BY HARKET SUCHDE
In European Football, one trophy is coveted by every major club above all else – the UEFA Champions League. The red devils are no different, and will be hoping to go one step further in the competition than they did last year, where they succumbed to the might of Barcelona in the finals of the tournament.
Judging by the red devils’ performance in their recent qualifier tie against Portuguese club and champions league minnows Benfica it appears that this might be a bridge too far for the reigning premier league champions.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has had a difficult summer. The core of his highly experienced side that progressed so well in last season’s champion’s league have left the club. Their goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar, who was an assured presence between the posts finally hung up his gloves, Powerhouse defender Gary Neville followed suit, and club legend Paul Scholes too called an end to his career, leaving a gaping void in the United midfield.
Sir Alex responded by purchasing young Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea form Atletico Madrid to fill in the big boots of Van Der Sar, and promoted youngsters such as Fabio Da Silva and Tom Cleverley from within the club’s setup to replace Neville and Scholes respectively.
Between them, these youngsters have minimal champion’s league experience and this appears to be the first big stumbling block in United’s road to champion’s league glory. Although Cleverley has shown flashes of brilliance for the reds this season, he is no Paul Scholes, and will find it difficult to replicate the quality and consistency that the Englishman produced for United. Da Silva too has appeared shaky at times, and De Gea has made a number of high profile blunders in goal for United, a stark contrast from the calming presence of Van Der Sar.
Apart from this, Barcelona who hit the back of United’s net with absurd ease in last year’s final, have added some more firepower to an already potent attacking side with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. Real Madrid too have visibly strengthened an already star studded line-up with the purchase of Coentrao, Altintop and Nuri Sahin among others, and appear to be a formidable force in this tournament.
United’s local rivals Manchester City who have also qualified for the champion’s league this season, may prove to be the dark horse of the tournament. With high profile purchases such as Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Sergio Aguero and Stefan Savic, Manchester City will definitely hope to push on and leave a mark on the tournament this season.
Football is an unpredictable game. There’s no two ways about it and it is near impossible to predict the fates of clubs with such quality as the ones participating in this year’s champion’s league. But judging by the evidence at hand, United will have to wait at least another year for a taste of European glory.