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Manchester's Champions League misery

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Phil McNulty | 07:32 UK time, Thursday, 8 December 2011

Like two bald men fighting over a comb, Manchester City and Manchester United have been left to battle for European football's scraps after a Black Wednesday in the Champions League.

When City and United set off on a season of high ambition, little did they realise they would be inviting the unwelcome guest that is the Europa League into their itinerary before the turn of the year.

And yet that is the bleak prospect facing two clubs who dine at the Premier League's top table after they failed to negotiate their way out of the Champions League group stages and into the lucrative knockout phase.

City's demise was disappointing but not a major shock, despite the non-consolation victory against a depleted Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium. Their fate was sealed by the earlier defeat in Germany allied to a home draw and loss to Napoli.

Roberto Mancini's side, for all the big spending and vast reconstruction, were also handed a taxing draw alongside Bayern, Napoli and Villarreal. They look certainties to be back next season when these experiences will be put to good use and the current squad is likely to have been augmented by more marquee arrivals.

For United, however, there will be genuine embarrassment as well as anger at their inability to qualify from a group Sir Alex Ferguson might have hand-picked himself when the draw was made.

Ferguson's United must now be content with a place in the Europa League. Photo - Getty

When United were placed with Benfica, Basel and Romanians Otelul Galati, second place would have been considered a let-down, let alone the abject humiliation of a third-placed failure and the ignominy of the drop into Europe's second tier.

United's only wins came against the Romanians. Two games with Benfica were drawn, a point was rescued in the dying moments of a chaotic 3-3 draw with Basel at Old Trafford - and then, when only needing a point to salvage those poor performances in the group with qualification, they could not even manage that as they lost 2-1 in Switzerland.

Now they go into a tournament that would not have registered on the radar of anyone at Old Trafford until the final whistle blew in St Jakob Park. Defender Patrice Evra pulled no punches as he said: "It's embarrassing to play in the Europa League."

As City's players left the stage after beating Bayern, there was a mood of resignation that was almost over-riding the disappointment. Such has been the speed of their journey, fuelled by Abu Dhabi's petro-dollars, that there was an acceptance that this setback was simply part of a long-term education.

Mancini can absorb the lessons and regard the Europa League, no matter how it is viewed elsewhere, as an opportunity to win another trophy. It will not be a priority but City have the strength of squad to make a go of it.

It will also allow City to shape their European game, which has been found lacking during their first taste of the Champions League. To go out at the group stage was hardly a cause for rejoicing but the mood among the club's followers was philosophical.

For United, the emotions were on a different, more psychologically damaging scale. To fall at the Champions League's final hurdle after failing to beat Barcelona is one thing, to miss qualification because of a failure to beat Basel is another.

It underscores the scale of United's decline in Europe since that Wembley night when they were outclassed by Barcelona - and how Ferguson himself has failed to learn the lessons of defeat.

To go from three Champions League finals in four years to an exit from an inviting group is the stuff of nightmares for the Scot, who last failed to guide United into the knockout stage in 2005-2006.

They say it is never too late to sample new experiences - but to be turning his attentions to the Europa League as he prepares to celebrate his 70th birthday later this month is an unwanted gift for Ferguson.

And after developing a rich palate in the Champions League, it is hard to see how the tournament regarded as its poor relation will be to the taste of Ferguson, United or their fans.

The only use United's supporters have ever had for the Europa League has been as a stick to beat their rivals who were in it. United, in their eyes, have never been bad enough to qualify for it.

Now they are and Ferguson himself must take blame as well the players who have played so poorly in the group games.

In the aftermath of another chastening defeat from Barcelona, coupled with Paul Scholes's retirement, one glaring problem needed to be addressed. United lacked the highest quality in central midfield, and yet Ferguson allowed it to go untouched.

Samir Nasri was coveted but United were muscled aside by Manchester City's finance, while Old Trafford officials insisted there was never any serious interest in Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder.

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini issues instructions from the sidelines at Wembley

Hope soon turned to despair for City as Napoli's result filtered through. Photo - Getty

With Luka Modric tied to Tottenham, Ferguson made do and mended. Phil Jones was used in central midfield and, in a desperate sticking plaster moment, Wayne Rooney was also used. The latter was almost an admission of defeat.

The lack of a player of that calibre - and it has been mentioned many times before Wednesday's exit - has cost United dearly. Ferguson insisted he could not find value in the market, but such an acquisition may have helped United enjoy the riches of the later stages of the Champions League once more.

United are further away from Barcelona today than they were in May, while Jose Mourinho is again working ominously at Real Madrid. Ferguson must now find his midfield master, having always insisted he has the finance to do expensive deals despite the suspicions some United fans have towards the club's owners, the Glazers.

Flaws were in evidence even during an early rampage this season and the failings have been picked at in Europe and the consequences have been dire.

There will be a real hangover around Manchester on Thursday, but the thickest heads will be at Old Trafford because they will not have seen this one coming. Indeed Ferguson, it should be recalled, laughed in the face of a suggestion United were "struggling" in the Champions League after they drew with Benfica at Old Trafford.

Ferguson has now had two almighty shocks this season, the 6-1 home defeat by Manchester City and the notion of seeing his Thursday evenings disturbed by the Europa League.

Before the home game against Basel in September, Ferguson claimed the Champions League was the best competition in the world, ahead of the World Cup and European Championships. No-one explored his thoughts on the Europa League as he has never needed to have any.

If United are seeking a shaft of light in the gloom, it is that Ferguson has proved to be the master of regeneration before - but the scale of disappointment, maybe even shock, at what happened at Basel should not be underestimated.

He has the core of a strong team. Phil Jones will be an outstanding player in the future for United and while David de Gea was again fallible, he is a young keeper learning on the job and sound judges insist he will come good.

