When the UEFA Champions League draw for the group stages were made months ago, nobody thought Manchester United would go through the struggle they went through to be third in a group you could not have handpicked for them. Having reached three finals in the last four years in the competition, a draw against Benfica, FC Basel and CS Otelul Galati was sure to secure eighteen points for them but that was not to be. Veteran Ryan Giggs had to relive all the experience he had acquired at Old Trafford to salvage a point for Manchester United against a resilient Benfica at Portugal. And when the red devils squandered their two goals lead to FC Basel at Old Trafford only to need a last minute bit of magic from Asheley Young to make it 3-3, you knew it was all going down the tunnel as CS Otelul Galati was on course not to take any points from the group. FC Basel’s display at Old Trafford saw them round up a deserved second place in the group at their own grounds to dump United out to the EUROPA League.
Multimillion Manchester City also crashed out from the group stages in their first ever Champions League. Although they had quite a tough group, they possessed all the resources to keep Napoli’s record of never qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition until now intact. Roberto Mancini’s excuse of inexperience is unacceptable as he has a number of talents who have had a lot of Champions League games under their belt. But UEFA wants to give them another chance in a competition where they have some experience. What can you say?
Sir Alex Fergusons’s first reaction to his clubs elimination was the EUROPA League being a punishment for his side’s abysmal performance in the UEFA Champions League but is it really the case?
A reward for failing. A second chance after a supposedly last chance. An alternative to conquer after falling face down to the mighty in Europe. How many players in the world would chose sitting at home watching the UEFA Champions League which they crashed out on Wednesday nights knowing the only way to prove themselves in Europe is to wait another year over watching the competition in their hotel room knowing their game the next day could earn them a place in the Super Cup to prove themselves?
If there be any punishment, it is to the poor teams who have managed to qualify from their group in EUROPA League only to have their dreams brought to an end by the acclaimed strong sides in Europe who couldn’t manage to cross their first hurdle in their undertaking.
The draw for the EUROPA League round of 32 and 16 comes off on Friday. The flops of the UEFA Champions League in the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Valencia, Ajax, Trabzonspor, FC Olympiakos, FC Porto, and FC Viktoria Plzen are to be included in the round of 32 and 16 draw of the EUROPA which is vastly unfair. But rules are rules, aren’t they?
Let’s hope the UEFA Champions League round of 16 teams do not pinch themselves at the end of the season when they see a flop of their competition take a reward for their failure.
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