After Champions League exit, what now for Manchester United?

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As the final whistle blew at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday, Manchester United’s fans must now prepare for life without the UEFA Champions League for quiet some time.

That’s the reality.

David Moyes’ men put up a brave fight against Bayern Munich, but bowed out of Europe’s elite club competition at the quarterfinal stage after losing 4-2 on aggregate to the reigning champions. More than likely, United’s 17-straight years in the UCL will come to an end next season.

(MORE: Bayern Munich ease into UCL semis, as Man United crash out)

Now that United are out of Europe, their chances of qualifying for the UCL next season are slim to none as they’re currently seven points off the Premier League’s top four with five games to go. When asked about the possibility of that next season, this is what Moyes had to say.

“Well, we’ve not got Champions League football. That’s the way it looks,” Moyes said with a resigned look on his face. “I believe that it’s not far away, it will hopefully only be one year. With the way we are going to rebuild and our focus know is to get a team that will make sure we are back in this competition because it is a great competition, we’ve really enjoyed it and there’s no shame in going out in the quarterfinals to Bayern Munich tonight. The players have played really well, it shows the quality we’ve got. So we we regroup and build towards being back in the competition again.”

But what about the future?

With United’s rebuild in the post-Ferguson era experiencing serious growing pains, Moyes must now struggle through the transfer market without having the luxury item of Champions League soccer to dangle in front of prospective new signings. The 50-year-old Scotsman doesn’t see that as an issue. But what about the board and the owners who are now considerably out of pocket with UCL cash out the window?

source: AP
Patrice Evra looks on, as Bayern’s players celebrate beating scoring another against Man United.

“The club is looking to spend the right money on the right player if they become available. It has nothing to do with Champions League football,” Moyes said. “Any players that we’ve quietly discussed with are more than happy to join Manchester United. They are all keen to come, because it is a short thing, not a long thing [being without UCL soccer], that are all very keen to join such a great club.”

(LATEST UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NEWS, RIGHT HERE)

United’s fans must know curb their lofty ambitions, as their side will now face an uphill struggle to qualify for the UCL in the foreseeable future. Moyes actually praised his players after the defeat to Bayern. Yes, he is going to publicly stick up for his squad, but even if he’s lambasting his side for what he called ‘schoolboy errors’ in letting Bayern back into the game so quickly after United had taken the lead, his attitude doesn’t evoke what a United manager is all about. Being positive about crashing out of the Champions League isn’t something fans will take to.

So often Sir Alex Ferguson was ruthless in widespread changes he made at various spells of his 26-year tenure in charge of Man United. Moyes needs to do that now, as even one of his most experienced players acknowleged they just aren’t good enough.

“It’s obviously not good enough, we’ve said that over the last few weeks. It is not good enough because this club should be in the Champions League,” midfielder Michael Carrick said. “It was going to be tough tonight, but the reason we aren’t going to be in the Champions League next season is not because of tonight. It is our league form throughout the season, we take responsibility for that. It has been over a long period of time now that we have had too many bad results, and ultimately we will pay for it.”

Carrick went onto say that his side will be back rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite in no time. But how are United going to do that?

source: Getty Images
If David Moyes is given the chance to redeem himself, a daunting rebuild awaits at Old Trafford.

They must rebuild ruthlessly and efficiently, as the $100 million plus that the UCL brings into the clubs coffers has now vanished for next season. The need for Moyes to get creative with his signings and deliver success in the top four is crucial, if he’s even given that luxury. Rumors continue to swirl that the Scot will be ‘one and done’ in terms of years in charge at Old Trafford, as the man Sir Alex Ferguson handpicked as his successor has failed miserably in his first season in charge.

Let’s not beat around the bush.

Did we know it would be difficult to replicate Fergie’s success with an aging team? Yes. But did anybody honestly see United finishing outside the top four, which they will likely do, this campaign? No.

If Moyes is given the opportunity to redeem himself next season, which in all honesty he should, after signing a reported five-year deal to take charge of the Red Devils, he must bring in two new central defenders, a left back, one more top striker and a true holding central midfielder. Veteran defenders Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will all move on, and better replacements than Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are needed at the back. In attack, a foil to Wayne Rooney is what Moyes needs, as Robin van Persie’s injury-hit season has exposed his age and Danny Welbeck isn’t top, top class. In midfield the big-money signing of Marouane Fellaini always seemed like a risky one, and overall the Belgian has had a poor season. United need to invest in a midfield warrior in the engine room. Adding those five players, which is neither going to be easy or cheap, will help Moyes get this legendary club back to where it belongs.