United also have young talent coming through in the shape of Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck to add to Jones and De Gea, with goals guaranteed for the future from Javier Hernandez, who was sorely missed on Wednesday.

Wayne Rooney remains United's key figure despite being out of sorts at Basel - but it is that figure of midfield authority that Ferguson must uncover, a powerful force in the mould of Paul Scholes or Roy Keane. Not an easy task, but until Ferguson completes it, this United side may be forever destined to fall short.

And Ferguson is also at his most dangerous when his back is against the wall, although he sounded as low and subdued as he ever has as he sifted through the damage inflicted on United's reputation in Switzerland.

Thursday nights will be busy in Manchester in 2012.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Congratulations to both Utd. & City. For having made it to the Europa league at the expense of Basel & Napoli respectively ;)

  • Comment number 2.

    London 2-0 Manchester

  • Comment number 3.

    Fergie out.

  • Comment number 4.

    A bit of reality check for a bunch of overpaid egos. Rooney’s wage is an equivalent to the half a Basel Teams wage :) No more comments required

  • Comment number 5.

    All too true Phil

    The last midfielder we bought was Anderson. We started last night with two wingers and a central defender in midfield. Not good enough

    There must be a couple of people in the world that could do the job?

    Anyway after a few years of getting by, I'm hoping he addresses the problem

    He should also use the Europa like the Carling cup and give Morrisson & Pogba a chance

  • Comment number 6.

    I have to say that was a very entertaining evening of Champions League football last night. To be fair to City they did what they needed to do but the other result just didn't go in their favour. United though? Arrogant fans of theirs were saying how easy it was going to be against Basle but, apart from Rooney's shocking miss (world-class my ****) they didn't create anything of note and have been knocked out despite having by far the easiest group to get out of.
    As an Arsenal fan I would be delighted to pull Basle out of the hat as indeed I would if it was Zenit or CSKA. Have a nasty feeling it will be Napoli or Milan though. Still looking forward to the draw. United and City fans will have to wait an hour to see who'll they'll get in the Europa Thursday league. Ha ha!

  • Comment number 7.


    Don't be silly

  • Comment number 8.

    United have been more than the sum of their parts for some time, but this season they are getting found out, just as I predicted.

  • Comment number 9.

    Sir Alex Ferguson this season has seen his team beaten 6-1 at home by his rivals, been knocked out the Carling Cup at home by lower league opposition, and now exited the Champions League at the group stage. Keep up the good work Fergie.

  • Comment number 10.

    I didn't see the Manchester United game last night as I was in the pub. I am very surprised at the result though. Was the 2-1 scoreline a fair reflection of the game?

  • Comment number 11.

    United have been more than the sum of their parts for some time, but this season they are getting found out, just as I predicted

    well being wrong the last 4 seasons you were bound to get 1 right evan accedentley, it was always going to catch up to us playing substandard or out of place centre midfielders, u cant rotate the like of jones,giggs,park,fletcher,ando in centre midfield and not expect to be in a bit of trouble eventually, hopefully this will see some new faces come in

  • Comment number 12.

    Staunch Utd fan here. Utd very poor all season. Out of CL, scraping scrappy 1-0 wins. This team will be found out this year due to Fergie not strengthening the midfield last summer when it was glaringly obvious last season we lacked there. Rooney has not been anywhere near a good striker for a season and a half. Ditch him and spend heavy if there are any decent players not been snapped up!! Difficult days at OT :-(

  • Comment number 13.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 14.

    @10 not really, played some good football but spurned way too many chances, Evans was a disaster as usual when he came on for Vidic, and Rooney's finishing woefull as usual.

  • Comment number 15.

    I am very surprised at the result though. Was the 2-1 scoreline a fair reflection of the game?

    as a united fan i have to say yes, the commentry on itv was a joke last night making out basels win to be a smash and grab, it was anything but, they got the early goal and their strikers played very intelligently, we never created a hatfull of great chances, never showed any urgency so deserved to go out

  • Comment number 16.

    Why the surprise, United's performances always suffer when their key performers are not available.Sadly I doubt Howard Webb will be allowed to ref United in Europe in the near future.

    Felt a bit sorry for City, as they were in a tough group, but Benfica, Basel and Galati is aabout as easy as it gets in the Champions League.

    Perhaps this new generation fergie has put together is not as good as the media like to think. They have been exposed in Europe, and despite their recent run of scrappy 1-0 wins, they will get found out in the premier league as well

  • Comment number 17.

    @14.At 08:34 8th Dec 2011, jonomutiny wrote:

    Thanks for that.

  • Comment number 18.

    This is the type of blog that will make Soul_Patch very happy and excited! Watch him murder EPL and ignore Villareal and Valencia!

  • Comment number 19.


    I said it last season, which is why the title is regarded as SAF's greatest achievement. It was Van De Sar that saved United in the league, and in matches like last night it would have been Scholes that made the difference.

    I predict United to be third maybe even fourth in the PL and exit all other competitions.

    No silver this year boys.

  • Comment number 20.

    Who should Manchester United go for to bolster their midfield?

  • Comment number 21.

    Yeah as a Utd fan it is not pleasant morning. I think complacency has something to do with it but Fergie, in my opinion, incorrectly highlighted the draw at Old Trafford as the reason for not qualifying. Personally I see Man Utd having 6 games to ensure qualification so too blame it on one result is no on.

    Most people recognise CM as a cause of concern for Utd but Rooney's form is another problem. I know many see Rooney as being close to Ronaldo or Messi in terms of ability but I have to disagree. Nani, despite some consistancy problems, is the bigger talent.

    I do think that Utd though are in a period of transition, with the talented youth coming through i think the future is good.

    I just hope CM is addressed in future and Fergie no longer says he is happy with the squad.

  • Comment number 22.

