Friday, March 8, 2013

Three Thoughts Post Man Utd's Loss To Real Madrid

Tuesday night saw a much anticipated Champions League second leg match-up between Man Utd and Real Madrid end in drama. United were dumped out of the competition after a controversial refereeing decision losing the leg 2-1 and the tie 3-2.

Three days after the drama, the dust has settled, but the effects are still being felt. Here are three thoughts on the story lines that have sprung up in the aftermath of one of the most dramatic results in football this season.

How Does Sir Alex Ferguson Get Away With It?

Ferguson is one of the greats of the game. The 71-year old was appointed as the manager at Old Trafford in November 1986. Since then he has made Manchester United into the most successful football club in the modern both nationally and internationally. During his tenure, Man Utd have won 12 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League successes.

However, time and time again, Ferguson has shown a disrespect to the media and his duties as a statesman of the game and has been given a free pass. This isn't referring to punishments in terms of fines or FA slaps on the wrist. This is reference to moral condemnation that most characters in professional sports undergo.

Personal differences between him and the BBC meant that Ferguson did not speak on Match of the Day or on any of the BBC's coverage between 2004 and 2011 with no repercussions. This is Ferguson's responsibility as an ambassador and leader of the sport.

Once again on Tuesday night, he ignored that responsibility favoring his own frustration over offering proper media representation for his football club.

Time and time again it seems like both in terms of fan reaction, media support and FA sanctions; Ferguson has been given a free pass. Time and time again over the past 26 years Sir Alex has unleashed a rant upon a referee and been allowed to get away with it. Few people could argue that the red card for Nani on Tuesday was controversial to say the least. However, that doesn't give Ferguson the right to completely disrespect the system and boycott the media because of his frustration. In fact, it is his responsibility to answer questions in some sort of measured way.

Perhaps the answer is that Ferguson has been doing this for a long time, he may not be a Premier League manager for that much longer, he may just keep getting away with it for the rest of his career.

Will Wayne Rooney Leave Man United?

The Premier League title is wrapped up, the FA cup isn't as important in comparison with the Champions League. There's little doubt that the game on Tuesday was the biggest game in Man Utd's season so far and yet Rooney was left out of the line-up in favor of Danny Welbeck and Nani.

Robin Van Persie has scored 19 goals in EPL play and has been an instant star for United. He has captured the hearts and minds of the Old Trafford fan base and with a deep group of attacking players including Welbeck, Nani and Javier Hernandez, there have been questions raised about Rooney's future in Manchester.

There are a couple of sticking points in this case. Rooney is costing Man Utd a lot of money and he is currently unfit and seemingly being outplayed by his fellow strikers. He won't be content not featuring in the team's regular first 11; it seems that a parting of the ways is becoming inevitable. 

The fact is though that selling Rooney won't be easy. The financial climate is changing in European football and Rooney's wage is huge. Ferguson won't be interested in sending Rooney to a rival Premier League club, but it's hard to find a fit financially and in terms of 'a team' that would invest in signing Rooney for a reported £20 million fee and then pay his £250,000 per week wages.

Will Jose Mourinho Win A Third Champions League Title?

Lost in the controversy of Nani's red card and even Rooney's omission from the starting line-up was that Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has positioned yet another team in a very winnable Champions League draw. Mourinho is chasing down a third Champions League title in three different countries as a manager, an achievement that may never be repeated.

The potential quarter-finals for the Champions League looks very winnable. Barcelona are in serious trouble against AC Milan already 2-0 entering the second leg. Meanwhile, the likes of Juventus, PSG and Dortmund possess only a questionable level of threat. There's a definite opportunity for Mourinho's star-studded line-up to add the Champions League title that he was ultimately expected to bring.

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