Sewn Up Already? Why Manchester Utd Shouldn’t Count their Champions League Chickens Just Yet.
Written by Greg Connolly.
When on 41 minutes, Manchester United’s Nani put a third past a seemingly flattened Bayern Munich side in last years Champions League Quarter Final, the ITV team spewed out a staple of TV commentary lexicon, claiming that the game was as good as over and that the red half of Manchester would be progressing to the later stages. It did, in all honesty, seem a given. However, humble pie was swiftly served up via a sweet left footed shot, courtesy of an ex Chelsea midfield man no less and subsequently, the Premier League champions were dumped out of the competition on their own turf.
Roll on four months and the draw for this seasons competition has seen Alex Ferguson’s side drawn against a team from his past and, though there has already been a rather polite discourse between Mr Ferguson and Walter Smith, the old argument about the gap between Scottish football and the premier league will no doubt once again hit the headlines when Manchester United take on Rangers, a game which has already been sewn up according to numerous articles which have appeared since the draw took place.
Firstly, the facts. For starters, Rangers are side who, like United are dealing with their own assortment of financial travails and, though they managed to secure the Scottish Premier League with a degree of ease last season, their sworn rivals Celtic, in truth their only actual challengers for the title had their own internal disorder to deal with and as their recent European footballing record goes to show (short of a cameo in the UEFA cup final a couple of seasons ago), Rangers are not a side which many Manchester United fans will loose a great degree of sleep over.
However, despite the seemingly obvious outcome, the very fact that once again, pundits and journalists across the media have already concluded that Rangers will be graciously spanked by United poses some questions. Not only is it slightly insulting to presume that the ‘Gers will be more than happy to bend over in the shadow of a superior side, managed by an old favourite, but as the Bayern Munich fiasco illustrated rather beautifully, until the final whistle is blown nothing is finalised.
Rangers are not the only squad who, according to the general consensus can look forward to a serious dressing down when they face United in the group stages of this years competition. Valencia, a side who thanks to their own dire financial scenario have seen their two star players fly the nest over the summer are also in line for a kicking, as are Bursaspor, a side which few will have even heard of. Still, though the gulf between the overall ability of last seasons Bayern team and these three sides is palpable, as Mr Robben illustrated back in April, there is no cause to consider any tie as won, until the ninety minutes are over, certainly not before a ball has even been kicked.
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