didnt finish in 4th! lol
    And Fergie has negotieate dhis way past teams such as Juve, Milan, Inter, Bayern, Barca and Chelsea over the years - How can you say he can't negotiate his way past the better sides??

    #31 - United's away form?? They recently set a European away record!!!! lol, Shows how much knowledge some of the posters on here have!

    #36 - Very sensible post, and just about hits the nail on the head! :)

  • Comment number 42.

    Right lets get away from the "you need luck" argument.

    Yes ill admit that now and again a team that you least expect wins the comp or goes very close. It is those teams that require a little bit of luck and for the key decisions to go their way.
    Porto in 2004 springs to mind. Liverpool to a lesser extent in 2005 and Bayern last year.

    The big guns dont need luck and certainly shouldnt be relying on it.

    For me, as a United fan so this is hard to say, we are also rans this season.
    Why?
    Our midfield. On paper we may have quantity (Scholes, Giggs, Valencia, Nani, Carrick, Gibson, Fletcher, Anderson) but we just havent got the quality.
    On Saturday we had to play Sheasy in midfield. Now i love Sheasy but he aint a midfielder thats going to win you the CL.
    Anderson is still unproven and is coming back from a cruciate, Carrick is low on confidence and then theres Gibson. What does it say about SAFs faith him in when Sheasy (primarily a defender) gets the nod ahead of him?
    Scholes and Giggs cant go on for ever and their ageing legs might just have enough for the likes of Fulham, Newcastle and West Ham but will they have enough in the tank for an away leg at the Bernabeu or Camp Nou?
    Nani is still in and out.

    Unlike others im quite happy with our defence especially if Rio stays fit.
    Up front, likewise, we are looking good. If Rooney finds his form and Berba maintains his we'll be more than okay.

    So can we win it? Not if we want to win the PL as well IMHO

  • Comment number 43.

    31. At 07:16am on 14 Sep 2010, dmrichkt wrote:
    You can't knock Ferguson's record in the EPL but in Europe it's pretty ordinary. 2 CL finals in 25 years isn't outstanding by anyone's standards especially when you consider the resources available to him.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    It's 3 CL finals in 23 years, just for the record.

    Having said that, I agree his European record isn't good enough. But then, so does he, so it's not like you're saying anything new or controversial.

  • Comment number 44.

    "Ferguson's refusal to play what he regards as an inflated market meant he did not add the top-class central defender and midfield operator...."

    Usual lazy journalism from sports 'journalists.' Fergie is quite happy to pay when he had the cash but now he doesn't he explains it away in another manner. Football journalists simply take that as right. Same way most footballers get away with thei comments like Ireland recently or Keane forever.

  • Comment number 45.

    i personally don't think Utd can win the Champions league this season. I believe that the winners will come from those la Liga giants mentioned above and/or Bayern Munich.

    How has Ferguson actually strengthend his squad since last season? By buying attacking players. He may have signed a couple of defensive squad players (Chris Smalling anyone?) but certainly not someone that can slot in straight away to aid success in the Champions league.

    As a Spurs fan I wiah all the best to all English teams, even Arsenal but I can't see past (a winner from) the Bundesliga and/or la Liga.

  • Comment number 46.

    #39 - how can you say that Barca were "clearly" the best side the last 3 years? They got to one final and won. United got to 2 finals and won one of them - beating Barca in the process. Barca were also very lucky to get past Chelsea in the year they did win it? Just beacuse a team dominates their domestic league, doesnt mean they are the best!

    #40 - Name someone who has started the season better than Berbatov? Aside from perhaps Malouda or Scholes, there is no-one. Obviously someone who can't give credit where credit is due, either United or Berbatov hater??

  • Comment number 47.

    30. At 06:34am on 14 Sep 2010, Ahad Shaukat wrote:
    Phil, you are too much into United. Chelsea and Arsenal have been performing better than them but I don't know why all your blogs are about United .. You are becoming boring now ..

