UCL Talk

With the 1st legs now finished, we take a look at who is best placed to make Lisbon in May.

Just one goal was scored over both games and that came courtesy of Karim Benzema as Real Madrid beat Bayern Munich 1-0 at the Bernabeu and will now travel to Munchen with the lead. If Real Madrid do make it to the final and win, it will be Carlo Ancelotti’s third Champions League win as a coach, twice with AC Milan and what would be once with Real Madrid. As reported by Sky Sports News, Pep will not be to disappointed not to have won yet would have at the very least liked to have registered an away goal but will be confident of a turn around in the Allianz arena.

La Liga leaders Atletico now travel to Stamford Bridge and after failing to score at home in the Vicente Calderon, they will hope that Diego Costa et al can provide Los Colchoneros with an away goal. Before the Chelsea game only Barcelona and Real had managed to stop Atleti scoring at the Calderon this season.

Jose Mourinho will be happy with the 0-0 draw away in Spain, but at what cost? Both Cech and Terry came off injured, the former will now miss the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder whilst Terry will only play again should Chelsea make the Champions League final.

The 2nd legs will be very tight indeed; each side knows how close they are to the final of Europe’s elite tournament and will be extra careful not to make any mistakes.

It’s tough to call who I think will make the final. It would be great to see Atletico lift the trophy with the big ears, nobody would have predicted that at the start of the season and it could well top off a double winning season for them. Chelsea could well win three European trophies on the bounce, taking their tally to two UCL trophies, with a Europa League sandwiched in between. Real will be hoping to win their 10th title and their first since 2002; long over due with all who are associated with the Los Blancos.

And to holders Bayern Munich, could they be the first team to retain the Champions League?  AC Milan, Juventus and Manchester United have all made the final the year after winning it; they all failed to retain. History then suggests Bayern will fail in their quest to retain the Champions League trophy, but there has always got to be a first… right?

Tell us what you think in the comments below!

The Unenviable task of Moyes and the Champions League

It’s common knowledge this season; Manchester United are underperforming. Lying 7th in the league table, some 11 points adrift of fourth placed Liverpool, the likeliness of United qualifying for the Champions League, is the same as a child asking his parent if he can open his Christmas present on Christmas eve, chances are it isn’t going to happen. Yet there is still a glimmer of hope, this is Manchester United after all, the club that have defied the odds on a number of occasions over the years.

The recent draw with Fulham was a heartbreaker for all involved with the Red Devils. In a seemingly mis-matched game United struggled to overcome a resilient Fulham side, which had nigh on 11 men behind the ball for the entirety of the match. It was brick wall that even Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney struggled to break down.  Perhaps the tactics were wrong, maybe the team aren’t good enough, or it is just real bad luck. Any of the three could attribute to this. Let’s rewind to November, and United’s make or break home game against the league leaders Arsenal. On the day a 1-0 victory, courtesy of ex-Gunner Robin Van Persie, kept United within five points of the North London club, and with a real chance of clawing back the point difference, yet a week later the opportunity they had made for themselves was very quickly wasted. In a daunting away game to Cardiff, United led up until the 90th minute where, in injury time the Bluebirds were able to grab an equaliser and the game finished 2-2. Now this may well have been that season defining moment for United. For me they have never truly recovered from that moment; yes they had already had poor results before but I honestly feel this took the wind out of their sales.

Since that day in Wales, United’s form has been patchy, with only two wins in 2014 that also include defeats in the FA Cup and Carling Cup. Juan Mata was the only highlight of January, as injuries to strikers RVP and Rooney have really taken their tool on this struggling side. The need for a squad overhaul is obvious; the 07/08 Champions League winners, to an extent, still make up the backbone of this side; Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Rooney and Welbeck (he only made the trip to Moscow), were all a part of the side that beat Chelsea; that was six years ago. The reason for stagnation can be attributed to age amongst other issues; Ferdinand and Vidic are now the wrong side of 30, Giggs is now 40 and cannot be expected to continue much longer whilst Nani has never been Mr Consistent and Anderson has had many problems. Only Carrick, Rooney and Evra have been a consistent feature throughout the last two seasons. The issue then is that the players that have begun to age have not been adequately replaced.

