Europe's Biggest Underachieving Clubs: United Embarrassed; Inter Can't Score
The return of Champions League football gave two of Europe’s biggest clubs the chance to continue their season-long slumps, and they didn’t disappoint.
Elsewhere, a seven-time Bundesliga winner romped to an impressive win that took it out of the automatic relegation places, although there will still be considerable work to do to ensure top-flight survival ahead of next season.
Here are the biggest underachievers in European club football.
Mirko Slomka impressed in his debut as Hamburg manager, guiding his struggling side to a 3-0 win at home to high-flying Borussia Dortmund just days after succeeding Bert van Marwijk as manager.
Petr Jiracek, Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Hakan Calhanoglu all found the back of the net, but of most importance to Slomka will surely have been the clean sheet—Hamburg’s first since October 27.
Still, they have won just twice since their 3-0 defeat of Freiburg and are presently third from bottom in the Bundesliga with 12 matches to play.
Slomka has his work cut out for him, but early returns are promising.
4. Inter Milan
Inter Milan had to fight from behind to earn an underwhelming 1-1 draw at home to Cagliari last weekend.
The result left them fifth in Serie A with 13 rounds remaining, five points back of fourth-place Fiorentina and 11 adrift of Napoli and the Champions League places.
The draw also represented the eighth time in nine outings the Nerazzurri failed to score more than a single goal, and with Rodrigo Palacio slumping, they simply haven’t found the supplementary scoring required to turn draws into wins.
Things have become so difficult for Inter that club owner Erick Thohir was making rumblings about approaching Ajax manager Frank de Boer at season’s end, as per ESPN FC.
Thomas Schneider’s Stuttgart return has been an unmitigated disaster.
Following his exit at the end of last season, Schneider was replaced by Bruno Labbadia, only to reclaim his former post at the end of August.
Since then, the 2007 Bundesliga champions have dropped like a rock. Going into Sunday’s match away to Eintracht Frankfurt, they sit fourth from bottom in the German top flight, just a single point above the automatic relegation places.
They’ve also conceded 10 goals in their last three outings.
2. AC Milan
They may have won 2-0 away to Sampdoria on Sunday, but AC Milan remain a disappointing ninth in Serie A and have the second-worst defensive record of the teams in the top half of the table.
They’ve also managed fewer goals than any side in the top half except Parma, and last week their Champions League hopes were dealt a serious blow when they lost 1-0 at home to Atletico Madrid.
New manager Clarence Seedorf is still finding his feet at the San Siro, but with 13 matches remaining, the Rossoneri are five points back of the Europa League places and a world away from Champions League qualification.
These are the club’s darkest days in a generation.
1. Manchester United
Speaking of dark days, things have rarely been as dismal at Manchester United.
Despite winning the Premier League at a canter last season, the Red Devils are sixth in the English top flight and can’t seem to string two positive results together.
They did well in beating Crystal Palace on Saturday, but were embarrassed by Olympiakos in the Champions League three days later, losing 2-0 in Greece and spending much of the match in their own half of the pitch.
The defense is aging, the midfield isn’t good enough and the attackers are struggling to attack—a combination of futility that will always produce more poor results than good ones.