    ______________________________________________________________

    Hmmm... maybe there's a Utd blog and a Spurs blog at the moment because Utd and Spurs are playing tonight, and Chelsea and Arsenal are playing tomorrow?

    Try to engage brain before posting.



  • Comment number 48.

    Don't see why people are complaining about an article that is about the most intriguing tie in the CL this week. I'm sure if Chelsea, Arsenal or even Spurs were up against Rangers there would be an article about it.

    In terms of the tie itself, Man U should be too strong for a Rangers side who have started poorly (despite managing a 100% domestic record so far) but it's usually the case that they will raise their game for such a big match and make it difficult for Man Utd, and if Man Utd have another defensive blip Kenny Miller is in the sort of form to punish them.

    Can Man Utd win the Champions League?... sure they can but they are far from favourites and will have to sort out the lapses in concentration and they will need Rooney at his very best.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    #42 - I can agree that you dont need luck to win, however you certainly need to avoid bad luck without a doubt - for example, Rooney getting injured when he did last season, the ref performance for chelsea v barca the season before. You can't win the competition if you get unlucky at the wrong time.

  • Comment number 51.

    It's certainly possible for Sir Alex to reclaim the trophy as United's group phase doesn't look particularly challenging and Old Trafford is a difficult place for anyone to go to in the knock-out rounds. Like others have said away form will be crucial and judging by early league slip ups at Fulham and Everton it seems teams haven't got the same fear factor when it comes to attacking United they did in the past. I think losing Ronaldo hurt them badly in this regard and signings since haven't inspired confidence the club is progressing...we are yet to see Fergie's new 'Bebe' though!

  • Comment number 52.

    Let's not forget the seedings which should ensure that Man Utd (and Barca, Inter, Chelsea and Real) breeze through to the quarter finals. From there I think anything is possible. They don't have the best squad on paper compared to the others and I agree they could potentially suffer more from injuries to key players more than the others, but they have a chance against any of the other big boys.

    People saying about Bayern last year need to take a reality check as saying "it was poor defending" or "lack of concentration" is what football is all about. Bayern defended poorly for the Man Utd goals so it's swings and roundabouts. At the end of the day you find a way to win even when you've been outplayed and Man Utd have done that on many occassions so give some credit to Bayern that they did the same.

    Personally I would love to see Spurs become the first London side to win it as I think it was just so unlikely a few years back. I do think they have a tough group though so it will be tough for them.

  • Comment number 53.

    Can he win reclaim it? Yes, it's possible.

    Will he reclaim it? Probably not.

    I tipped United for the league this season, I've already changed my mind. I look at their defence, usually so strong, but Evans looked weak against Everton. The United of old wouldn't have dropped points against Fulham/Everton from the positions they were in.

    The main worry is the central midfield. Fletcher is a quality player in my opinion, gives you everything you need from his position in the Premier League and if it had been up to me I'd have built the England team over the past decade around Paul Scholes. However the two of them in the centre will get over run by the better midfields and the other options just aren't up to it - Carrick (form has plummeted over the past year or so), Hargreaves (will he ever be fit again?), Anderson (injury problems and not progressed as he should), Gibson (never going to be a top class player). At £8mil Van Der Vaat was an absolute steal, United should have snapped him up.

    I would love to change my prediction to Chelski becoming Premiership Champions and Madrid winning the Champions League. I haven't seen Madrid play this year, but I can't see Mourinho failing to provide a strong challenge.

  • Comment number 54.

    Did you really have to use your blog this week to talk about could Man U win the champions league? You could have used your blog anytime in the next 5 champions league midweeks to do this instead surely.

    I would have thought that a more interesting, well timed and thought provoking blog would have been on the fact that Spurs tonight have their first ever champions league fixture, the first time that one of the sky 4 has had a champions league fixture for at least 6 years. You could have given some predictions for how they'd fare, and what they could expect from their group and the experience - that would have at least been different.

  • Comment number 55.

    Can Ferguson reclaim Champions League?

    why!? does it belong to him?

  • Comment number 56.