    Our play since the Chelsea win (and remember how hard Torres worked to carve out some world class misses) has been pathetic. We went through a bad defensive patch then went on a 1-0 string, lying to ourselves that it meant more solidity. On the balance of it, Spurs, Arsenal and Newcastle should be ahead of us if the league started after that game. Would I mind a ground-out 20th title? No, but I prefer us winning 5-4 on more occasions than 1-0. And please note, we have not scored more than a goal in the league for 6 or 7 games. WHY?
    My question is, what happened? Is Cleverly that important? In our first four games, I could honestly say "Bring on them Catalan dancers!" Now, I shudder to think what would have happened if we got that last goal and got drawn against Mourinho's boys or them dancers

  • Comment number 23.

    Man City certainly had the harder group than Man Utd and for me could possibly have gone through with more possitive tactics from Mancini. How can you take of a striker in Munich v Bayern when two nil down and replace him with a midfield player, Italian tactical ethos methinks. My missus could and should win most games, including champions league with a squad costing over £600mill. Man Utd are another matter they have lost top quality players and though some of the replacements like Phil Jones are top quality, De Gea is way short of the mark. The likes of Obertan, bought for much sold for little, Evans, Fletcher, Gibson Macheda are not top class champions league players.Fergie is now moaning that money is ruining the game, it did not seem to bother him quite so much, when United had twelve on the most expensive fifteen players brought into England.
    I know City fans seem to like Mancini, but for me he is negative, could have handled the Tevez situation better, it is no good having the royal silks and make them appear like a donkey jacket.

  • Comment number 24.

    @20, they should go for mikel obi! :p

  • Comment number 25.

    As a Spurs supporter with the exception of Arsenal, I always support the English teams in Europe. Utd and City will get a lot of stick from the Arsenal supporters today but look on the bright side, both of you will be back in the CL next season, they wont.

  • Comment number 26.

    I cannot believe I stayed up top watch that awful Man U performance. Sloppy passing, poor defense, zero attacking ideas, sluggish attitude towards the game etc. Since we played the first game in the CL against Basel at OT, every performance in every competition has just been pathetic. To exit the Carling Cup and CL to Crystal Palace and Basel in the space of a week just says it all. Poor poor match. I sorely miss Roy Keane

  • Comment number 27.

    Should have had a draw from the second half performance... but once again a lack of concentration at the back saw the second goal (just as it did the first!). Too wasteful in the final 3rd - either not the right ball or poor finishing.

    I think it says it all when the Basel defender who hit his own crossbar got a better touch on the cross than Rooney did all night - it was nearly a spectacular own goal, and had it been me and it had gone in, I would've turned to Wayne with a comment of "that's how to meet a cross" or something!

    On the night a draw may have been slightly fairer for the rest of the play, but on the whole Utd deserve to be out of CL as a just reward for Fergie's complacency in the earlier matches.

  • Comment number 28.

    United seem to be in permanent transition these days.Perhaps this,the tanking at the hands of City and that awful defeat at home to Crystal Palace may combine to shake them from their slumbers. United take far too much for granted at the moment.

    City were in a difficult group and have no real experience in Europe as a team but they are doing themselves no favours flashing their millions about and talking themselves up all the time,they've won nothing yet. Getting peoples backs up can backfire,I saw the Villareal game and to be honest they had no intention of even trying to lend City a hand last night.

    Still,maybe its not all doom and gloom. Both clubs may now treat the FA Cup with the courtesy it deserves (although of course one of them won't get past the first hurdle) and both must have a chance of winning the Europa League providing of course that their arrogance does not lead them to believe they can put reserve teams out and still succeed. We shall see.

  • Comment number 29.

    The main problem for Manchester United is that their squad is full of over-the-hill/over-rated English plodders; Giggs, Evans, Rooney, Fletcher. Do I need to go on? Yes, I think I will: Ferdinand, Owen, Jones, Welbeck, Carrick.

    If we're honest about it, half of United's squad wouldn't look out of place huffing and puffing for ''The Nut and Squirrel'' on a Sunday morning. At least ''Old Mike'' would probably be able to get more out of this United team than Alex does!

    But that brings us on to the other major problem for United: their manager. Alex has proved time and time again that the way he ''succeeds'' at United is through the blank chequebook which he's been handed by successive owners. In terms of man-management and tactics, Ferguson has always been inept and sub-par.

  • Comment number 30.

    20.At 08:40 8th Dec 2011, It wasnt me A big boy did it and ran away wrote:
    Who should Manchester United go for to bolster their midfield?

    Marek Hamsik. Though as a Blues fan I hope Chelsea buy him. He'll be a perfect replacement for Lampard (if & when he retires). Truly an amazing talent. Luka Modric also might be an option. Though i cant see any of them happening in January. Modric, maybe, but definitily not Hamsik as Napoli are still very much involved in Europe.

  • Comment number 31.

    Blame kevin Davies for all of this.

    He started the Man U rot by taking out Cleverly.

    Since then Man U have not been the same!!

  • Comment number 32.

    in defence of Soul-Patch (I must be mad) the top 3 in La Liga & the Premiership are separated by 7 points, yet their top 2 sides have cruised through qualification, winning 11 of 12 games between them. Maybe those 2 sides are just a cut above everything else in Europe.

    Anyway back to last night, City were always in trouble and their naivety cost them over the 6 games, they will look back and wonder if they should have settled for a point in Munich instead of trying to play too many forwards. Utd's has been coming for a while, if it is obvious to people like me that their midfield is weak then god knows how Utd fans must feel.

    You cannot line up with Young, Jones, Giggs & Nani and really expect to dominate Europe. Was Ashley Young really the solution after losing to Barca? They spend £17mill on a centre half and he ends up playing centre midfield to cover the weaknesses. The 'keeper looks a mess despite what people say about his shot stopping, his all round decision making isn't of the standard needed as yet.

