A Little Perspective for Manchester United Supporters

Manchester United were eliminated from the most coveted Cup competition in the world on Wednesday night in heartbreaking fashion. Having won their home leg 3-2 and finishing off the tie with a level aggregate score of 4-4, United were put to the sword by the dreaded away goals rule.

Such are the laws of the modern day UEFA Champions League competition that Bayern Munich will now face French side Olympique Lyonnais in what’s sure to be a fantastic Semi Final.

Wednesday night’s match was the classic example of the game being a “tale of two halves”. United were by far the better team in the first half as they dominated possession with a strong attacking midfield consisting of Nani and Antonio Valencia on either side of the slyly included Wayne Rooney. The support consisted of a midfield three of Darron Gibson, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher.

United got the start they needed as Gibson caught Munich keeper Jorg Butt flat-footed with a fantastic long range strike. Nani struck second with a cheeky, yet brilliant back heel flick and United were suddenly cruising into the semi’s after 7 minutes. As an attacking unit, United were quite possibly at the best they’ve been in 2010 with Antonio Valencia seemingly taking on defenders and crossing at will.

United defender Rafael was the villain on the night after being sent off early in the second half after receiving his second yellow. After his dismissal, United’s attacking prowess was a shadow of it’s former self. It’s almost unbelievable how the absence of one man can destroy a team’s ability to hold up the ball and move out of their own half.

Rafael’s first yellow was a petulant kick out at Munich midfielder Mark van Bommel. The incident was deserved, callow and obvious.  His marching orders came just a few minutes after the restart when he tugged back Franck Ribery who was full speed ahead towards United’s goal. The Munich players were then seen surrounding the referee in hopes they could influence his decision to send off the young Brazilian.

In a controversial statement, Sir Alex Ferguson has described the Munich players as behaving like “typical Germans“. Even as a United supporter, I’m not really sure I get the point of the odd statement and was upset to see Ferguson stoop to such depths.

Fast forward to the 74th minute with the score now 3-1. Spectators witnessed a moment of pure class when Dutch winger Arjen Robben volleyed in a spectacular shot off a Franck Ribery corner to put Munich level 4-4.

Let’s face it, in the moments that followed the sending off, Bayern Munich were always going to score to level the aggregate scoreline. They dominated possession and created chance after chance when all United could do was sit back and take the brunt of the attack. Bayern Munich definitely made the most of their man advantage and made United pay dearly for it.

I’m not going to say that either team was the better team over two legs. Bayern Munich won a tight first leg and United won the second, also by a 1 goal margin. This exit will be a tough one to take for United supporters, especially with the kind of season Wayne Rooney has had thus far. Get that man fit and in a final, and there’s no telling what he can do.

United supporters must take this setback with some perspective. Manchester United have participated in the last two Champions League Finals, won the Final in 2008, won the Premier League title three years straight, and still have a damn good chance to do it again this year, if and when Chelsea slip up. Not to mention a few League Cup titles and the FIFA Club World Cup a few years ago.

As the World Cup approaches in the not so far off distance, England supporters of Manchester United will also slowly turn their thoughts and energies to the national team hoping Rooney can lead the three lions like he has led the red devils.

In late round Champions League ties that are this close, an exit always hurts. Ferguson may lament some decisions in the first leg when it looked like United were set to take a 1-1 draw back home to Old Trafford. This year though, it just wasn’t to be – even if it was by the slimmest of margins.

I promise United fans that there are brighter days ahead. It’s not all doom and gloom. We played a good match (& won) and a few moments didn’t go our way. Still though, as I sit here writing this article hoping it’ll act as the therapy I need, I can’t help but to think what would have been had Rafael not been sent off and had Rooney been fully fit.

Guess we’ll never know.

