Prior to Tuesday’s first leg, there weren’t many who believed Manchester United had a legitimate shot of winning the Championships League.
Following the team’s shocking 2-0 loss to Last 16 opponent Olympiakos, that number of believers has dwindled closer to zero.
Maybe the Red Devils are merely attempting to make things more interesting leading up to March 19’s second leg of the tie. Or maybe forward Wayne Rooney is looking to make his latest comments more accurate.
“The year Chelsea won, they nearly went out of the competition three times,” the 28-year-old said Monday night, per The Independent’s Ian Herbert. “So you have to keep going whether we get the right result or not.”
If you recall, that 2012 Chelsea squad overcame a disastrous Premier League campaign to put together an improbable run toward Champions League glory. It was a remarkable stretch that saw the Blues narrowly avoid the clutches of defeat time after time.
Just like that squad, Manchester United currently sit at sixth in the Premier League table. Just like that squad, the Red Devils have quite the hole to climb out of in its Last 16 tie—Chelsea went down 3-1 to Napoli before winning 5-4 on aggregate.
Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end.
Simply put, Manchester United don't have what it takes to compete at a high level.
First-year manager David Moyes has to take the brunt of that blame. The former Everton manager has appeared clueless while struggling to replace Alex Ferguson at the helm.
After 27 games—13-6-8—he has the Red Devils on pace for their worst Premier League finish since 1990-91.
Several times this season the squad has appeared listless on the pitch. That has been especially evident against some of the league’s top competition:
|9/1/13||at Liverpool||L 1-0|
|9/22/13||at Manchester City||L 4-1|
|12/1/13||at Tottenham||D 2-2|
|1/19/14||at Chelsea||W 3-1|
|2/12/14||at Arsenal||D 0-0|
Manchester United have also put together their fair share of embarrassing showings, including losses or draws against West Bromwich Albion (2-1), Cardiff City (2-2), Stoke City (2-1) and Swansea City (2-1, FA Cup).
Now, the Red Devils can add Tuesday’s disappointment against the Greeks to that list. A game in which no one in a black kit seemed to want to be playing.
Moyes summed it up pretty well, per BBC Sports’ Howard Nurse:
Moyes: "It was our worst performance. We never really got into it. We didn't derserve anything. We never got to grip with things." #UCL”— Howard Nurse (@howardnurse) February 25, 2014
Hey, slumps happen. No team in the world is immune to them.
However, for Manchester United, it’s been a season-long plague. And it’s one that only seems to be getting worse—the Red Devils are just 4-2-6 in 2014.
“As a group of players we have to take responsibility for the league position we are in,” Rooney said, via Herbert’s report. “We know we are better than that. It’s most important that we finish the season strong, get that fourth spot and progress far into the Champions League.”
Sorry, Wayne. Unless Moyes can undertake a miracle at Old Trafford—one that results in a 2014 Champions League trophy—Manchester United won’t be playing another meaningful match in European competition until the 2015-16 season.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of ESPN.