Mind the gap!
The gap between Manchester United and Europe’s best teams is bigger than ever.
When Manchester United finally returned to play in Europe’s top tournament in 1993, they failed to even make it to the group stage after a 2nd round away goals defeat to Galatasaray. United looked like they didn’t belong. Within 6 years, they had won the trophy thanks to a famous last gasp win against Tuesday’s opponents. Since then, United’s record in the Champions League has been solid and at times spectacular. Were it not for Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, arguably the greatest club side of all time, their titles would equate to a fantastic five.
The sad reality for Manchester United fans to accept is that United are miles off Europe’s top teams. Far from dining at Europe’s top table, Manchester United aren’t even fit to sit at the kiddies’ table of European football.
In the 10 years before the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, United were once winners and twice finalists. Only two times did they fail to make the knockout stages. In the 11 seasons since, they have failed to even qualify for the Champions League on four occasions and have only made it out of the group three times.
Considering this, it is perhaps less surprising that this iteration of Manchester United should also fail to jump the first hurdle. Erik ten Hag mentioned a difference in class between his side and Bayern Munich and it begs the question; “Would any of Tuesday’s starting 11 make it into the Bayern side?” I sincerely doubt Thomas Tuchel would swap a single one of his current crop for anybody in the United team.
Old Trafford is far from the fortress it was for more than 20 years and as Bayern’s sensational fans giddily mocked the Old Trafford faithful with chants in perfect English - “is this a library?”, “football’s coming home” and a few more for decency’s sake I cannot commit to print. It was apparent that this routine win was nothing new for a good European side and their supporters. Opposition managers will phonily pay homage to the Theatre of Dreams and the great Manchester United, but any potential Champions League winner worth their salt now expects to turn up at Old Trafford and collect 3 points.