Thursday, December 11, 2008

Great Danes rise to the occasion, but United look unconvincing...

I'm hoping that United fans will have appreciated the performance of Aalborg who came away with a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford last night. United were guilty of missing a few chances, but for me the result was a pretty fair reflection of the game and so the visitors deserve much credit. Aalborg closed United down all over the pitch, in so doing ensuring that it was a proper Champions League contest and not the walk-over that some will have predicted prior to kick-off.

The result meant that United finished up as Group winners, the Reds' also equalled a 19-match unbeaten European run held by Bayern Munich and Ajax. So much for stats, but what are United's chances of becoming the first club to retain the Champions League since its inception?

United's performances in Europe thus far this season have been less than stellar, which may or may not be an omen for what lies ahead, because the competition starts from here on in as we head into the knockout round of 16.

I'm of the opinion that the Champions League has been pretty much wide open for any of the leading teams to have won the competition for a number of years and this season is no different - which is why anyone connected with United, be that supporters, players or even the manager would be foolish to write off say, Real Madrid, or god forbid Liverpool.

I have a question for any readers of this blog, can anyone tell me with any degree of conviction that you know what Fergie believes to be his strongest first-team? Despite his contribution in the derby win, I’m of the opinion that Ji Sung Park should not be starting in the really big games. You can say the same about what I'm saying is Fergie himself is unsure of what his strongest team is...

Furthermore, I happen to believe that the United manager is bedevilled with questions concerning the role that the likes of Scholes and Giggs should play for the remainder of the campaign. These veteran midfield stars could potentially make or break United's season is my view and in knockout competitions you don't have the luxury of putting it right as in the group games.

Seasoned observers of United know that tactics are not one of Fergie's strongest points and so it will be very interesting if the Reds' come up against Jose Mourinho and Inter Milan, because the former Chelsea coach is something of a tactical genius - even if you do not like his style of play one has to appreciate his work.

While tactics are undoubtedly an important factor I also believe that there needs to be a degree of continuity where selection issues are concerned, but right now I just do not know what United's strongest midfield is.

For the reasons outlined in this post I'm unconvinced that United will retain the trophy they won in Moscow last May.

On slightly more positive note, in the recent Manchester derby Fergie made Mark Hughes look tactically inept, if only the Champions League could be such a walk in the park.

For what it's worth here's my Champions League verdict on the remaining 16:

Roma - doubtful winners
Panathinaikos - gone as far as they can
Barcelona - doubtful winners
Liverpool - potential winners
Manchester United - potential winners
Bayern Munich - potential winners
Porto - Unlikely winners
Juventus - potential winners
Chelsea - potential winners if they do not lose focus
Inter Milan - strong contenders
Sporting - making up the numbers
Atletico Madrid - making up the numbers
Villarreal - making up the numbers
Lyon - making up the numbers
Arsenal - doubtful winners
Real Madrid - doubtful


  1. Why are Barcelona only 'doubtful winners?' They're playing some of the best football in Europe this year. Not just their attacking players, but throughout the whole team.


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