17 thoughts on “A Little Perspective for Manchester United Supporters”

  1. Well said, Jesse. It is moments like this that should make us realize how lucky we’ve been over the past few years. If Rafael stays on the pitch, I have no doubt that we could have held Bayern, but it wasn’t to be. Hopefully Rafael will take what he’s feeling now and use it in the future. Utd. fans have no right to bitch, really. The ref wasn’t always at his best today, but he certainly didn’t get the big calls wrong. Besides, you can’t really fault Bayern going through on such a cracking goal, even if it was from a player who I don’t particularly like.

  2. Nothing wrong with the comments mate. People need to calm down about that. A man like Sir Alex has been around a long time, and he’s obviously seen his fare share of German players/teams. Simply put, he had seen this behavior from them before.

    No chance Da Silva was going to be sent off before they bullied him. Van Buyten and Van Bommel did far worse.

    1. I was surprised that Van Bommel stayed in the game. Especially after his blatant step on Rooney’s bad ankle.

    2. So a Brazilian gets issued a yellow card from an Italian for fouling a Dutchman and then another yellow card from the same Italian for fouling a Frenchman. A Dutchman, a Frenchman, a German and a Croat express their frustration to the Italian about the Brazilian’s persistent fouling. Then a Scot complains about them being “typical Germans.”

      My head hurts.

      Fergie may have forgotten more about football than I’ll ever learn, but he still needs to learn a thing or two. Statements like “typical Germans” perpetuate Xenophobia and Jingoism. My guess is that he does it to divert attention away from his players and that is his only intent. But he ought to recognize that his station in life means that he has influence on things beyond his own club. It’d be nice if a football man could occasionally look beyond the pitch.

  3. It’s not about winning or losing Manchester United are a great team but they are just another team composed of mortals. Every year while one team wins the Premier League, 19 more don’t. If Manchester United has to visit the world of mere mortals like everybody else every now and then there isn’t anything wrong with that.

    I think the problem is lately at Manchester United there have been bad decisions that have come at the expense of games.

    For one if you look at the Chelsea game putting Berbatov up front as lone striker was a decision that went as bad as predicted. They came away with nothing and have pretty much lost the Premier League title.

    During the second leg of the Bayern Munich game putting Rooney on as targetman was genius. Rooney did two things. He did nothing and he did everything.

    Doesn’t make sense I know but if you look at that first Gibson goal did you see the way the goalie was fixed on Rooney and the defenders ran to close him off? They left a space so wide for Gibson you could have put the Grand Canyon in there.

    The second and third goal with Nani were both goals where he wasn’t being marked because the defenders were rotating around Rooney. I didn’t think Rooney would score but I had no doubt his presence would command the attention of players and give others an opportunity to score and it turned out that way as Nani and Gibson got their first goals in European competition.

    The biggest mistake of the game wasn’t made by the referee. While keeping Van Bommel on after he kicked Rooneys ankle was an automatic red card and Rafael being sent off was ridiculous(I mean seriously a red card for that?!) I think taking Rooney off was the biggest mistake. It was a bit dangerous what Van Bommel did to Rooney but Rooney was scaring the daylights of the Bayern defense.

    Bayern were essentially out of play the first half as United just ran rampant. Bayern didn’t know where they were or what they were doing and they had very few opportunities to even get the ball let alone take a shot. At that point you had to wonder if United would be 5 or 6 goals up by the end of the game.

    Problem is when you have no target man up front you don’t pose a threat to the opposition so what they do is move their squad forward and take shots till one goes in. As soon as Bayern moved squad forward and put midfielders around the box and strikers inside the box it was a matter of time before they scored and they did score.

    After that they sat deep and defender till time ran out. If they would have kept up the pressure they put them on the first half that result would have been in their favour. If you don’t pose a threat to your opponents they attack without fear and with United armless they got slaughtered. Terrible, terrible decisions lately. Maybe Ferguson needs to make way for another manager.

  4. A few quick vents:

    * While rafael’s first YC was deserved, it was all the more avoidable had the ref blown Van Bommel for the foul that preceded it.