    #54 - Maybe because the tie that kicks off United's campaign is against Rangers! Us English fans would do well to remember that the first B in BBC stands for BRITISH!! therefore there is relevance in this article both sides of the border.
    They are also managed by Walter Smith who has worked with Fergie twice. Therefore there are many different aspects to this story, other than "Can united win the CL". Please read the whole article again and think about it.

  • Comment number 57.

    Personally, I dont feel they've enough quality in the squad to challenge on all fronts, as was the case last season. Agree with the poster who questioned their midfield options, they're clearly lacking quality in this area..

  • Comment number 58.

    When you look at Man United's midfield they are now well below the level of the top operators. I think when they come up against a team like Barca they will fall well short.

  • Comment number 59.

    Chelsea or Barcelona to win, hopefully with both in the final.

    Man Utd - Outside chance IF Rooney finds some form.

    Real Madrid - Season too soon.

    The rest - Thanks for taking part.

  • Comment number 60.

    No one else may say it Phil but well done on your praise for Walter Smith and I say that as a Celtic fan! He's a very under-rated coach (outwith Scotland) and despite not having the resources he once did at Rangers still manages to get a team into the CL. Not that he will get much joy tonight or on many other CL nights this time around : the current Rangers squad only amount to around £25m (or less than a Rio!) and are mainly comprised of Scots players, so ManU should prevail..as will Buraspor (invested 100m over the past year) and Valencia (not as strong as they were but still good enough)..money talks in the CL but hopefully WS can get his side to 'punch above their weight' one last time.

    ..but ManU are not the force they were a few years ago: too little investment in the 'right' players. Some(i.e. Anderson, Berbatov, Carrick and to a lesser extent, Nani) have provided too little value compared to their price tags and SAF has already commented on the lack of value in the transfer market, while others such as Neville are just crying out to be replaced. With some luck however, any big team is capable of winning the CL and ManU are no exception. Given that SAF has made a good career out of proving the doubters wrong (again and again) he may just have one last big success in him.

  • Comment number 61.

    you call ferguson's record of 3 CL finals in 23 years not good enough for united, but remember that in the history of the Champions League (i'm going from 92/93 season on this) ONLY madrid and milan have won it more times than United! what on earth is wrong with that record?? and as a manager during that time NO ONE has won it more times (correct me if i'm wrong but i think hitzfeld, del bosque, ancelotti and mourinho also have 2 titles)
    there are so many good teams in europe capable of winning the competition and the fact that united have got to the final 3 times shows they are consistently up there with europe's giants, right where they should be.
    critics look at his EPL record as a comparison but i think it took the EPL until maybe the 01/02 season to really become a top european league, fergie has a fine record in europe.

  • Comment number 62.

    "16. At 11:55pm on 13 Sep 2010, CousinKev wrote:
    United have very little chance of winning the Champions League though stranger things have happened.
    "

    Liverpool winning it?

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    Of course we can win the Champions League - its a cup competition at the end of the day and less challenging than the premiership. We also have the experience of winning it before.

    I personally think the premiership is beyond us this season. Even though we had ridiculous defensive injuries last season Chelsea got stiffed by the ANC and Ancelotti was in his first year. This year Ancelotti is in his second year and he will have African players, crucially Essien, to concentrate on Chelsea alone and Fergie has to decide whether to stick or bust with Neville and Giggs (Scholes has a couple more years I believe) or gamble on the youngsters. Also Rio has a big question mark hanging over his fitness.

    He has a few other squad decisions to make as well. To win the premiership you need to have a settled "best" side and we don't. But the Champions League? We are not favourites but yes we can win it. We certainly have a better chance of doing so than Liverpool!

  • Comment number 65.

    #46. Just got back so a bit slow in responding. BUT how many first or significant goals has the wondrous 1 scored so far, despite his "Rolls Royce" form? Lots? or not lots?
    My contention would be the latter.
    Clearly you do not concur.
    If he still makes the regular starting line-up in December after single handedly taking United through to the last 16 I will willingly eat my words.

  • Comment number 66.

