Matt Stanger saw Angel Di Maria display flashes of his talent at Turf Moor, but United's 0-0 draw against Burnley underlined that Louis van Gaal has his work cut out for him...
With a new stadium and back into European domestic football's premier competition, there are plenty of reasons for smiles from Athletico Bilbao supporters...
You know what to do: Mail email@example.com
A Bit Of Perspective
Although obviously being out of the Champions League will obviously hurt United, they will hardly be unique in the sense of a big club falling out of Europe's top competition or struggling domestically. In the last 10 years;
- Bayern Munich 2006-07 - finished 4th in Bundesliga (without a strong Dortmund, who came 9th) and missed out on Champions League
- Barcelona 2002-03 - finished 6th in La Liga. 6th!!
- Juventus - famously relegated for the match fixing scandal in 2005-06 and lost a number of key players including the likes of Zlatan. Back to the top soon after
- AC Milan - currently fighting in mid table (11th). And we think we've got it bad! But they've still be able to sign players like Balotelli and still linked with top players because the name and history counts for so much
- Inter post 2010 - after Jose came and won the Champions League, the money disappeared and the finances were stretched to breaking point during his time there. No Champions League for the past few seasons but are still able to attract signings. It does help that they now have a new owner willing to invest
- Liverpool - we all know about Liverpool's fight to get back into the Champions League and finally it appears that they will return to the scene of their greatest successes. United have more money to throw at getting back in than Liverpool did
What is key though is they all did return to pre-eminence after either a single or relatively few years of 'failure'. United just need to be patient. What next seasons does is give us a chance to regroup and get rid of some players that just are not good enough (Nani/Young I'm looking at you) while bringing in some new blood. It will help us if we don't qualify for the Europa League - look at Liverpool's run this year without worrying about extra fixtures and travelling across the continent.
United fans - calm down and keep the faith
Tom, Surrey (still long for the days of Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs)
...In the Champions League, in the last 18 months, Bayern have won their group twice, put Arsenal out twice, smashed Juve 4-0 on aggregate and Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate and won the thing. Elsewhere, they've won their league twice, scoring (so far) 180 goals and only losing two games, and won their domestic cup (and are in the semi-finals of this year's cup).
Losing 4-2 on aggregate to them really isn't a shameful thing.
James Syme, London
The Death Of Tiki Taka
Is the Tiki Taka style of football dying out? I think so. Last night I watched Atletico tear Barcelona apart at will and in all honestly it should of been 4-0 inside 20minutes. Atletico played direct, fast paced attacking football. Barcelona had much more of the ball and barely created any decent chances.
A few years ago, Barcelona and also Spain were lauded as some of the best teams in history and to be honest, the Spanish team probably was. This style of football has been sussed out now and its being countered much more often and more effectively than it used to be.
Another thing is how incredibly boring it is to watch. Nobody wants to watch a team just pass the ball around their own half for 90 minutes. At times last night Atletico made it look like art the way they tore the Barcelona defence apart. Fast attacking football is the new 'cool' to watch these days - just look at the way Liverpool are attracting the support of some neutrals.
This season Liverpool have been irresistible to watch at times and they are top of the league - just like Atletico are in Spain. Anyway, my only real point was - it is now possible to play very attractive attacking football and win a hell of lot of games at the same time.
...Following on from the email of Stephen (Can it be Sunday already) this morning, I have to agree that football seems to have evolved from the "tika-taka" heady days of 2007-11.
With Pep at the helm and Barca running riot in Spain and on the continent, a million intricate passes in and around the area often ended with a goal and widespread adulation. However, three years or so on, nobody is impressed by this way of playing anymore. Both Barca and now Bayern still play this way, and for the neutral, it is no fun to watch.
Defences have wised up to this "sterile domination" tactic, and as an Arsenal fan, I should know; we still play this way too. Time and again we go from left to right, and all the way back again along the front of the opposition box, and then, before we know it, they're breaking with four against three in their favour and actually get a shot off. Neither Wenger or Guardiola (or Martino, apparently) seem to have realised that counter-attacking with pace and more direct and quicker passing (not long balls, as such) are key to opening up teams these days. That's why we're so much better with Ramsey and Walcott in the side - they actually move forward at speed. They're not the best footballers in the league, but they're quick enough to be affective.
Liverpool battered us in February by playing quickly, pressing high and passing directly and Everton did exactly the same on Sunday. Atletico then watched with glee last night as Barcelona's passy-passy, one-paced play was soaked up with ease, and in the last ten minutes the only team likely to score looked the home one.
Tika-taka is dead, and I'd fancy Real to beat Bayern in the final if the semis allow it.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex
Oh, Mr Big Shot With The Girlfriend
My Juve supporting girlfriend made a good assessment of the United players under Moyes, their mentality has changed dramatically since the Fergie days.
Watching the game last night, I thought similar. The whole United team switched off (Except Rooney who was out for a run around) every time the ball went out of play. The goal was a direct result of a restart and was one of many times United tuned out and jogged back into position after conceding a throw or free kick etc.. I don't remember that happening collectively many times in the last 20 years.