    * I thought the second yellow was harsh. really, what disturbed Ribery’s forward motion wasn’t Rafael, but his desire to take a swipe at the United defender. His exaggerated indignation played the ref and the ref took the bait.

    *Badstuder’s foul on Valencia was significantly worse (dangerous, venomous, whatever you want to call it) but warranted no more of a response than a bit of tugging by Rafael.

    Ok, United-centric points off my chest.

    All that said, the real turning point was the first Bayern goal. I tried my best to ignore it, but the feeling I got from their 3-1 goal was the exact mirror opposite of the belief I felt when Keano struck one back before the half in Turin back in ’99. When that happened, it all but undid the massive momentum / euphoria of the first 40+ minutes. It appeared then that our back line could have no margin for error. If the back line were playing like last year, I’d have taken bets that we’d had held them off until 2035; as it stood, 35 minutes was going to be an eternity with 10 men.


  5. If you thought that was heartbreaking you obviously didn’t see the Chelsea v. Barca game last year and the Chelsea v. ManU the year before. Today’s game I would be put 3rd amoung those three matches with Chelsea v. ManU at the top but hell I’m a Chelsea fan.

    1. I’m not even a Chelsea fan but I was absolutely staggered by that match last year. I honestly started wondering to myself it that game was fixed and I’m still convinced football may be victim to match fixing.

      I know the referee wasn’t a pro but wow I mean fucking seriously?! As a United fan I can’t remember feeling that bad for another team but I think Chelsea really did get robbed mercilessly.

      I would put this above the Chelsea vs Man U game though. Whenever Chelsea and Man U play it goes one way or the other but its always pretty damn close.

      In this game United put 2 past Bayern Munich in less than 7 minutes and then killed them off at 41 minutes. Losing in a match where you put up that kind of performance truly is shocking as you pretty much give the game away as a foregone conclusion at that point.

  6. Any United supporters here ever been to Manchester? Didn’t think so

    Better days are probably not ahead with lots of grandpa’s soon to retire and old Alex to retire in the next few years

    1. Gious, just because a football supporter goes to his or her stadium to see a match doesn’t mean they’re the “immaculate conception.” Not all of us have the luxury of living near the ground of the club we love. Some of us live thousands of miles away.

      The Gaffer

      1. Gaffer any chance you can hunt down an IP or hand out an MAC ban if you look at his posts hes here to troll his loss wouldn’t be felt.

  7. I’m surprised no one is questioning Fergie risking Rooney – not just for United’s immediate future but for England’s! That’s all I heard about wrt Cesc and his injury!

    But glad to see you address the “typical Germans” comment – as no one else seems to want to. Plus we all know Manchester United players have NEVER bullied referees. lol

  8. 1st of all…a heartbroken Utd fan here…but then we can’t really fault Bayern for going through…they were 2nd best all the way until the sending off…but the real problem I saw from this game is probably the real reason why English teams struggle in european competitions…bar Arsenal,do you see any team keeping the ball as much as they could??…that was the problem last night…ok you got a man sent off…but Utd should have kept the ball better…If u notice,Carrick giving the ball away led to the corners than presented Bayern with their goal…n being a Utd fan…this is one part of their game I don’t understand…they keep lumping the ball upfield aimlessly…im sure you won’t see Barcelona doing the same thing…even if they are down to ten men they’ll still hold the ball and control the game…this is exactly what Utd failed to do and failure to do has cost them…and this is also why Barcelona are so good….I dont know if it certainly is an “English” tendency coz even Capello has commented in the past regarding this style of football…you’re opponents are only going to hurt you if they get the ball..plain simple

  9. Welcome to the world of other team’s fans. Being a Spurs fan for 50 odd years, this type of disappointment is par for the course. So near, yet so far …. the trouble with my team when compared to ManU is that ‘nearly’ and ‘disappointment’ happens WAY too often!

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