    The biggest conundrum is surely Wayne Rooney, I know Henry Winter, Clive Tyldsley etc try & paint him as a world class footballer but lets be honest there has been zero evidence of it for a long, long time. To hear a commentator saying he will get dispirited if Utd don't give him the ball is a shocking excuse for the way he is playing. He isn't there to be pandered to, if he is the player they say he is he will make it happen. No goal from open play since September and to think people were trying to say he was up there with Messi & Ronaldo after 5 games this season.

    A big problem for Utd is who do they buy, City & Chelsea can compete for the top players & when Madrid & Barca are too always looking to strengthen then it won't get any easier to fill the necessary void that is missing in central midfield.

    PS I hope Vidic's injury isn't too bad, I saw Michael Owen go over like that when he played for England &, as a Newcastle fan, he never looked the same player.

  • Comment number 33.

    AVB was right..the english media will give excuses for city's failure to qualify..the most laughable of which is champions league inexperience..yaya toure,aguero,dzeko,balotelli,nasri,silva,de jong,clichy,kompany,kolo toure even mancini r not champions league novices..a similar arguement can be made for united if inexperience is the case

  • Comment number 34.

    I remember finishing forth a few years ago and the "fans" shouting.

    Fergie out, if real offer us 25p for Ronaldo we should snap their hands off, this squad is a pile of rubbish it will amount to nothing.

    Its not a great night for Manchester United, but it happens, if the problems are corrected (as they usually are with Fergie) then what can you do other than shake your head and say "it happens"

  • Comment number 35.

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

  • Comment number 36.

    the pain and embarassment for United. Can United now focus on EPL and FA Cup? Hope we'll do

  • Comment number 37.

    Much more concerned about MU at the moment. At the top table they just do not have enough talented players and those who do have talent eg Rooney, Nani, Berbatov are not scoring enough. Generally MU squad looks weak compared to Man City.
    Man City just have to develop confidence in Europe. Next season expect them to be much more of a force.

  • Comment number 38.

    29. At 08:52 8th Dec 2011, You wrote:

    The main problem for Manchester United is that their squad is full of over-the-hill/over-rated *English plodders

    *British plodders, before anyone starts!

    I'm so used to writing the phrase ''English plodders'', that it came out by force of habit. ;)

  • Comment number 39.

    By the way, Europa matches are on a Thursday evening, often 6pm kick off.

    CHANNEL 5 ;o)

  • Comment number 40.

    5. At 08:26 8th Dec 2011, theyoungun wrote:

    The last midfielder we bought was Anderson. We started last night with two wingers and a central defender in midfield. Not good enough

    Actually it was three wingers and a central defender. Giggs, Young, Nani, Jones

  • Comment number 41.

    Wake up call, a massive wake up call. The media and blog reaction will no doubt be over the top but SAF and Utd definitiely deserve a lot of criticism, particularly the former given his use of transfer funds in recent seasons. The media treatment of Arsenal at the start of the season, and Chelsea more recently, should mean that Utd get absolute pelters.

  • Comment number 42.

    @20 and @30

    I was going to say Hamsik too. Last couple of seasons he's been nothing short of brilliant. And I'd love to see Cavani come to the EPL too although not sure which team he'd fit into right now. Hopefully Arsenal as him and RVP would be phenomenal (if Cavani can oust Marouane "goal-machine" Chamakh).

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm not a United fan but can see that they desperately need some quality in midfield. I can't believe they didn't go after Parker or Modric and try harder to get Sneijder in the summer.

    As for the defence, Jonny Evans just ain't good enough for a top team.

  • Comment number 44.

    after arsenal had that depressing start(worst in our history),we have finished top of our CL group,which he havent done in a few seasons,got 19/21points in the league,favourable fa cup draw,and man u were laughing at us and our situation,but their team is rubbish to say the least,rooney hasd to be the most hyped up player in a generation,he actually does nothing for utd,or england

    i havent laughed as hard when basle beat them,all they needed was a draw against on paper one of the weaker teams in the competition,as the ref wasnt the 12th man for man u they didnt stand a chance,joke going around man u and man city are colaborating for a christmas aftershave/perfume,channel embarressing for one of the world best teams,they cant even match real,they cant even keep up with barcas shadows.the truth they are not good enough and last they werent good enough but fluked the title and cl final as the their competition was a joke(including arsenal),when they actually played a world class theam the good run off the park in 2009,2011 and lucky to win in 2008 as chelsea dominated but choked

    man city wasnt a surprise to go out,but with the money they have spent to finish behind napoli is humiliating,i hope nasri is happy with his paycheck,i good year in 4 seasons with arsenal and he thinks he is a superstar,same with adebayor and he is with arsenals perennial bridemaids now and the list will grow

    lol man u and ha ha ha ha,not nice is it,good luck my gooners and chelsea,lol at manchester the "new football captial of england".lol at bbc,are they moving back to london then?

  • Comment number 45.

    @WaldoSpur,dont get ahead of urself! Spur will not qualify for CL,and Arsenal is playing there nw but spur aint. So go talk to your class...west brom!

  • Comment number 46.

    United will recover as they always do with some changes. It's interesting that they took less flak when they failed in 2005 when they finished bottom of their group and didn't even make the Europa League.

    Not many people would have predicted following Chelsea's defeat at Old Trafford that Arsenal and Chelsea would qualify and City and United wouldn't. How things change in football.

    One thing I did notice from the Basel game was United's lack of effort in the middle of the park. It seems to me that they have lapsed into employing a containment type midfield style instead of the pressing style. Basel had way too much time to build attacks and there were gaping holes in the middle which exposes the back four terribly.

    Another issue is De Gea, who is the elephant in the room. We knew he was raw and so he's proven. You could fault him for both goals last night conceivably and his jitters have unsettled his defenders. Hard to pin this all on one player but defense has been horrible in Europe this season.

