“Rumours of Manchester United’s European demise have been greatly exaggerated,” boomed Jeff Stelling with his customary smile, as he turned to camera one at half-time in Munich last night. It will be a while before he’s able to trot that line out again.
For to coin a phrase from one of their own, Manchester United are “a million miles away” from winning the Champions League.
In the wake of last night’s exit to Bayern Munich, words like brave, immense, and resilient have been used to describe their performance over two legs. Almost as if keeping the score down – or at least making it a contest of sorts - was an achievement, bordering on heroic.
Hang on. If you’re the reigning champions of England, does sticking 11 men behind the ball (home and away) hoping for a little luck or inspiration on the break, really sound that courageous?
This admiration for United’s fortitude - in a tie that reminded me of hours spent playing attack versus defence on the training ground - is of course down to the fact that David Moyes’s team simply aren’t on the same level as Bayern Munich. They’re a million miles apart - and that’s the biggest concern.
Take the detestably brilliant Arjen Robben for example. He’s in a different league to anything that United possess. Worryingly, the same could be said for most of Pep Guardiola’s players, who’d dominate a game of Top Trumps against their Red Devil counterparts.
The Spaniard is a wonderful a coach, but the tools he has to work with are gilded diamonds, in comparison to those that belong in Moyes’s tired-looking old box.How on Earth has a club that boasts it’s one of the biggest on the planet get themselves into a situation where they possess no world-class players?
By paying Wayne Rooney £300,000-a-week they clearly think they have one, but as superb as he can be, Wazza falls just short of the game’s elite. The same with Robin van Persie and Juan Mata too.
Unlike Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, or even Liverpool, I don’t see any of their players getting near a World XI. Very few Manchester United stars would walk straight into any of those rival sides either, by the way.
Their European demise is not greatly exaggerated, Jeff. It’s a fact.
They have to rip things up and start again. Without Champions League football for at least a year, possibly several, the Cristianos of this world aren’t likely to give them the time of day. It’s unrealistic to think otherwise.
The name Manchester United will always attract talent though. So, instead they’ll have to target the progressive sorts; hungry young players with the potential to one day sit at the top table - like Ronny.
This could take time, but there’s simply too much at stake for Manchester United as a business for them to be estranged from the Champions League for a lengthy period. They have to put themselves back in the spotlight quickly.
Initially employed because he was a safe pair of hands, David Moyes’ brief never included plans for a sudden and major renovation.
Yet right now the club needs a dynamic coach who won’t be afraid to tear his squad apart and rebuild from top to bottom, someone who can instantly lure star talent to Old Trafford, someone with a clear vision that’s capable of developing gifted young players quickly, and moulding them into a great new team.
With so much money on the line and not a great deal of time to play with, that’s a whopping great responsibility for a man that’s never won a major trophy.
Does the Manchester United board truly believe they have the right person in place to undertake this revolution? That’s just one of several huge decisions they have to get right this summer.
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