1. We could have a Manchester derby…… again!
So far we’ve had the thrilling 3-2 Manchester United comeback in the Community Shield, the 6-1 mauling given by City to their neighbours on their own turf, an encounter in the third round of the FA cup to look forward to during the post Christmas and new years blues and now we have the possibility of viewing these two giants] coming head to head in such a prestigious, and I use that word loosely, competition as the Europa League.
Imagine the setting; its half seven on a Thursday evening, the man that presents ITV’s Champions League highlights, whose name is irrelevant to the point I’m about to make, is talking tactics with the men that have accomplished absolutely nothing trophywise on the channel absolutely no one cares about and commentating are the heavyweights of their field Jim Beglin and David Pleat.
2. Manchester United’s youngsters can finally play competitive football.
Sir Alex Ferguson is famous for doing many things in football and one of them can be summed up by a sentence from another Scottish ex-footballer: “You can’t win anything with youngsters.” I am of course using the same quote that has been used more times than Katie Price has sold stories about her sex/private/home life to a pointless magazine.
One of the reasons Man U have remained one step ahead of the game in terms of the ‘Big four’ is Fergies ability to get the best out of youngsters and at the start of the season Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverly, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all looked to be another example of Fergie sprinkling some of his magic dust onto the youth team. Alas though for Cleverly a season that started so brightly has burnt away into injury problems and the rest are beginning to fade away already. Not to worry though as Federico Macheda, Jonny Evans and Ashley Young all came in and showed the hard working and hardcore Man U fans that the trip to the country of the cuckoo clocks and chocolate was worthwhile because now they can look forward to seeing even more of them and the enigmatic Bebe in the Europa League.
Perhaps even Michael Owen can roll back the years.
3. More time to focus on the league.
For Man United, playing catch up is not a problem as they showed against Newcastle in the mid 90’s and now that they have one less competition to worry about the EPL will be the main focus. This would make the Premiership as easy to conquer as one of Rupert Murdoch’s enemies if the team ahead of them didn’t have a better squad, a larger squad and previous experience in the competition they have dropped into.
A few Man United fans would disagree with me on the points I just made but can they argue? The massive derby defeat showed the lack of quality in the squad despite Darren Fletcher’s fantastic strike, compared to their sky blue rivals. The mutilation of Wolves in the League Cup by five goals to two in which six of the players that started or played were unknowns or untested goes to show how deep the quality lies within Mancini’s squad.
The immortal fall back of “Injuries!” may well be a decent shout for the fans to make but if Mancini lost Balotelli, Dzeko, Silva, Milner and Toure in a week they’d be replaced by Johnson, Aguero, Nasri, De Jong and an improving Savic. If United loose Rooney then the creative output is as baron as Nick Clegg’s New Years Party at the Sheffield student union.
4. Is Manchester really the best place in the world for football?
At the start of the season it was as if we’d all journey’d back into the early nineties via the Tardis and Manchester was the centre of the world again only this time instead of the Gallaghers, Ian Brown, New Order and The Stone Roses being at the centre it was Chicharito, Rooney, Balotelli and Aguero. Now the dust has settled and the Champions League has had a bite of the euphoria surrounding Manchester football and spat it in favour of some Swiss chocolate and pizza from Naples.
Domestically Manchester is top – no doubt about it, but in Europe they still have some issues. United used to make teams tremble at the thought of going there as they would have to deal with getting harassed by Roy Keane or Paul Scholes then try and get past a defensive partnership so used to each other you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. Now the defence seems shaky and uncertain whilst anyone reading a team sheet that gets scared at the thought of Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher have as much substance to them as the cast of Made in Chelsea.
City just need to be patient and make inroads in the Premiership, for Untied a time of transition has only just begun.
5. The Red sun is setting whilst the Blue moon is not far from full.
This season the Champions League has been an opposite image of the EPL in terms of what the fans and pundits expected of it. Arsenal waltzed through with ease, Chelsea thrived under the pressure of the last group game against a difficult opponent, City went out with honour after being drawn the group of death and United disappointed as much as they surprised.
Given Roberto Mancini’s odd decisions in the most prestigious of tournaments, for example waiting till the 81st minute to bring on Sergio Aguero in a must win game his team were losing, it didn’t surprise me given the group that City are now going to have to spend their Thursday nights blooding the *clears throat* Manchester City Elite Development Squad. Saying that Mancini was given two tasks; one, to beat Napoli away and two, to beat Bayern Munich at home. Both very hard and to have done one of them in your debut season in the competition is honourable but as for their neighbours, in the words of many a Mother or Father I’m not angry but a bit disappointed.
All they had to do was beat Benfica at home or not lose to Basle away. The Europa League is going to be a learning curb for one half of Manchester and an annoyance to the other, not many would have thought Manchester United would be the ones going into this tournament with the lesson to learn.
By Tom Johnson. You can follow Tom on Twitter @Teej23F.