Despite a second place finish in the English top flight, Manchester United will look upon the 2011-12 campaign as a disappointing season. As such, the English giants are looking to prove some doubters wrong in the current term, but where should their efforts be focused?
Seldom will a team have the depth and talent necessary to succeed on several fronts and it’s often the case that resources need to be diverted to certain competitions.
As such, there may be occasions this season where Sir Alex Ferguson will need to decide which is more important—European success or the dominance of one’s own league.
On paper, it’s easy to say that the Champions League is a competition held between Europe’s best and brightest, therefore the European tournament is the obvious choice as the more important. But the argument isn’t always that simple.
Manchester United have been declared England’s finest on numerous occasion, accruing a record-breaking tally of 19 Premier League and First Division titles. Although winning the Champions league holds its own bragging rights, there’s something altogether more territorial about winning your own domestic league.
Which is the priority for Manchester United this season?
Depending on UEFA coefficient, each elite league puts forward a certain amount of clubs for Champions League competition. For England, this number was four last season.
Any one of these sides has a chance of achieving European greatness and even though they may not see as much respect in their respective division, an underdog can achieve great things in continental matters.
Whether it be down to a fortunate run of fixtures, or just because everything “clicked” at the right times, any one team can win the Champions League as long as they perform in ten very particular matches in the season.
However, emerging as victor in the Premier League is a feat reserved for sides that are capable of achieving this kind of quality, but also maintaining that standard for a period of nine months or so.
Sir Alex Ferguson’ side have more competition in the English top flight than ever before. What was once the top four has now become a top eight, and teams like Tottenham, Everton, Fulham and West Brom are all competing for honours that would have been seen as preposterous several seasons ago.
That isn’t to say that the Red Devils are likely to lose their spot in the Champions League qualifying places anytime soon, but dropping points is a risk against any of their 19 Premier League opponents, even if they’re at the bottom of the division.
This is exactly what makes the English top flight such an entertaining platform to watch. The balance between all 20 participants is one that is unmatched in any other elite league in the world, making for incredible drama.
With several figures on their way out of the club, United are in a state of transition. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Sir Alex Ferguson could all quite possible leave the club at the end of this season, signalling an end of an era at Old Trafford.
With such monumental figures set to end their stays, it would be completely understandable if the side were to enter a state of freefall, struggling to adapt to this new page in their history.
However, bringing the Premier League title back to the Theatre of Dreams would be the ideal way to send off several legends, and although the title holds great benefits in itself, the morale that such a victory would bring could prove invaluable.
Due to the amount of competition in the Premier League, Manchester United have moved away from the dominant position they earned for themselves over the last two decades. Sides like Chelsea and Manchester City are asserting themselves as powers in the sport, and could very well be the teams to beat if any domestic success is to be had this season.
For Ferguson, the Premier League has been a sort of bread and butter. While the occasional fixture may see things go wrong in Europe, the Scotsman has always had a chance at winning his own league, part of the reason why it’s near impossible to doubt a club like Manchester United, even when they may be losing.
However, that feeling of doubt grows considerably the more Premier League parties such as Manchester City evolve, and United starts to distance themselves from the dominant stance they once held.
Ferguson has held bragging rights over the rest of England’s elite season after season, bringing his club unrivalled success and trophy after trophy. It would be the sweetest end to a glittering career at Old Trafford if the manager were to sign off his career with a 20th Premier League title.
A fourth Champions League crown would undoubtedly be of major importance to many a Manchester United fan, but at this stage of their development, it’s more vital that United establish themselves as England’s best once more.