    I'd actually love for us to go out of the CL early, and give 100% to getting that 19th title.. for me that would be so so much better than get another CL trophy..

  • Comment number 67.

    Another blog related to Man Yoo - wasn't there one just the other day??

  • Comment number 68.

    56. At 10:19am on 14 Sep 2010, Nevs_A_Red wrote:
    #54 - Maybe because the tie that kicks off United's campaign is against Rangers! Us English fans would do well to remember that the first B in BBC stands for BRITISH!! therefore there is relevance in this article both sides of the border.
    They are also managed by Walter Smith who has worked with Fergie twice. Therefore there are many different aspects to this story, other than "Can united win the CL". Please read the whole article again and think about it.

    ---------
    I did read the article.

    No reason why this piece couldn't have been written when the sides meet at Ibrox later in the group, which is likely to be more of a competitive game as United won't have home advantage. In fact these two have met before in the champions league at Old Trafford, back in 2003 and it finished 3-0 to United. Would it be a shock for it to finish the same?

    And you say 'us English fans should do well to remember the first B in BBC stands for British' when the entire article is about Manchester United, and aside from mentions of Walter Smith. Not one mention of a single Rangers player or how they are likely to line up or fare in the competition.

  • Comment number 69.

    #60 "Some(i.e. Anderson, Berbatov, Carrick and to a lesser extent, Nani) have provided too little value"

    I agree with you to an extent about Carrick - not my favourite although he did the job we needed at the time to stabilise a midfield (and oust O'Shea from there) to win 3 premierships back to back but Berbatov probably needs more games to shine. Anderson is only 22 so the jury is still out and I'm still hopeful but Nani is definitely worth a lot more than we paid for him. I predict he will be a monster for us this season.

  • Comment number 70.

    30. At 06:34am on 14 Sep 2010, Ahad Shaukat wrote:
    Phil, you are too much into United. Chelsea and Arsenal have been performing better than them but I don't know why all your blogs are about United .. You are becoming boring now ..

    ______________________________________________________________

    Hmmm... maybe there's a Utd blog and a Spurs blog at the moment because Utd and Spurs are playing tonight, and Chelsea and Arsenal are playing tomorrow?

    Try to engage brain before posting.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------

    Real Madrid and Ajax is far more engaging actually, those are the old super powers of Europe or have you forgotten? United will dominate Rangers most likely and again show how far apart the EPL and SPL teams are away from each other. And considering their was a blog 2 days ago purely about Rooney's absence from a game, maybe a blog should be written about Wenger's optician?

  • Comment number 71.

    #38 You were going so well until

    "And then we have the goalkeeping. We have no real class act to back up Van Der Saar, who is no spring chicken. Van Der Saar is also too often quilty of bad positional play or silly lapses in concentration. I have heard rumours of Van Stekelenburg possibly in the January window, and hope they prove correct."

  • Comment number 72.

    Ferguson and Smith are two great British managers but i think Manchester United should run out comfortable winners tonight, espically at home. Im saying 2-0 with Rooney getting on the score sheet to make a statement. As for the Champions league trophy i think United deserve a fourth title for their European dominance over the past 15 years!

  • Comment number 73.

    7. At 11:17pm on 13 Sep 2010, gunner_t wrote:
    More UTD articles ... why not look at if one of the London clubs can lift the champions league trophy for the first time at Wembley?

    ----

    hahahaaha. Funny man.

  • Comment number 74.

    67. At 11:13am on 14 Sep 2010, thehandofhenry wrote:
    Another blog related to Man Yoo - wasn't there one just the other day??

    ______________________________________________________________________

    It's the day of a United match. As has been pointed out, this is the BBC and this is a match between two British teams. Not sure what the issue is.

    I would say I'm sure Arsenal will get a blog to preview their match tonight/tomorrow. But since all Phil McNulty needs to do send Arsenal fans into hysterical crying fits is suggest that Arsene Wenger may not be the second coming, I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't bother.

  • Comment number 75.