These are still the same players who topped the charts last year. Their physical abilities haven't waned (In fact they should be better than last year!) but their mental abilities have definitely regressed to a point that this is now a shell of a team without a backbone. I'm sure there are many other examples of the change in mentality but this mail is long enough, others can add if they wish.
I know Johnny Nic thinks man management is an illusion but a good manager gets players to play above themselves, not congratulate decent performances with a 300k+ salary per week, not sending a team out without focus or direction on the biggest might of his career. Man management is a vital key in a successful coach and Moyes to my count has messed up situations with Vida, Rio and Evra, plus Giggs if reports are to be believed whereas he won over Rooney. Man management is crucial, it's another yardstick to beat Moyes with!
Anthony Kane, Milan
Liverpool Fan Says United Will Struggle
Watching the Bayern-United match last night, I really hoped they would get through, win the thing and send arsenal or Everton to the Europa league. Strange as it may seem coming from a Liverpool supporter, I sympathise with their upcoming predicament.
They will hold onto Moyes, at least for another 6 months. But when you look at the playing staff, it's a grim outlook.
Vidic, Evra, Giggs, Ferdinand, Hernandez, Nani, Van Persie, Kagawa, Zaha could all realisticly be gone this summer (ok, not all of them I'm sure but of those 9 I wouldn't be surprised if 6 or 7 of them go). Rooney will go if CL football is not attained for the season after next and what does that leave them with? Not much. De gea is too good to hang around for much longer, Januzaj will be snapped up by PSG/Bayern/Madrid within 3 years, Carrick has maybe 3 years left in him. Welback can't score goals, Mata in the near future will say to himself "what have I done?" (if he hasn't already) they can't replace that level of workforce with like-for-like or improved players straight away (or within a few windows).
Once Liverpool dropped out of CL it was plain to see we could not attract big name players. Costa, Willian, Eriksen, Salah, Mkhitaryan are all players we were linked with in the last two windows who decided not to come to Anfield. I wonder if the same players were available this summer would we have enticed one or two based on a successful season and CL football?
United will be able to get some players in, I'm sure they have the money, but what class of player? a lot of the players left are of average quality (smalling, jones, welbeck, Valencia, young, Fabio, Cleverley) and will need some of those 'top,top' players to come in beside them to raise their game a bit. I don't see a bright future for United.
B. Nolan 'can inverted commas be the new brackets' LFC
The MC Noticed It Too
I can't believe nobody in the morning mailbox picked up on Rooney screaming at Welbeck last night. Welbeck has the audacity to pass to Rooney (our 300k a week, undroppable main striker - thanks Moyes) who was free in a better position just in front of goal and because Rooney couldn't even finish his tea last night never mind a scoring opportunity he decided to scream in anger at Welbz.
Moyes should have subbed Rooney there and then, how dare he get annoyed with someone passing the ball to his feet. Danny Welbeck has been with the club since he was 8 years old, he loves the club and gives 110% every time he plays. He may not be able to finish as well as others but I'd rather have him over our future captain who gets paid almost a third of a million pounds a week to run around a lot, to say he was by far the best paid player on the pitch last night is laughable. Fit or not he is nowhere near people like Robben, Ribery etc who can actually make impacts on big games.
Many changes needed Moyes, I'm just gutted were not starting with the manager's position.
Orts (Moyes out since Aug 2013) MUFC
Reading this morning's mailbox I couldn't help but disagree with some of the sentiments sent in this morning.
I believe that it is overly simplistic to blame Evra wholly for the first 2 goals conceded. Doing this would be to treat the symptoms not the disease. Whilst I agree that he should not have let Mandzukic nip in front of him, the rot started earlier where Jones went AWOL and effectively left Fletcher on his own against 2 men, one who sent in a delightful ball that any striker worth his salt would attack with the zeal that Mandzukic displayed. Similarly, for the second, Valencia allowed Ribery to get to the byline and cross. It's not uncommon for a fullback to defend the farpost when a cross is delivered. It was somewhat fortuitous for Bayern that Ribery's cross was overcooked and found an unmarked Robben who duly crossed for their second goal where Vidic should get the same criticism levelled at Evra for the first goal. Conversely, I do blame Evra for the third where his initial missed tackle put all the other defenders on the backfoot and they struggled to recover against a player who is probably the fastest in the world when it comes to close control football.
I also think we shouldn't pat ourselves on the back too much on essentially not being embarrassed. We set out to defend which in my view is the easier option when playing football. Whilst I admit that the quality of the opposition warranted this approach, we failed to execute that which Chelsea perfected two years when they were in a similar position as we were.
A further corollary to Chelsea 2012 was how ruthless Chelsea were when presented with rare opportunities against Barcelona and Bayern. Welbeck and Rooney wasted 3 relatively straight forward opportunities over 2 legs that in my view were worse than Evra's errors. Welbeck's contribution over the 2 legs means that he should be forgiven, but Rooney was the real villain. I'm sure the narrative will absolve Rooney of blame because of his injury but his indecision the first time and, crucially, his poor finish at a critical juncture of the tie is unacceptable for a player of his experience.