    City's main task is to learn from their exit. Inexperience has cost them but it is early days yet. They should go on to win the League this year and move on and upwards. Only if they don't will issues arise.

    I would expect City to field a strong team in the Europa games and United to treat it like a "European League Cup" and field their young players again.

    Chelsea have proven to be the dark horse in all of this and Villas Boas's tactical adjustments last night proved they are way off from being spent. Once Villas Boas has cleaned house, they will return to their form of old.

  • Comment number 47.

    Re 29.

    That team you have mentioned has reached the last 3 out of four champs league finals.

    They have experience. they will def need to be replaced but this will be slowly.

    To get rid of all at one go will be like the liverpool of the 90's when souness got rid of all experience.

    Man U can only get better. They will be in Europe atleast more longer than Chelsea and Arsenal.

  • Comment number 48.

    As an Arsenal supporter, I'm laughing my socks off at City. Sure, they'll win the Champs League in the next 5 years (financial fair play rules permitting) but for this season at least it's a lesson that money can't buy you everything. I loathe these manufactured teams!

    Feel a bit sorry for Utd though. They deserved to go through and frankly the knock out stages are weaker without them.

  • Comment number 49.

    My how the tables have turned. Monday everyone was convinced Chelsea was the crisis club and prediting how we would fall against Valencia. Celsea blitz Valancia while united see their hopes destroyed by Baselona (sorry, couldn't resist). Wath Villas-Boas' comments fatre the match and you'll see how horribly true he resonated, the media was so wrapped up in their mpersecution of Chelsea they failed to notice how unconvincing either of the Manchester clubs have looked in Europe

    As for United, I think they;re suffering as much from burnout as much as anything

    Goodness me as a Chelsea fan the number of tiems I was told smugly last season how it's a marathon not a sprint and consistency is the key. Havign said thta, there are some players not pulling their weight enough. Rooney has failed to score in the League since September, he has not scored at all since November 2nd, and was one of the biggest offenders last night. The funny thing is that no-one in the media has picked up on this and focus all their fire on Torres. I don't know what's up with Rio Ferdinand either, he looks a million miles away. Upset at losing the England captaincy?

    De gea has taken alot of unfair criticism but it's clear he does not have the composure and confidence of VDS. Given how successful the Dutchman was I was surprised Fergie didn't opt for another veteran, you only have to look at how good Friedel's been for Spurs

    Ashley Young looks a complete headless chicken, was good in the Arsenal mauling but has been wholly underwhelming since. As for Phil Jones, am I the only one who thinks the lad's defending is suspect? Given how much flak Luiz has taken it's laughable how little criticism Jones has received

    This clearly isn't the ned for manchester United but there is clearly much rebuilding to be done

  • Comment number 50.

    Wayne Rooney is a mediocre pro. Only United fans rate him.

    He may look good against the pub teams which make up half of the EPL, but he's practically invisible against semblance of a top side.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hahaha not that I'm disagreeing with Patches on all his points, but when you say "English" make sure the first name afterwards isn't a Welshman!

  • Comment number 52.

    29 The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:

    The main problem for Manchester United is that their squad is full of over-the-hill/over-rated English plodders; Giggs, Evans, Rooney, Fletcher. Do I need to go on?


    No please stop as you are making yourself look really foolish.

    Giggs is Welsh, Evans is Irish and Fletcher is Scottish.

  • Comment number 53.

    United and 5 European cups---dream on suckers.

  • Comment number 54.

    United lost to Baselona. The Swiss team shirt bears resemblance to Barcelona.

  • Comment number 55.


    All teams are 'manufactured', how are Arsenal any different?

    As for Arsenal - they will exit in the next round and not even have Thursday/Channel 5 to look forward too.

    This is the beginning of the end for SAF, and about time.

  • Comment number 56.

    "As a Spurs supporter with the exception of Arsenal, I always support the English teams in Europe. Utd and City will get a lot of stick from the Arsenal supporters today but look on the bright side, both of you will be back in the CL next season, they wont."

    Bearing in mind Arsenal were written off at the start of the season, in fact relegation was bandied about, and are now fifth, in the CL knock out stage and FA Cup I think any further predictions about their season are a little unwise, especially from a Spud ;-)

  • Comment number 57.

    It was the fact that Basle's jersey looked a lot like Barca's that was the reason for Utd's subdued performance!

    No seriously, this has been some time coming for Utd but honestly I think this could eventually turn out to be a good thing. I was surprised at how little tinkering was done with a team that was shown up to be several notches below Barcelona's class after the last CL final. Utd have been getting away with just doing minor cosmetic changes to the team for the last year and a half and maybe Ferguson will now concede that wholesale changes are now needed. I know that City/Chelsea/Real etc have vastly inflated the transfer market and to his credit Ferguson has largely refused to play that game but given the amount of talent that Utd have passively watched slip into domestic and European rivals' hands in the last three years I think he'll need to spend (knowing him probably on youth).

  • Comment number 58.

    33.At 08:53 8th Dec 2011, standupforthechampions wrote:

    Absolutulely. Couldn't agree more. I cannot understand how City are considered 'inexperienced' in Europe just because their team havent in Europe a lot. They seem to forget that the players on the pitch have had their fair share of European football albeit for another team. Not to mention their manager who has had his fair share of experience in the tournament as well. So all this talk of inexperience, to me, is nonsense.

  • Comment number 59.

    @48 - agree with what you say. Will never be happy to see the likes of Man City, Chelsea, Malaga, PSG do well. I hate to see Man U do well too but that's based on a begrudging respect for them. Man U are beginning to feel the squeeze from Man City like Arsenal did when Abramovic came to Chelsea. It's not just that they have such deep pockets they have a great squad, it's that they inflate prices and wage expectations and take many of the best players. In Man U's case I think NAsri would be good at OT (although I hate to say it), but Man City showed him the dollar and he warms their bench. A few years ago Arsene offered £12m for SWP - Chelsea nonchantly doubled it to £24m. (OK so this one worked out for AW!)