    "Ferguson's refusal to play what he regards as an inflated market meant he did not add the top-class central defender and midfield operator that may well be required if United are to take the extra steps that proved beyond them in the Champions League last season."

    Couldn't have put it better myself. The lack of depth in midfield and defense means that United probably only be able to fight for the Premier League or Champions League. With the start we have had in the league I think making Europe our number one priority is the only way we can get far in the competition. If Hargreaves can get fit and stay fit then our midfield problems would be lessened but our defense is still a soft spot. SAF needs to rediscover the defense that put together that record run of clean sheets. They are all still there, why have they suddenly become so weak?

  • Comment number 76.

    Unfortunately, money talks at the highest level of football. You may not be able to buy major trophies in one year or two but sustained investment almost always pays off big time. For that reason, punching above their weight is the best that Walter Smith and his men can hope for in the group. Unfortunately, it will not be enough!

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    #65 - football isnt all about goals! You need to appreciate the other parts of the game of football!

  • Comment number 80.

    Another disappointing blog Phil, again by sticking to one team you get the school kid type of essay who doesn't really know much about the topic and tries to pad it out. This blog could have easily included the other 3 English teams that are participating and we know what players they have now that the window has closed. Please broaden the topic so it includes more then just one view point, analysis of each team would've been nice.

    Arsenal, I'd have liked to see what the general opinion of Arsenal's new defence is and get the vibe of the fans think of the new pairing and how much of a difference it will make not just in Champions League but in the Prem as well. Also has Chamakh added another dimension and what is his impact going to be with RVP out injured again?

    Chelsea, they get so far & close and are always beaten the eventual winners. Are they unlucky or are they the team to beat? They did the double in what was outstanding debut season for Ancelotti, not many new arrivals but what can Ancelotti do that previous Chelsea managers couldn't in Europe's elite competition?

    Man Utd, for me they lack that midfielder in the Fabregas mould, perhaps the answer is Rooney? Despite all his goals last season I don't believe he is clinical enough to be considered a striker, but he has all the attributes to be a class attacking midfielder. They've got the depth, they've got experience have they got the luck that's needed?

    Tottenham, I'm not going to make any bold predictions for them and am instead going to enjoy their time in the Champions League in case it is a one off. They have a very good squad with some players like Modric, VDV & Lennon all capable of doing something breath taking on their day.

    All in all, I can't wait to see what lies ahead, great games, controversy, how I love football.

    Can a moderator provide a detailed explanation of how this post broke the house rules?

  • Comment number 81.

    # 17. At 00:22am on 14 Sep 2010, pope999 wrote:


    P.s. Why does everyone always say Chelski Chelski Chelski for Champ lge, they never have that flair or invention in their team, like Barca, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, United, Rooney, Scholes, Berbatov, Milan had Kaka and Pirlo, Even Arsenal had Fabregas when they got to the final in 2006.

    Chelsea just rely on their physical strength, Terry, Lampard, Drogba, Essien, Ballack (when he was there) they released arguably their most creative midfielder in J.Cole, not to mention Deco.
    ============================================================

    Just wait a minute and think about your comments above again! You said Man Utd have Rooney, Scholes and Berba? What invention have these three players created that any of the Chelsea players you mentioned cannot create, or what is your understanding of a flair player?

    Would you say Chelsea dont have players with invention and yet pumping in goals like anything - they scored more than 140 goals last season with 103 coming in the league?

    If you would conclude Chelsea has no flair player, then Man utd has None either since they lost Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 82.

    Are United fans truly convinced by Ferguson's assertions about having the balance of his squad just right and believing he has got the future safeguarded for years to come?

    I believe he needed to add quality in the summer and there was an interesting point made by Ferguson at his press conference yesterday when he said: "There was only one player I would have brought here and that move was sealed off quite early by the club he went to."

    Who do you reckon this player was? David Villa? Mesut Ozil? The feeling was it was Villa because that deal was signed and sealed before the World Cup, although he cost Barcelona £35m and Ferguson has always warned that he is seeking full value for money.