Notice I said help, because the real job here is for Moyes to rally around and inspire his current crop of underachieving superstar’s that will remain at Old Trafford past this season. Psychologically, the tribulations of this season will have a huge impact on the confidence and belief amongst the United squad.

All is not lost, but as we saw against Bayern, and so often in the Premier League this season, United’s glory days are well and truly over. That famous ‘glory, glory Man United’ song could have a hollow ring to it for quiet some time, as a monumental rebuild is well and truly underway.

Arena reacts to USMNT draw, expects CONCACAF fight to end

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Bruce Arena didn’t enjoy watching Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, but he’s not upset with the result.

“The referee didn’t blow his whistle too much, and that’s the way the game looked for 90 minutes,” Arena said.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Arena’s Yanks struggled to find their flow in the draw, ravaged by injuries to their back line. Arena praised his back four for their performance in difficult circumstances on the road with new teammates.

And he’s feeling a lot better than a week ago, when the U.S. had zero points and sat last in the table.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games. We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying is going to be critical for every team. Everyone’s in it. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third, and fourth spots.”

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

Panama 1-1 USMNT: Ugly, scrappy point for both sides

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The United States will finish the international break in the Hex’s fourth place after a 1-1 draw at Panama in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Clint Dempsey scored off a feed from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. a brief 1-0 lead, and Gabriel Gomez leveled the score before halftime.

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Here’s the Hex table as it stands, with the U.S. on pace for a playoff spot against Asia’s playoff winner:

Mexico — 10 points
Costa Rica — 7 points
Panama — 5 points
———————
USMNT — 4 points
———————-
Honduras — 4 points
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening quarter-hour (and never pulled a single card).

Felipe Baloy flashed a header over the cross bar off a 16th minute corner kick as he lost Jozy Altidore and nodded back across goal. It was a bit of set piece foreshadowing, as Arena has yet to fix a long-held USMNT problem.

Christian Pulisic was fired up when Luis Tejada shoved him to the turf in the 20th minute.

Tim Ream bailed out Jorge Villafana, who wasn’t as composed and smart as his Friday versus Panama, sliding to divert Armando Cooper’s cross for a corner kick.

Jermaine Jones cued up Pulisic moments later, but the youngster had to wait for a bounding ball to settle before Panama conceded a corner. That opportunity was wasted by an overly aggressive Gonzalez, who was called for a foul before the ball arrived in the 18.

Howard saw his first danger and averted it when Alberto Quintero shook Zusi to rip a shot on frame. It was 0-0 after 32 minutes.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

The second half began with more chunky play until Villafana blazed down the left wing on an overlapping run to cross for Pulisic, whose shot was forced out for a corner which led to nothing.

Dempsey then turned a Michael Bradley free kick to a waiting Jaime Penedo as the Yanks started to refind their flow.

Panama found a doorstep chance when Torres nodded down for Tejada, but Howard made an exceptional nether regions “leg” save to keep it 1-1.

Arena introduced Alejandro Bedoya for Darlington Nagbe with 20 minutes to play, a move that was a testament to the physical nature of the game.

Fittingly, it was creative work from Pulisic that helped the U.S. win a corner kick soon after, though Penedo claimed the offering.

More chances came Panama’s way, as the U.S. spent much of the late stages desperately clearing loose balls. On another night, with better finishing from Tejada, the Yanks would’ve been sunk.

Three takeaways from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Panama

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
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What did we learn from the United States’ 1-1 draw in Panama City on Wednesday?

For one thing, that the coach isn’t going to matter without a number of your very best players.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

The USMNT saw precious few moments of brilliance from its injury-ravaged side, saved by its soon-to-be all-time leading scorer, its 18-year-old star attacker, and its legendary goalkeeper.

But mainly, we saw that you can change the boss, but you need better performances to make a difference.

Limits of depth tested in ugly affair

Bruce Arena was without his best center back pairing thanks to injury, and you could argue he was without his best back four if you see Fabian Johnson as a left back (John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, and Johnson).

