Manchester United: How Many of Europe's Top Clubs Could Man Utd Beat?

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Manchester United: How Many of Europe's Top Clubs Could Man Utd Beat?
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

I remember vividly, I think it must have been in mid-May 2009, the build up to that year's Champions League final with Barcelona.

Though the pundits were torn in their pregame predictions, I, like many Manchester United fans, was legitimately optimistic that a win was on the cards.

I had Ronaldo over Messi, Vidic dominating Eto'o and strongly believed that Park Ji-Sung could play the role of spoiler in the midfield.

How wrong I was.

Having held the position for the previous 12 or so months, it was the 2-0 defeat in Rome that saw Sir Alex Ferguson's side relinquish the "best in the world" tag.

More than three years later, the Scotsman is still fighting to get it back.

It is a struggle that often feels like running into the wind—a constant grind that saw him persuade the club "suits" to part with £24 million for a 29-year-old.

If Sir Alex retires in a year or two's time having won the Champions League only twice, his relative lack of success on the European stage compared to the domestic will surely prove the biggest regret of his time at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils have been the bridesmaids far more often than the bride.

They were only one step behind Dortmund in '97, Leverkusen in '02, Real Madrid in '03, Milan in '07 and Bayern in 2010.

So in whose shadow do they walk this season? Which of the top clubs can Sir Alex Ferguson's "Manchester United, Version 26" realistically hope to beat should they meet in the Champions League?

Read on to find out.

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