    And would this player, whether it was Villa or Ozil, have made a significant difference to United's chances of winning trophies.

  • Comment number 83.

    With all due respect, "frailty" and "lapse of concentration" are two very different animals.

    Frailty suggests permanence, for a start. It's worth noting that the United defence that kept the most consecutive clean sheets in the club's history did not, for the most part, include Rio Ferdinand. That defence did not have any frailty on show whatsoever.

    United's defensive problem is a different animal to a general kind of frailty; it is the one born through a succession of injuries in defense last season. Granted, this can be described as a frailty for now, but what I think Ferguson was saying is that it isn't one that will last.

    Essentially, on the back of last season's defensive disruptions (without which they almost certainly would've won the league, considering the narrow margin of victory Chelsea enjoyed) United just need time to settle back into the rhythm of having a consistent defensive line-up.

    Unlike in midfield or attack, shuffling defenders around is a dangerous business for United largely because of the very balanced style of play - very fluid attacking players and a very rigid defensive style. That rigidity in defense is a weakness when you have disruptions to consistency - just as if you had a military unit, well-honed and used to working together, and then replaced half of them with people they'd never met before... and then swapped them out a few weeks later for the people who had previously been there.

    Once the defence settles, United will be much more consistent defensively again - as they were when they won the league three years running.

    Of course, one does have to raise an important question: who will replace Nemanja Vidic in a few years time?

    Rio is easy to replace because, splendid defender though he is, he has very definite weaknesses, especially playing alongside someone he is unfamiliar with (he seems to have some sort of odd mother hen complex). Vidic (excluding strange issues coping with Torres) not so.

  • Comment number 84.

    Rooney world class? Come off it Phil, what has Rooney done at the top level? He goes missing in the big games.

    Can't see Man U winning the CL this year especially as they haven't strengthened their squad. Fergie cant keep relying on his ageing squad and he needs to start spending some of that Ronaldo windfall. Sure its an inflated market but there's still bargains out there (Van Der Vaart, J Cole to name but two). Bit of a cop out by Fergie there I think.

    Personally think it will be Barca or Chelsea this year for the CL.



  • Comment number 85.

    #82 - Phil, considering Ozil wasn't sorted til late August, I wouldn't call that sealed off early - plus Fergie has always said he wanted and was after Villa, so I think it's pretty obvious.
    I dont think Villa would make a massive difference, as we are looking good going forward, and have scored 11 in 4 games - nearly 3 a game average, and against teams in Everton and Fulham, who are no pushovers, and dont concede easily at home.
    Scholes has alos made a fantastic start and our goals have been coming from all over, so i doubt he would make any difference either.
    The defence is worrying me - not the ability of our defenders, but the fact that we are seeming to sit back in the last 10 minutes to defend our lead, as opposed to continuing to press and attack.
    That sort of tactic always leaves you open to conceding late goals, and we have done. I dont think they are out of form etc etc, or that it is an area that needs strengthening, however the tactics when we take the lead, need to be looked at.

  • Comment number 86.

    Also I feel Ozil was the man he was talking about, incidentally. He stated fairly early in the summer that he was interested in a move to Real Madrid - they always make their interest much more public than United do, which gives them a minor edge in one sense and a major flaw in another.

    They attract mercenaries. United seem to prefer doing deals quietly, which tends to ensure they get players who are not only interested in basking in the limelight.

    Even Ronaldo had the strength of character to do what Cesc Fabregas is currently doing at Arsenal, remember.

    But many players go to Madrid and wilt - especially younger ones - because their reasons for going there are entirely wrong.

    I don't think David Villa was ever a serious interest. I sincerely doubt he would've had much impact at United, playing in a completely different system to the one Valencia employ - whereas Barcelona play a similar system. He would've taken far too long to adapt to a) the English game (I can't see him coping with the physicality half as well as Torres has - well, injuries aside...), b) United's style of play versus Valencia's.

  • Comment number 87.