The U.S. also couldn’t pair Bobby Wood with Jozy Altidore or Clint Dempsey, and lost Sebastian Lletget to injury on Friday. Timmy Chandler has rarely thrived with the USMNT, but it certainly would’ve been nice if Arena had called him up for the second match alone (He was suspended Friday for yellow card accumulation).

Given the above, this was not a pretty match. You just have to hope this isn’t the result that keeps them from Russia.

Mexico, revisited (What game plan?)

This might be an unpopular take, but Tuesday’s loss was nothing more than the performance put forth against Mexico in Columbus.

The main differences? Tim Howard was there to make a tremendous save, and Panama is nowhere near to the level of El Tri.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The Yanks didn’t have a great plan other than to outwork Panama. This isn’t a big knock on the coach’s tactics given the lack of starting caliber players noted above, but once Panama flooded the middle of the pitch with fouls and tight tackles, an answer wasn’t provided by the players or the coach.

Plan B hasn’t been a U.S. strong suit for a long time, perhaps back to the finer moments of the Bob Bradley era. Arena got away with one on Tuesday.

Rough road ahead

This is something we know, but my was it reinforced: Winning CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers at home is a necessity, because there’s carnage and bad pitches on the road.

Perhaps that could’ve changed if referee Cesar Ramos brought a yellow card out for either team at any point in the proceedings. Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe were fouled as part of Panama’s game plan, and the Yanks’ beleaguered defense went with a similar plan as the sloppy match wore into the waning moments.

The U.S. is still in control of its own World Cup destiny, of course, but simply must handle its business in remaining home matches against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Costa Rica. T&T is next, and anything other than three points sends them into Azteca in a bad, bad way.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw in Panama

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Player ratings reverted to old form after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Panama City, though fortunately one of the other U.S. tropes is dead.

That’s because “Christian Pulisic is the future” can officially be moved into “Christian Pulisic is the present”.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

The Borussia Dortmund teenager again manufactured the United States’ best moment, feeding Clint Dempsey for the Yanks’ lone goal.

Starting XI

Tim Howard  — 7 — Don’t know what he’s supposed to do on the goal, but his jewels save to deny Luis Tejada could be a World Cup saver.

Jorge Villafana  — 4 — One of the many star men from the win over Honduras was too adventurous and less composed. Bad combo.

Omar Gonzalez  — 4 — I say this in a way that ignores Timmy Chandler’s fine work in the Bundesliga: Is Gonzalez going to be Bruce Arena’s Chandler? Hopefully this is the last time he has to start.

Tim Ream — 5 — Had a bad time on the goal, and made several bad plays. But it’s hard to get a read on the Fulham’s man night because he bailed out Gonzalez and Villafana on a number of occasions.

Graham Zusi  — 5 — Gets bumped up a point for handling a very difficult situation, still adapting to right back in a match where Panama’s tactics were to attack his side. A better second half than the first.

Michael Bradley  — 6 — Nothing exceptional from the captain, but still an upgrade from his form under Jurgen Klinsmann. A little too deep in the formation on the evening, but that could’ve been the plan?

Jermaine Jones  (Off 75′) — 5 — Ornery as usual, his only successes came in standing up for his oft-fouled midfield mates.

Darlington Nagbe  (Off 68′) — 6  — This game looked set up for him to pick the ball up from Michael Bradley and dance into the midfield, but he only got a few chances as Panama’s tactics were aimed at fouling the Yanks’ two best dribblers in him and Pulisic.

Christian Pulisic  — 9 — A simply incredible bit of work to work two veteran defenders and assist Dempsey’s goal. Failing an unforeseen dip in company, Pulisic is going to be one of the most important players in American men’s history.

Clint Dempsey  — 6 — Scored the goal that earned the point, but otherwise fought to be a part of the match. That’s the sign of a legend, though, still finding a way to make himself matter on a poor evening.

Jozy Altidore  — 5 — Might’ve had a dozen touches in the game. Part of this was down to the U.S. aiming balls at his head and not his feet, but not his day.

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 68′)  — 6 — Dogged work rate from the Union man.

Kellyn Acosta (On 75′) — 6 — Some creativity on display in limited time

Paul Arriola (On 83′) — N/A —