  • Comment number 60.

    Evra's right, it would have been better for United to get knocked out of Europe altogether like in 2005. Maybe a club like Liverpool will be happy with Thursday night football but Europa League at Old Trafford? No thanks. Will people even turn up to watch those games? Embarrassing.

  • Comment number 61.

    my 88 year old mum - who is a die hard supporter - said united were rubbish last night! Well they weren;t rubbish... but they were short of midfield guile and 'mastery.... and short of a normal strike force..... so Fergie... it's cheque book time..
    or else your legacy will not be that of "knocking liverpool off their perch" it will be the first United Manager for a very long time to be knocked off the perch by CITY!

    No trophies this season will mean more trophies at CITY.... no-one can deny that die hard city supporters don;t deserve it... but we are UNITED!!!

    Get a grip!

  • Comment number 62.

    Poor show from Man U. City cant really be too harshly criticised as their league was tough.

    Also - the soul patch of David Viltord (or whatever he is called) should be acknowledged for being the only person who said that Lyon could get the 7 goal swing they needed on some other blog yesterday. I hope you put some money on it. Keep up the tips!

  • Comment number 63.

    @44.At 08:56 8th Dec 2011, adrenilenepotato wrote:

    "lol at manchester the "new football captial of england""

    Strange, isn't it, that no London club have ever won the CL. Why would that be? Is it that they are just not good enough?

  • Comment number 64.

    "55. At 09:02 8th Dec 2011, dogeared wrote:

    All teams are 'manufactured', how are Arsenal any different?"

    Manufactured by throwing money at it. Probably fairly obvious to most people what I meant, but obviously needs further explaining to you. Get it now?

  • Comment number 65.

    Zeemo, hello Zeemo, yes you ZEEMO, aren't you comment today?

    Man U were lucky to draw against Benfica, one their goals were offside.

    Week in week out, you talk of inferior leagues, of inferior teams winning inferior cups.

    Now eat humble pie!

  • Comment number 66.

    We got what we deserved last night.
    Whilst we can point to a few injuries and the run of the ball not in our favour..the plain fact is that our football has been poor for a couple of years now. when Carlos decided to leave us for the 2nd time,SAF once again turned to Mike Phelan..and like the last time he was in charge of coaching,the standard of our game has fallen dramatically.
    Read Gary Nevs book where CQ had the players preparing for the Barca semi in 08 for a full fortnight,with nothing overlooked.
    Contrast the two finals where Utd were totally outplayed.
    We have some good players..unfortunately,we have little tactical know how,some players struggle to find the man 5yds away,resort to long ball too often and have players who ,having failed to shine against Palace,were once again trusted to win a game. I won't name names,but these players would not get into Utd's 3rd team in '99.
    Most commentators agreed that Utd last season played average football..yet we still ended up Champs! This may have given SAF a false sense of security,when virtually every fan has known that our midfield is totally inept. It has never been weaker under Fergie's watch.
    A week after apologising for our league cup exit,SAF watches Utd lose to one of Europe's minnows. I now expect a trophyless season. It will be a worthwhile experience if Fergie is forced to act. That means our reserves to be moved on and last season's youth cup winners to provide back up for the remaining season.
    A top coach is a who is prepared to give us back our football and not settle for mediocrity.
    We have some very good players on the verge..they are our future and must now be given time on the pitch.
    The usual suspects have failed us once too often.
    Rant over...just to say that this Manc Red will be hoping that Chelsea go all the way and win the CL. Good luck!

  • Comment number 67.

    Atleast Ferguson can now aim and win the 1 trophy he has never won!

  • Comment number 68.

    That teams like QPR, Norwich and Swansea can easily hold their own in the EPL shows that it is NOT a very strong league.

    Which is why ManU can win it - most years - with relative ease.

    But put ManU up against European teams...

    Ferguson may dominate the EPL but he does NOT dominate Europe.

    Two champions league wins? In how many years????

  • Comment number 69.

    "Manufactured by throwing money at it. Probably fairly obvious to most people what I meant, but obviously needs further explaining to you. Get it now?"

    I didnt realise Arsenal consisted of free transfers and youngsters snapped up for nothing.

    Fair play Wenger

  • Comment number 70.

    The writing's on the wall. It's in his own hand. But can he read it?

  • Comment number 71.

    I can't put into words how frustrated I feel this morning. Not about last nights result, Basel fully deserved to win, but about the way the team is being run. Ferguson needs to discover who his best eleven is and stick with them. United need to bring in two midfielders, one Keane-esque and one Scholes-esque. Last night only Giggs, Nani and Ferdinand had a decent game. Park was abysmal, and whilst he gives plenty of endeavour and always does well against Arsenal he needs binning. Hopefully being out of the Carling Cup and the Champions League will force Fergie's hand into putting out a settled eleven and buying at least one new midfielder player (with experience) during the transfer window.

    The best way to look at it is if United put these players on the transfer market, would another top team (champions league qualifiers) buy any of these first team players?


    Yet these are what we have to rely upon. Not good enough. I still think we are in with a shout of the league, but only with a much more settled side.

    Well done to both Arsenal and Chelsea for qualifying. Best wishes for the rest of the tournament.

  • Comment number 72.

    @WaldoSpurs: Yes, we know your in the top 4 and we are not (yeah, a Gunner here mate), and I hope you get to enjoy the CL (Finally) one day .. But its early yet mate...With your squad looking just about as deep as a pond on a summer day, and your inexperience in taking the campaign through, I think you'l perennially be shadowing Arsenal. So watch this space! Spurs 6th come feb, Arsenal 4th!!!!

