(I'm referring to United as "we". And I'm sure some United fans will disagree with this post. But I feel I need to rant)
As a United fan, waking up this morning knowing that we’re out of the Champions League is still difficult to accept. Actually, waking up knowing we’re in the Europa League is what’s worse. Manchester United in the Europa League. It doesn’t even sound right. Over the past 3 nights before last night's game, I had told a friend that I kept having nightmares that we’d lose and go out – which we both laughed off. The nightmare came true. Basel beat us 2-1 last night and we, deservedly, are out of the Champions League. Here are my pointers:
1 - This is not a transition phase as some United fans are putting it. This is not even a phase. There’s no transition nonsense. It is simply a reminder that there is something very wrong with this Manchester United side and Ferguson hasn’t realized it yet: the team is simply not good enough. His comments before the game are evidence of that: "we have a strong squad and that squad will see us go through without question".
2 - The Vidic injury is almost as painful as being knocked out.
3 - Did anyone else shit on themselves when they saw Johnny Evans coming on?
4 - I’m reading everywhere things downplaying Basel’s victory as a one-off. Mediocrity succeeding. Can somebody please give that team credit? They’re a good team and this victory for them is probably one of the greatest results in their history, so take nothing away from their achievements. Just because they are not part of Europe’s “elite” clubs, doesn’t mean they’re a bad Football club.
5 - No club has a god-given right to win. Some Manchester United fans seem to believe that just because we’re “Manchester United”, we must always win. Football isn't like that. Names don't win games. We were shit last night and during the entirety of this competition so far and we paid the price.
6 - If we can’t qualify from a group that contains Basel, Benfica, and Otelul Galati – then we deserve to get knocked out. Even Stoke City would have provided a better fight than we did.
7 - I personally would have preferred if we got knocked out a-la 2005, instead of like this. Meaning I'd have preferred if we ended up bottom of the group and not 3rd with the Europe League to deal with on Thursday nights. I've never seen us play in that competition before and it'll be very strange. However, I do hope Ferguson treats that competition in the same manner he treats the Carling Cup - playing the fringe players. Simply because the focus has to be solely on the Premier League now.
8 - A Champions League without Manchester United in the latter stages is simply a weaker Champions League. Love us or hate us, you know it’s true.
9 - This exit, and the subsequent reactions, reminded me that United are still the most hated team in all the land. Some find it stupid; I think we should take it as a compliment. I know I do.
10 - This has nothing to do with Manchester City going out as well. Their exit not a consolation. This is their first season in the tournament, they can use that excuse. They're still a small club in my eyes (just with a shitload of money). United are seasoned professionals at this level and stumbling at this stage of the competition goes to show how poor this United side have been. What's our excuse?
11 - For all the summer rumors about United needed a creative midfielder and so on, the ball-winner in the centre of the park is what has been missing. The sort of player who’ll bust a gut to get the ball back. The midfield looked lame every time possession was lost. Yesterday provided further evidence of that, but throughout this season we've seen it occur numerous times.
12 - Wayne Rooney is a fantastic Footballer; but he’s a not a fantastic striker. He also must be the most fragile Footballer I’ve ever seen. Anytime the slightest miscue happens off the field, Rooney goes ballistic and/or loses his form on it. This is not an overreaction. Correct me if I'm wrong. Rewind one year ago when there was the whole “cheating on his wife” fiasco – he went almost 3 months without a goal (that's without mentioning the transfer request). This season, his father got caught up in a betting scandal and the press are all over him – he gets sent off for England (stupidly) and hasn’t scored in almost 2 months.
His efforts on the pitch are incredible but if there’s no end product, then it’s pointless. If history has proven anything with Rooney though, it’s that he scores in bulks. He’ll go missing more 2 months and then score a heavy load for 2 months – allowing the fans to forget his inadequacies in front of goal. Let’s hope he does that again…soon. Not blaming him for this, collectively United were poor (I'm insisting on that).
13 – I’m calling on all United fans to look through every single goal we’ve conceded this season, and count how many of them have come either directly from an attack that was down our left-hand side and/or the player that Evra was supposed to be marking. Where has the real Patrice Evra vanished to?
14 – I wonder how much Europa League tickets are going to be valued at. If it’s anywhere near the £50-60 mark, we’ve got a problem.
15 – Such is the usual success that United fans, and the team, are used to, that we all looked beyond the group stages when the draw was made and believed it was a foregone conclusion before a ball was even kicked. Looking at Fergie’s line-ups throughout the competition, we can say – he thought the same.
Back to reality and back to square one...
United have no one else to blame but themselves. Poor, poor, Football is being played by our boys and it’s time for some big changes to be made. We're all pretty disappointed, upset and what not - but we'll bounce back. That's the way this club works and that's why we love it. Win, lose, draw, struggle - always show your support! Onwards and upwards and as always...
We’ll keep the Red Flag flying high!