    United will undoubtedly bounce back from the turmoils of Saturday's injury time woes at Goodison.
    It goes without question that Sir Alex will have laid into his team good and proper following their demise in the final 3 and a half minutes of added time.
    Good luck Rangers, I think you will need it. Prepare yourselves for a backlash of greater proportions!!!!
    Going back to Saturday ..... how ironic it is that Moyes and Round have been charged by the FA following their 'questioning' of the match official and his added time of 3 minutes 30 seconds. Where did the extra 30 seconds come from I hear you ask? More to the point, where did the missing 1 minute and 30 seconds disappear from. It's meant to be an extra minute per goal! 2 goals in added time, so there should have been at least 5 minutes added time in the end.
    Moyes and Round have a point.
    And the irony ...... the match official has been demoted to 4th official this weekend!!!
    That being the case, my next question has to be directed squarely at the FA - WHY HAVE MOYES AND ROUND BEEN CHARGED???? - when the official has obviously been deemed to have been wrong in his handling of the game and his watch, otherwise he would not have been demoted!!!

    May whichever God you follow have mercy on Rangers in the Champions League!!!! - Somehow I can't see it!

  • Comment number 88.

    #46. Nevs a red your are way off the mark! Name someone who has started the season better than Berbatov? Aside from perhaps Malouda or Scholes, there is no-one. Obviously someone who can't give credit where credit is due, either United or Berbatov hater??

    Are your serious? I have one name to say DROGBA! Not only scores, he creates and he defends. One of the best defenders for the Champions on corners. Berbaflop one of the best players this year. That is a good one. He goes missing so often.
    He is "just" the goals and assists
    Drogba 4 goals, 4 assists
    Flop 3 goals, 1 assist

    Thanks for the laugh.

  • Comment number 89.

    10. At 11:24pm on 13 Sep 2010, RockingTheJoint wrote:
    Man Utd won't win the champions league.

    Barcelona will.
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    That's what many said last season, as well.

    Fact is, United have a chance, as have Real Madrid, Barca, Inter and even Chelsea. Luck, as ever, will play a huge part. Refereeing consistency, or lack thereof, will impact. Injuries at crucial points of the season will have an affect.

    In other words, time will tell and SAF has proved over more than enough seasons that he is capable of building sides that can win ALL the major trophies

  • Comment number 90.

    P.s. Why does everyone always say Chelski Chelski Chelski for Champ lge, they never have that flair or invention in their team, like Barca, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, United, Rooney, Scholes, Berbatov, Milan had Kaka and Pirlo, Even Arsenal had Fabregas when they got to the final in 2006.

    You and Nev a red. Need to take off those reds glasses. Rooney, Scholes and Berbaflop vs any of the above trio and then Lampard, Essien, Malouda, Anelka, Drogba, and hopfuly Ramires. How many goals last season 140+ and it was no fluke as you can see this year as well.
    Rooney can't handle the pressure, Scholes will wear down (He is playing great) and Berbaflop goes missing and still not worth the millions paid for him. Tevez was a big loss.

    Funny stuff though

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.

    Well in response, if the player was a midfielder, then yes it would have made a huge difference. I don't normally deal in if buts, However United have been unlucky with the Hargreaves story. Had he been playing regularly I believe we would not be seeing scholes as often as we do. I understand these guys look after bodies and their minds, but again , the frailty of United is Neville and the Right back position. When Neville played there last season he was frequently made to look silly. I think Fergie has way too much faith in him. Yes he lost his concentration. United should have either a dedicated RB , O Shea for example, Or a yonger faster fitter midfielder bought in , at summer time. There are enough players to play around with the midfield but not enough at the back. :-)

  • Comment number 93.

    As a United fan - well I'm pretty sure we'll top this group but I learned last season not to take the knockout stages for granted. I'm very glad that Berbatov has finally got his act together and if Rooney can remain on form as well then our attack alone will keep us in the mixer for the trophy.

  • Comment number 94.

    Nice, balanced coverage of Scotland's Champrion's and only representative in the Champions League. Man United are overwhelming favourites but unless I am mistaken, this is the British Broadcasting Corporation. I pay mY license fee too.