  • Comment number 73.

    A shocker and no mistake.

    Bad for Man City, but they had a tough group and little experience in the CL. They made mistakes but should be able to build from it.

    Man Utd, simply, should be much much better than this. Much easier group and bafflingly they managed to fluff it. I think the loss of the CL revenue will not actually hurt them too much, but it's still a big embarassment.

  • Comment number 74.

    While obviously when the draw was made you would have expected United to have sailed through, and said City were maybe 50/50 to get through their group so them both finishing third is surprising.
    I'd like to make the point though that The Europa League, as a competition, is not as bad as everyone likes to make out. The reason that fans don't like it is the way UEFA have marketed it - changing the name, silly kick off times, too many games & playing on Thursdays so your domestic games are pushed back to Sunday. Put it back to how it was, and the UEFA Cup becomes a competition teams would be glad to win again.

  • Comment number 75.

    This is a wake up call for united. We were scraping by in the league, i for one am quietly happy we are put out, afterall we were going to get put out the next round anyway so atleast its out of the way. Also because this would be a kick up united's backside to go out and buy quality players. Gaitan from Benfica is a gem. Sneijder, Goetze. ive always said we needed players like Ozil, or yaya toure. players who can run with the ball and create a chance. It was laughable how nani and young kept 'crossing' the ball for Rooney who isn't gifted in the height department. A tall strong striker is neeed. Falcao would've been perfect but fergie always goes for lightweight diminutive players. Hernandez is good but he isnt going to go round defenders like Tevez Aguero or Drogba. We NEED to IMPROVE. The midfield is a joke. our play is almost too predictable and we are leaking goals. Rant over.

  • Comment number 76.

    "68. At 09:11 8th Dec 2011, The Midland 20 wrote:

    Two champions league wins? In how many years????"

    Two Champs League wins is pretty impressive actually. As an Arsenal supporter, I'd kill for just one. Spurs would do all manner of depraved things just to get into the qualifying rounds!!!

  • Comment number 77.

    ♪♫...United are Red, City are Blue, They both outspent Arsenal, But Arsenal got through..♪♫

  • Comment number 78.

    @46.At 08:56 8th Dec 2011, SoccerLimey wrote:

    "Hard to pin this all on one player but defense has been horrible in Europe this season."

    So it is not just a midfield that they need but a new keeper and a defence. Actually, they are not scoring too many, so maybe they need a new forward line as well. Who would you keep?

  • Comment number 79.

    Let me just say, we (United) were attrocious. This result is no surprise based on recent performances.

    Sure, we were a glaring miss away from the next stage, and we would probably have gotten better as we progress through the season, but it would have papered over the obvious flaws and you can't point to one or two misses against teams of the level (albeit with experience) of Basel.

    The squad is threadbare beyond the first choice, we never looked like scoring, Smalling needs to be moved on from full back - it's not his position, and his failure to track cost us badly, and we need to bring in a striker who will actually offer proper constant threat (the likes of Cavani).

    All the chickens we were aware of came home to roost, so hopefully that is what was needed to move on some makeweights and do what we need to - either to bring some of the youngsters through (midfield) or some fresh blood in (up front).

  • Comment number 80.

    Whatever analysis is offered here and by others including both City and Utd there are just 2 words which sum up why these clubs have exited.


    Nothing else is needed as an excuse.

  • Comment number 81.

    1. At 08:15 8th Dec 2011, Nitin_Vijay wrote:
    Congratulations to both Utd. & City. For having made it to the Europa league at the expense of Basel & Napoli respectively ;)


    This comment made my day!

  • Comment number 82.

    Fresh creativity in midfield, our fullbacks back being played, and a decent striker. It's not THAT much to ask for?

  • Comment number 83.

    "69. At 09:12 8th Dec 2011, Jesus the Teddy Bear wrote:
    "Manufactured by throwing money at it. Probably fairly obvious to most people what I meant, but obviously needs further explaining to you. Get it now?"

    I didnt realise Arsenal consisted of free transfers and youngsters snapped up for nothing.

    Fair play Wenger"

    Point well and truly missed - well done.

  • Comment number 84.

    There is a lot of talk about Man Utd spending cash to rebuild or buy that "ace" in midfield, but looking at the last 12 months, Scholes was asked to stay on, Giggs still there, the reason being that the money isnt there to replace them, and as for January, hahaha, i would be suprised, when was the last time United bought anyone in January? and with the premium prices and no CL, i can't see it happening.. as for next summer? good luck, i think SAF won't even have his usual budget of 25 million. As for Man City, well they will have their hands tied up with regulations on spending, but i don't think they need to go out there and buy a load of new players, maybe just 1 or 2 youngsters, they will do better next year in the CL even with the same squad..Just my thoughts.

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • Comment number 86.

    Wow, lots of people claiming the end of United. McNulty on a major rant as well, lack of perspective.

    This is a huge embarassment, I am still raging now. BUT we have been through this before and we will come through it again. We have the nucleus of a great new team, Ferguson is the greatest manager at regenerating a team when the old guard are no longer up to it (Carrick, Giggs, Rio, Evra etc).

    Why are people saying we have needed a midfielder for the last year??? We have needed a central midfielder for the last 5 years!!!!!!!! This could be the massive wake-up call everyone at United needs. The Glazers must show their cards and stump up the money.

    Oh and I agree with previous posters, Europa league should be for Pogba, Fryers, Morisson etc.

  • Comment number 87.

    Phil a good blog summing up the situation with perspective for both City & Utd..

    It will be interesting how SAF treats the Europa, for once, for a massive club, I do believe it is of major importance. There is the distinct possiblity come the knockout stages, the Europa will be all that is left for Utd to play for. This is a club that is used to winning trophies infact they demand trophies.

