It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict the outcome of Manchester United’s games. Losses in the EPL against Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City have been interspersed with wins that have included numerous comebacks and late goals.
If you were to look at the group table in the UEFA Champions League, prior to last night’s second-string defeat to Galatasaray, you would think that this tournament had proven a little more straight-forward than the EPL. Twelve points from four games is an impressive record.
Closer scrutiny of the group games, particularly those against SC Braga, reveals a very different story. The defensive frailties that have dogged United all season in the domestic league also reared their head in Europe’s premier competition.
United, though, were grateful for a kind draw in the group stage that could almost have been hand-picked in its entirety by Sir Bobby Charlton. The Red Devils have had more than enough to see off each of the teams and qualify for the knockout stages with matches to spare.
If you take the trio of Galatasaray, SC Braga and CFR Cluj and then compare those to the teams that cross-town rivals Manchester City have had to face: Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax – things could have been much tougher for Manchester United.
City, the English champions, have struggled to progress. Indeed, European champions Chelsea have also faltered against tough opposition, proving that the UEFA Champions League is as strong as ever this year.
Last season’s early exit meant that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to push for qualification as soon as possible this time around. He got his wish, albeit in a group that United would be certainly be expected to navigate. Things are about to get tougher.
There are at least five teams that Sir Alex and Manchester United will want to avoid in the next round.