    Man United aren't even league champions and shouldn't be in the Champions League.

    0-1, K Miller.

  • Comment number 95.

    Manchester United are not strong enough enough defensively to compete with the best in Europe, as proved by their capitulation and concession of three goals against a goal-shy Everton.

    Jonny Evans is capable at home matches, when away teams don't but so much pressure on the defence, but in away matches he is targeted and found out because he lacks the strength and presence of the more senior Ferdinand and Vidic.

    Gary Neville was turned this way and that by Steven Pienaar, imagine what someone like Robben would do to him. I remain unconvinced about Rafael/Fabio da Silva twins, and Evra looks a shadow of the player from last season.

    From an attacking perspective, they're fine, but in cauldron atmospheres of Europe, United may be overwhelmed.

    I firmly blame Rooney for not playing on Saturday, if a player doesn't want to play then there are severe questions about his temperament. If Ferguson said 'no, you're not playing today' and Rooney said, 'fine', then that shows that Rooney didn't argue. So much for wanting to play in every match. It was a perfect way to answer all the critics and make a mockery of the baying supporters.

    All my views on football and general sport can be found at http://allsportmatters.webs.com/apps/blog/, including the Rooney issue.

  • Comment number 96.

    drogba plays for chelsea without any pressure

    he scores goals for fun

    berbatov looks like hes got the weight of the whole world on his shoulders and when he does score one goal, everyone starts jumping up and down because he scored one goal

    truth is. berbatov is not anywhere near drogba at the moment

    i would say drogba is pretty much untouchable at the moment.

  • Comment number 97.

    #83 Sorry but Vidic will be a lot easier to replace than Rio. He is our most valuable defender. Its no coincidence that our defensive form has gone out the window with his fitness. A lot of non United and a fair few United supporters fail to see his role in the team because its not associated with thunderous challenges and thumping headers but our performances in his absence speaks volumes. He provides a leadership and calmness that other defensive players look to for guidance. He simply would not have allowed those collapses in concentration that were attendant in our draws against Fulham and Everton.

  • Comment number 98.

    #78 How silly of me to forget that since the removal of Robbo we're not allowed to have a sense of humour anymore!
    To re-phrase my original post in language that even the over-sensitive mods will find acceptable, I was saying that Fergie is not bothered one way or t'other whether or not Utd win the CL, he really wants to win the Premier League so he can retire having beaten Liverpool's record. I for one support him in that. However, I hope he doesn't recommend our Davey for the job!
    #87- Agree with everying you said mate - nice to see some support from a Red.

  • Comment number 99.

    collie we need Wes in there. Not sure why he hasn't been played there. Or just throw Rafael in there hope for the best.

    Blue man - are you asking us take our RED specs off? LOL! I do think Chelsea have a couple of players in Essien and Drogba who are world class and I wanted us to go after Malouda when you bought him but I think you are under-rating Scholes, Berbatov, Rooney and most importantly Nani. But I'm happy for you to do that.

  • Comment number 100.

    You can't knock Ferguson's record in the EPL but in Europe it's pretty ordinary. 2 CL finals in 25 years isn't outstanding by anyone's standards especially when you consider the resources available to him. Ancelotti,Mourinho, Van Gaal and Benitez are all younger and have much better European cv's and Paisley won it 3 times in 9 years.
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    Your facts are slightly miskewed! Ferguson has been in 4 European Finals (3 C.L & 1 C.W.C) in 20 years of 'Actually' competiting in them! as well as being one of the few managers to get to Successive Finals and the only manager to get to successive C.L Finals (Post Heysel Ban) with an English Club! He's also got United to the Semis 3 Times and the 1/4s 5 Times! He also got to 3 Finals in 10 Years which is only bettered by Real and Milan in Recent Times!

    You say his record is not that Good but name another manager with a better record in the last 20 years? Only Manager to get to more C.L Finals is Lippi with 4 but he only won 1 of them on Penalties.

 

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