For fans that thought Moyes would come in and be an instant success, well then the expectations placed exceed that of sense. Whilst his style is somewhat different  to that of Sir Alex,  Moyes’ continued use of wingers, that is apparently part of the United tradition (ex-Red Gary Neville has mentioned this), circa, Beckham, Giggs, Ronaldo, Kanchelskis, even Lee Sharpe, all famous during the Fergie era, has been met with utter disgust and disappointment. Fair play to the majority who have continued their support to David Moyes, don’t expect United to be rash and dispose of him quite so quickly.

I’m sure there are plenty of questions as too why certain players aren’t playing more regularly, (for the life of me, I still don’t understand Kagawa’s omissions, fair he hasn’t performed every time when given the chance but he is a confidence player and needs regular games. I’m hoping we don’t see another Veron, a truly gifted player who failed to make the grade at OT), or a change in actually shape of the side, it seems like there is no risk being taken. Why not push Rooney alongside RVP or even have Kagawa, Rooney, Mata combo in behind RVP? It would seem Moyes prefers harder working players in attack or defence, something Kagawa and Mata are not, and one of the reasons the latter left Chelsea.

With 12 games left to go United can gain a maximum of 36 points, this would make their final total 78 points, a total that you would think, would guarantee Champions League qualification. With their “harder” games at Old Trafford, City and Liverpool to be exact and a trip to Moyes’ old stomping ground Goodison Park, it is understandable that United fans should at the very least expect a further 27 points, and that is catering for defeats in those more difficult games.

Let’s not forget that they are still very much in the Champions League, and many would expect them to see of the challenge of Greek Champions Olympiakos.

The season for Manchester United is not over yet……. Not by a long way.

David Moyes Manchester United

David Moyes rejected Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice over the backroom staff

An inconspicuous start to the season for Manchester United and new boss David Moyes has taken another twist today with the revelation that Sir Alex tried to convince David Moyes to keep Phelen and Co.

Moyes quickly dispatched of the services of Mike Phelen, Rene Meulensteen and goalkeeper coach Eric Steele. The latter has recently revealed that Sir Alex Ferguson advised Moyes to continue with the staff in place at the club. Moyes had other ideas however. He brought in a host of former Everton employees including a former Manchester United player Phillip Neville.

It’s easy to understand why Moyes did what he did. He will want to stamp his own mark on the Manchester United side. One must remember also, that the manager and coaching staff were not the only ones to change. Chief Executive David Gill left and Paul Scholes retired, so a lot has changed at the club.

The important word for all Manchester United fans is patience.

Moyes wants to make his own mark on Manchester United

              Moyes wants to make his own mark on Manchester United

 

Shinji Kagawa is the answer to Manchester United’s creativity problems

Alan Hansen claims Manchester United have lacked creativity at the start of this season. It’s hard to disagree. But as many other pundits and media outlets have cried out for the need of a creative midfield player, Manchester United have one at their disposal; Shinji Kagawa.

Frustrating is perhaps the best word to describe his time at Old Trafford. After a very successful spell with then German Champions Borussia Dortmund, Kagawa came to United, at the same time Eden Hazard joined Chelsea. Plenty of comparisons were made. Both finished the season with silverware, yet Hazard clearly out performed Kagawa. For those that had watched Kagawa in the Bundesliga and the time he spent with Cerezo Osaka in the J.League, it was obvious that English football had not seen the best he has to offer.

Of vital importance for the Blue Samurai (Japan’s National Side), Kagawa should be the creative hub that United are clearly crying out for. Injury hasn’t helped his cause at United and by the start to this season, neither has the change of management. Kagawa’s game time this season has been rather limited. Yet to complete 90 minutes or start a Premier League, Moyes seems rather unsure on how best to use the Japanese playmaker.

Kagawa is obviously disappointed and let the media know that it is out of his hands when it comes to team selection. All he can do is work hard on the training pitch and hope that he is rewarded with more competitive game time. Only time will tell, but for anyone claiming United need to sign a quality creative midfielder, believe me when I say they already have one.

Kagawa celebrates scoring for United

Kagawa celebrates scoring for United