    I do not believe the exit for Utd was a shock, it has been clear, that lack of form, lack of quality in the important positions has been the problem. From the goalkeeper, R/back, central midfield, creative midfield, they are poor for what is considered a top team.

    People have thrown stat after stat [always used to bolster a weak arguement], the results to bolster Utd's case but the eyes do not lie, they have been poor all season.

    Rooney losing the ball on the edge of his area [2nd goal] summed up, last night's performance. Why was he there, he was playing as a striker, with his team a goal down, minutes left and his team on their way out. De Gea, no excuses please, you do not go into a 'do or die' game with players needing experience, you use the League and FA cups for that if your in the category of a team like Utd. Jones a defender in midfield shows desperation, Smalling, is he really a right back? Giggsy, the only source of playmaking creativity but he is near the end and it shows as each game passes.

    Your right Phil, City can be excused for a number of reasons but Utd, it has been evident for all to see for a long time.

  • Comment number 88.

    @71.At 09:12 8th Dec 2011, rodders77 wrote:

    I'd buy Berbatov.

  • Comment number 89.

    Patches, you're not on your best form at the moment, bit like the United midfield...

    If United are the Squirrels Nuts, what does that make Basle?

  • Comment number 90.

    This makes pretty interesting reading - in the current Prem League, Arsenal are 15th in terms of net spend on transfers.

    West Brom, Stoke and Wolves are all above us. Pretty remarkable that Arenal remain competitive season after season. Spurs are fifth and haven't got anywhere near winning the league and managed to scrape into the Champs League once!

  • Comment number 91.

    Citeh are a team in transition. United are not. United are just a poor side. I am not convinced about Chelsea either. Valencia hand them gifts for the two first goals, thjen they had to chase the game and Chelsea hit on the counter. Arsenal will be found out too. Their comeback domestically is all down to how poor the PL is.

    Well well. Now that the PL is Europa League standard, we should brace ourvelves for an information overload about how great and important the Europa league is.. The PL - best league in the world 'we dominate in the Europa League'!

  • Comment number 92.

    88. At 09:22 8th Dec 2011, It wasnt me A big boy did it and ran away wrote:
    @71.At 09:12 8th Dec 2011, rodders77 wrote:

    I'd buy Berbatov.

    Absolutely! Berbatov is a genuinely gifted player. The rest on that list are mediocre hacks in comparison.

  • Comment number 93.


    Errm, no, I don't get it.

    You're going to have to explain how Arsenal built their squad differently to everyone else...

  • Comment number 94.


    "But put ManU up against European teams...
    Ferguson may dominate the EPL but he does NOT dominate Europe."

    You do realise you're talking about a team in the CL final three times in the last 4 years?

    However, we haven't improved our squad recently to the level needed, but that's no surprise when you have to replace such top players in so many departments.

  • Comment number 95.

    How bright it all was for United at the start of the season with SAF being hailed as the man who has rebuilt yet another triumphant Utd side.
    Whilst there were glimpses of potential the shortage of a class midfielder was going to be one of their undoings.
    Whilst off loading Brown and O'Shea was a no brainier there are still players like Evra (past his best) and Evans who is not good enough.
    The keeper also worried me as did their options up-front.
    As an aside what has their top scorer of last season (Berbatov) done to have miffed SAF so much???
    So I'm not surprised they have struggled.
    However they are still 2nd in the Premier League so is this a reflection on the quality of our own Domestic League?
    On balance I don't think so as I think that SAF secretly thought Utd could cruise to the next stages in much the same way Utd could beat Palace with their eyes closed.
    It's a big wake up call for Utd and their supporters with the EPL title their only top target.
    As we've seen (CITEH apart) there are still at least three clubs who could pop Fergie's balloon yet further: Spurs, Chelsea and even Arsenal could finish above Utd
    It wil be interesting to see how SAF reacts.
    I suspect that he will be more active in January ithan in years gone by!!

  • Comment number 96.

    "Citeh are a team in transition. United are not. United are just a poor side."

    This is reactionary nonesense. We are also a team in transition, we have been since we last won the champs league but the actual problem that has happened is Chelsea gifted us the league last year making everyone believe everythign was A-OK, when all United fans knew it certainly wasn't.

    This is the bolt that is needed I just personally wish we had come 4th now.

  • Comment number 97.

    #33. you're absolutely correct, about the ridiculous excuses the English press makes for the Manchester clubs and the slack the FA match officials cut them. When you look at the way the English match officials officiate a football match and when you consider that when a team like Chelsea tries to play in the EPL the way football is played in the best football competition in the world, they're labeled softies and complainers and yet the Northern/Manchester clubs have been found out. Anyway even off the field, the FA is an outsider relative to the umbrella football governing bodies UEFA/FIFA.

  • Comment number 98.

    you (mostly) Englishmen are always try to avoid the reality check.

    both teams were very poor during the whole competition.
    in City's case everyone forgets about the fact that Mancini is ITALIAN and given this particular fact he was unable to prepare his team properly against an ITALIAN team he knows probably better than all the English ones!

    in United's case has anybody noticed how did one defender heading into another before the first goal? or when 'the very talented and future leader' Chris Smalling did not follow Frei as he was waiting for de Gea to come?

    in both teams caches and players made a large amount of mistakes through the group stage - neither of them were prepared for what might come, so they are not more than overpaid unprofessionals.

  • Comment number 99.

    Terry Lampard the blues brothers

    Interesting I had the same thought as soon as the Charity Shield finished. Why did SAF not get a veteran keeper as cover for De Gea. Friedel was a certainty for me, reliable with a season or two left in him.

  • Comment number 100.

    89. At 09:24 8th Dec 2011, EazilyGrizly wrote:

    Patches, you're not on your best form at the moment, bit like the United midfield...

    You might be getting me confused with #35 and #85 who is one of my imitators.

    Just click on the poster's name, and you'll see which one is real. ;)


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