I wasn’t sure how to approach this. Wrested from the safe hands of Zayd Jawad, this column’s consistency was jeopardized even before I sat down at the keyboard. I was hoping for an easy one by the way: a one-two-three done, through, hope we get APOEL sort of job. Whoops.
1. Thursday nights: Book them out. Disappear. Go somewhere, anywhere. Avoid watching what you know will hurt. Manchester United are now a Europa League team. The juggernauts, participants in three out of the last four finals, are going to spend the next six months entrenched in late week mediocrity. Everyone hates Thursdays. False hope at the end of a long work week, and now this. We’re going to be mixing it with Stoke. In Europe. We’re going to be competing in an event that means nothing to its most prestigious participants. Honestly, I wish we had finished fourth. Whoops.
2. The numbness: It hurts now, but not half so much as it will hurt when, from a safe distance, we observe happenings in Switzerland or Monaco or wherever ‘Champions League Teams’ enjoy fine dancing and Platini’s pomposity. They might get to see a draw, too. That’s when it will really sink in. Because directly after the conclusion of that event United will have their name drawn from a pot. But our little ball won’t resemble a Champions League matchday miniature. In fact, I don’t know what it will look like because I’ve never actually paid much attention to goings on in the Europa League. Whoops.
3. The match: It wasn’t that bad, really. Nani was brilliant, Giggs superb and Evra actually half-decent (going forward at least). Phil Jones’ header minutes from the end was his second goal in two matches. Not bad for a man who before last week’s game had yet to score at the professional level. The defense was frightful, though. Evans just isn’t up to snuff, Rio’s aging and Vidic’s injury looks serious – not that any of the reporters will bother asking Sir Alex about that.
I’m no tactical genius, but there seemed to be a clear problem in the wide defensive positions – Basel’s two goals both stemmed from Shaqiri crosses that should have been closed down. But wait, I just said Evra played well. Whoops.
4. We had it coming: If you treat the Champions League the way Sir Alex Ferguson has treated it this year, you will be punished. It’s not an incubator for young stars. It’s not a mechanism for inflating Dimitar Berbatov’s appearance statistics. And it certainly isn’t Michael Owen’s playpen.
It must be admitted, I popped a few corks after the draw had been announced – Otelul Galati, who are they? Looks like Sir Alex did too. But I’m just a fan, I’m supposed to be naive. I’m a Mancheter United fan, I’m supposed to be insufferably arrogant. In fact, right now I should be saying that the European Cup is a mickey mouse competition, and that United’s absence only accentuates the fact. But Fergie is bigger than all that. He should have identified the problem faster. Whoops.
5. What we need: Save Van Der Sar, the squad that propelled us to Wembley last season was largely the squad that kicked-off this year’s campaign. The weakened teams Ferguson sent out for the opening fixtures were comparable to the weakened teams he has routinely sent out at the group stage of the competition since Moscow ’08. So really, United shouldn’t have struggled, especially not in Group C, by far the weakest drawn. Our failure indicates a major problem. We are still in need of a midfield enforcer and a creative player to complement Rooney. Our defense is a shambles (where is Rafael!?). We’re over reliant on Rooney and Hernandez. We just got beaten by Basel. Basel. Whoops.
Okay, it’s over. Sorry. Back to Zayd now. Apologies Zayd if I just destroyed your column’s reputation. If so, well, erm… whoops?