After Champions League exit, what now for Manchester United?


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.”


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.

MLS: NYCFC with 3 wins in 3; defending champs TFC point-less

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NEW YORK (AP) Ismael Tajouri and Maximiliano Moralez scored 12-minutes apart in the second half and New York City FC opened the season with three straight wins for the first time in the club’s short history with a 2-0 victory over Orlando City on Saturday.

Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik misplayed a back-pass that went right to Tajouri inside the 18-yard box and Tajouri took a few touches to the penalty spot for an easy finish in the 62nd minute. After an Orlando giveaway to Saad Abdul-Salaam, Jesus Medina settled it for an oncoming Moralez to slide it home.

NYCFC (3-0-0) was without start David Villa due to a minor injury.

Orlando City (0-2-1), led by NYC’s former coach Jason Kreis (2014-15), has its share of injury problems as well. Striker Stefano Pinho had a right ankle injury last Saturday, leaving on crutches, and playmaker Dom Dwyer will be out for at least two more weeks.

Sacha Kljestan made his debut for Orlando after serving a two-game ban. The club arrived late due to the St. Patrick’s Day parade traffic.

MONTREAL (AP) Jeisson Vargas scored four minutes before the intermission to lift Montreal to a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC in the Impact’s home opener Saturday.

It was the first MLS goal for 20-year-old Vargas and the first win for new coach Remi Garde, who replaced Mauro Biello in December as coach of the Impact (1-2).

Toronto (0-2) played its first game since a rousing victory in the CONCACAF Champions League over Mexican side Tigres. The travel to Mexico may have sapped some energy from the defending MLS champions, who nonetheless started most of their top players.

Garde seemed to catch everyone off guard by starting a three-man backline with former Marseille defender Rod Fanni making his debut in the middle.

It made for a mostly uneventful first half until Saphir Taider intercepted a ball and sent Ignacio Piatti up the middle. Three Toronto defenders focused on the Impact captain, leaving Vargas open on the right side to take the pass and slice a shot inside the goalpost in the 41st minute for their first lead in three games.

Piatti was inside the Toronto penalty area on two more occasions before the break but Nick Hagglund blocked one dangerous shot and another was also turned away.

Eight minutes into the second half, Piatti sent Taider in alone but Alexander Bono pushed the shot.

Toronto threatened in the 64th when Sebastian Giovinco got the ball to striker Jozy Altidore. He lifted a shot over goalie Evan Bush but saw it bounce just wide. Toronto looked to have tied it in the 84th minute when Altidore’s shot got behind Bush and was rolling slowly to the goal line, but Michael Petrasso swept it away at the last second.

Montreal striker Matteo Mancosu, who missed practice this week for what the team called precautionary reasons, didn’t dress.

Midfielder Victor Vazquez, who has had back trouble, didn’t dress for Toronto. Chris Mavinga (suspected sports hernia) was in the lineup but did not start.

Mourinho slams Man Utd players for “lack of desire” despite FA Cup win

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Jose Mourinho, voted the manager mostly likely to zig when everyone else in the world is zagging*, laid into his Manchester United players on Saturday despite the fact the Red Devils topped Brighton & Hove Albion to advance to the semifinals of the FA Cup.

*not a real poll that has ever been taken, as far as we’re aware

[ MORE: Spurs advance to FA Cup semifinal | Man United join them ]

The Portuguese boss called out his players for what he deemed “a lack of personality, a lack of class, and a lack of desire” in the 2-0 victory at Old Trafford.

quotes from the Guardian:

“The basic things is to keep the emotional balance to play with that red shirt, which is a heavy shirt to wear. But to feel not comfortable to play, saying, ‘Please Mister, take me from the pitch.’ I felt that. So I have nothing to lose in relation to that. The strong ones will be always the strong ones. The young ones, under pressure and under criticism, will improve or will not improve.

