Manchester City and the Champions League – one word to describe their journey so far – UNLUCKY as they have been stuck in groups of death, NIGHTMARE as their performances have not been up to standard on a consistent basis, but I’d go with UNFULFILLED because of a mix of the two. The current Premier League champions are all but out of this seasons competition after 2 draws and 2 defeats in their four matches so far – a poor return. In their previous three seasons they only managed to make it out of the group phase (admittedly with tough opposition) on one occasion, which was last season where they were pitted against Barcelona in the Round of 16, because of their second place position, to the then champions Bayern Munich, so no failure really – in fact they were just one goal from topping the group. It is hard to fathom why such a team with the flair they possess have struggled throughout their campaigns in the Europe’s premier cup competition, a lower seeding and difficult groups cannot always be the reason, though it does take time to settle into this particular tourney in my opinion. Maybe there is a mental block when it comes to the tournament which restricts the team, as they most definitely have the quality to progress a long way in the competition. Its clear the owners won’t be overly satisfied with the lack of progress for the club in Europe but they have never been kneejerk and will look to see what actually happens this season before any discussions, decisions or comment (privately) are made. As mentioned they can still qualify from their group and at the moment are the best team in Manchester, something their fans are loving after the recent derby victory – a 4th in a row, so all is not that bad, if the worst did happened and they did go out, there is still the rest of the domestic season to come and challenges for the FA Cup and Premier League are well within their compass. For the record I personally think that City have a fair to middling opportunity to get through. The problem they have is that it is out of their hands, but two victories I feel may well be enough, the problem is they have to perform at a massively higher level if they are to beat an already qualified Bayern at the Etihad and then Roma at the Olympic Stadium. As mentioned a tall order, but they do have the quality to do it in my opinion. Every team in a new chapter of their history needs a seminal match that they can say, ‘this is where is all began’, domestically for the blues of Manchester it was probably the FA Cup semi final of 2011, when they beat their city rivals Manchester United and then went on to win the trophy (their first one for 35 years), two Premier League titles and a League Cup have followed. Maybes Tuesday 25th November against the Germans could be the night where a win can lead to another win, possible qualification and with a kind draw (for a change) they may miss out on a European giant in the first knock out phase and then who knows- anything is possible. Ask Liverpool fans in 2004/2005, only the most optimistic would have thought they would be getting through the group phase when they were losing 0-1 to Olympiakos at half time in December of that season let alone lifting the Big -Eared Cup in Istanbul a few months later – they won the game by the required 2 goal margin and the rest is history and that is what Manchester City are striving to do.
Across the City, the reds of Manchester won their first match for over a month, the performance against Crystal Palace was despite dominating possession bang average in my opinion. However it was all about the result and they managed to get over the line thanks to substitute Juan Mata’s goal midway through the second half. United are 7th in the table, though after a 150 million + outlay in the summer (210m+ since August 2013) it really is not good enough, especially if you take into account the fixtures they have faced so far. To be fair to Louis Van Gaal he is well aware of this and does need time to get things right. He has instilled a fighting / battling spirit into the squad, something that seemed to be missing last season, however the ‘philosophy’ he has been banging on about this is falling down due to poor defending and a seemingly endless list of injuries occurring during training, worryingly to a lot of their defenders. In the last 15 months whenever the former champions have taken a step forward they have then taken a couple back. Like on Saturday – its all about winning games now – they go to Arsenal after the international break, then Hull and Stoke visit Old Trafford. Then in the run up to Christmas a visit to surprise package of the season Southampton is followed by Liverpool at home with a trip to Villa Park on the 20th December. United have to target maximum points from these games (or as near to). Their chances of winning the title are all but gone (already 13 points behind leaders Chelsea) so all they are playing for is to get a position in the top four, yes the FA Cup is a trophy to target but with the financial outlay if they finish fifth or lower in the Premier League, the season WILL be deemed as a failure. How the mighty have fallen hey!!!!!!!
ps Rumour has it that David Moyes is in contention for the Real Sociedad job. If he gets it I wish him all the best (I wish him all the best in his future managerial career) he is a good manager despite what happened at Old Trafford. Yes he needed to do much better, results weren’t good enough and that is his ultimate responsibly but it is plainly clear that he was not supported by the hierarchy at the club and some players, a few of these have now left United and ain’t pulling up any trees at their new clubs. Ten months is never enough time to judge someone fully when they have not actually given him the required tools ie LVG has been given 150m+ to spend and is doing no better with arguably an easier fixture list at the start of the season. The Dutchman also needs time – like Alex Ferguson got, he did not do too bad when his bosses kept faith. Unfortunately in this age of social media – judgements are made very quickly and sometimes not for the better – time will tell.
ps We are still seemingly waiting for the elusive Eddie of Woodward to sort out a new contract for, and lets be honest, the only player who has been up to the required standard consistently over the last 15 months, David De Gea the clock is ticking Ed!!!!!!! – I hope its not a #TLSEW situation AGAIN!!!!!!! – IT NEEDS SORTING TOUT SUITE – pretty please :-S
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