Manchester United Victorious at San Siro But Spectre of Debt Looms Large

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IFebruary 18, 2010

MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 15:  Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, speaks to the media ahead of training at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group G match against AC Milan on February 15, 2010 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
Hamish Blair/Getty Images

Manchester United have broken another record with their victory over AC Milan and one that no other team in the clubs proud history could attest to. The victory at the San Siro is something that was made all the more sweeter, because of the memory of the embarrassment endured last time one of Ferguson's sides played there.

But even in the victory, there are worrying signs, Milan are by no means a European powerhouse at the moment and the game itself was not exactly the fare that you would expect when two such giants of the game meet.

United have shown that they can compete everywhere they need to already this season. But have also lost at home to Leeds United and Fenerbace.

If that is not a sign of approaching mediocrity, I do not know what is. United are in danger of mediocrity, if only for the reason that they now find themselves in the dangerous position of needing to qualify for Europe and actually looking like that qualification may be a cause for concern in the future.

For a side that made conservative signings over the last two transfer windows, they are again relying on youth that they have spotted and snapped up earlier in the piece, hoping it becomes world beating talent.

Despite the idea that exists that United have always bought up players they have never really gone out and purchased a side the way Madrid do on occasion.
Manchester City have also recently done that which United never have.

United did buy players and made expensive signings at that, every few seasons, so as to keep the squad vital and give it a perpetual motion based on talented players joining a team unit and then reigniting the desire in team members to push each other higher.

This actually did not happen this season, despite the acquisition of two good new players.

Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia are quality players, yet neither broke the bank in the way new signings have in the past.

Michael Owen is experiencing a crippling crisis of confidence due to his participation in a terrible team at a poorly run club and has still not shaken it from his head. There are always moments, whenever he plays, where you think that this is it, he's finally going to do something incredible, but so far it has not happened.

Valencia has been impressive on occasion but is also still a work in progress. Though the promise of him becoming a player who can dictate a match is there in patches, he seems away off that sort of level of confidence.

In the past the club could afford to sign an established star, so as they could keep the perpetuity of action I mentioned earlier evolving the team unit.

This was the idea with Berbatov, though he has as well, not taken enough games by the scruff of the neck and dominated them.

Still, at present the team is in a strong position and they have just beaten one of their greatest and most prestigious rivals.

So the team seems to be riding high on a wave of success, but they are definitely not as powerful a force, as they have been, in the three seasons prior to this one.


The win against Milan at the San Siro was an historic moment in Manchester United's history, but with it there are still the nagging concerns surrounding the club and its support, that all is not well at the "theater of dreams."

But if they win any of the major trophies this season, it could well be the juice that gets them into position to remain one of the European big boys.

The spectre of debt hangs over the club though, like the pall of impending doom that hung over London for a time during the Battle of Britain, a dark cloud of menace that threatens to overwhelm and strangle the hope that lies in the hearts of the clubs supporters and fans, like the evil menace of fascism that hung over Europe all those years ago.

Hopefully Ferguson can emulate the great Winston Churchill and show the resolve that led England out of the darkness that was the threat of an invasion force landing on British shores. It may be that his resolve is strong enough, but in the cruel world of economics it can take more than a hero to save you.

Unless United can carry on winning and winning big, they will slowly find themselves looking at a debt that is bigger than anything this club has had to deal with before.  

The coming weeks are more important to the club and its next few years than anything that has taken place in the last twenty. It is now that United must stay vital and unleash the magic that makes them a club that is revered in the four corners of the earth, now, or perhaps never again.