Champions League Losers Manchester United Picked Ahead of Champions Chelsea

Rowanne WesthenryFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 27:  TV Presenter Adrian Chiles speaks to ITV Sport during the International friendly match between Brazil and Scotland at Emirates Stadium on March 27, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

As a Chelsea fan resident in West London who has neither the funds to travel to the European away games nor the inclination to subscribe to a Sky Sports television package, I am at the mercy of ITV when it comes to viewing our Champions League away games. The terrestrial channel has had the second half of the draw, groups E-H, twice so far this season, and both times they have shown the Manchester United game instead of the Chelsea one.

I understand that Manchester United are a global brand and have enjoyed a longer period of success than the Blues, but I seem to recall, with a fair amount of amusement and smugness, that the Red Devils crashed out of the competition at the group stage last season, whilst Chelsea went to the final in Munich and won it.

It seems odd to me that one of the biggest losers from last year would be broadcast ahead of the reigning champions. For a start, Manchester United fans only had 181 miles to travel from London to Manchester to reach their game against Braga, whereas Chelsea fans had to fly nearly 10 times that distance to Donetsk in the Ukraine. 

Then there's the fact that Chelsea's Champions League form this season has been patchy at best. They threw away a two-goal lead against Juventus to draw the game, and made what should have been a straightforward win against FC Nordsjaelland look tricky to start with, before eventually being beaten in the Ukraine by Shakhtar Donetsk.

Who doesn't like to see the Champions fail? It's schadenfreude at it's greatest in the world of sport, and I know for sure that there are plenty of people who would rather watch the Blues fall flat on their collective faces instead of Manchester United deciding that they're only going to play the game properly in the second half.

I understand that the manager effect might have something to do with it. With Manchester United going behind in their last two Champions League games, Sir Alex Ferguson's bulldog-chewing-wasp-flavoured-gum face is more amusing than the typically calm exterior of Roberto Di Matteo, and the borderline crazy half-time and post-match comments from Sir Alex usually bring more of a chuckle than Di Matteo's reasoned response to events.


I especially enjoyed Sir Alex's comments after the EPL game against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, when he said that there was not enough time added on at the end of the game for United to win. That made me laugh so hard I thought I might end up needing medical attention, whereas Di Matteo tends to bring a feeling of warmth, coupled with a desire to kiss his very shiny forehead and give him a big hug.

The entertainment edge between the managers definitely goes to Sir Alex, but what about the teams?

United have been on a low simmer this season, with misplaced passes and frustrated players more frequent than in the club's recent history. Their star players are still stellar, but as a collective, they seem to be lacking an oomph of sorts.

On the other hand, Chelsea have been playing some beautiful Barcelona-esque team football this season, stringing passes together and slicing defences open. Whilst that has lost a bit of sparkle in the translation to the Champions League competition, it's still more entertaining than watching United try to knock it about in the middle for about 70 minutes, before Rooney or Hernandez decide they've had enough and start to run forward.

Who knows, maybe now that Chelsea are second in the group with only a point between them and third-place Juventus, ITV will take notice and broadcast their away game in Turin instead of group H leaders United's trip to Galatasary.

I won't hold my breath, though, asphyxiation doesn't look like much fun.