“Matic was an island of personality and quality. But a few of the other guys, I saw them scared to play. Look, I cannot say much more. I think it is in relation with personality, in relation to trust, in relation to class. And you know when the sun is shining, and in football the sun is shining when everything goes well, you win matches, you score goals, everything goes in your direction, every player is a good player and every player wants to play and every player wants the ball and every player is confident to play and every player looks amazing.

“When it is dark and cold and that in football means a period of bad results or a bad result like what happened to us a couple of days ago, not everybody has the confidence and the personality to play really. Because to be on the pitch and touch the ball every five minutes, anyone can do it but to be on the pitch and say: ‘Give me the ball because I want to play,’ that is a little bit more difficult. Not all of them were able to do it.”

As for 21-year-old Scott McTominay, Mourinho singled him out for criticism not only in the public forum, but in the locker room after the final whistle:

“You have the kid that didn’t play well at all. I told him already, he was the first one I spoke to individually in the dressing room. And instead of being critical with him, I was positive with him saying: ‘You played very bad but you did the basic things that one player has to do.'”

This is year two of Mourinho’s reign at Old Trafford, and if the signs of fractures between manager and players are beginning to sound all too familiar, one should be reminded that Mourinho only signed a new contract to remain at the club through 2020 (with a further option) in January.

Serie A: Juventus slip up vs. SPAL, let Napoli back in the race

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Spurs advance to FA Cup semifinal | Man United join them ]

SPAL 2013 0-0 Juventus

Just one week after going top of the league with a game in hand, Juventus slipped up away to 17th-place SPAL on Saturday and left the door ever so slightly ajar for second-place Napoli in the title race.

Juve had 65 percent of possession on the day and out-shot SPAL by a count of 12-3 (3-0 on target), but the likes of Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Douglas Costa and Miralem Pjanic couldn’t beat 20-year-old goalkeeper Alex Meret (on loan from Udinese).

(Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Massimiliano Allegri’s side now leads Napoli by five points, but the game in hand now belongs to the chasers, who host 13th-place Genoa on Sunday with a chance to cut the deficit to just two points with nine games remaining. Just when it seemed crystal clear and a foregone conclusion Juve would wrap up their seventh straight Serie A title, newly promoted SPAL helped to make things quite interesting once again.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Udinese 1-2 Sassuolo

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Sampdoria vs. Inter Milan — 7:30 a.m. ET
Crotone vs. Roma — 10 a.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Chievo — 10 a.m. ET
Torino vs. Fiorentina — 10 a.m. ET
Hellas Verona vs. Atalanta — 10 a.m. ET
Benevento vs. Cagliari — 10 a.m. ET
Napoli vs. Genoa — 3:45 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Bologna — 3:45 p.m. ET

Man Utd joins Spurs in FA Cup semis

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Jose Mourinho has come under heavy scrutiny in recent days and weeks, as his Manchester United side crashed out of the Champions League this week and continue to trail runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City by 16 points, yet the Portuguese is perhaps just 180 minutes from finishing the 2017-18 with a major trophy anyway.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Swansea to reach FA Cup semis ]

Man United got the best of Brighton & Hove Albion, to the tune of 2-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday, to book their spot at Wembley Stadium in the semifinals of the FA Cup. Romelu Lukaku scored the winning goal not long before halftime, with United grinding out another laborious result with superstars Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez glued to the bench for the whole of 90 minutes.

United enjoyed a healthy 61 percent of possession in the game, but were out-shot by the 12th-place side in the PL by a sizable margin, 16-8 (4-2 on target).

[ MORE: Follow all the FA Cup scores ] 

Lukaku’s rampage through the FA Cup continued in the 37th minute, as the big Belgian striker bagged not only his 23rd goal of the season in all competitions, but his fifth of the tournament thus far and extended his record of having scored in each round to four games.

Nemanja Matic floated a cross from the let side of the box to the back post, where Lukaku had created a yard or two of space for himself. Tim Krul didn’t come out to catch it, and Lukaku headed it just under the crossbar to give the Old Trafford faithful reason to smile again.

[ PREVIEW: Who will join Spurs, United at Wembley?

It was Matic who got on the end of another back-post ball, this one from an Ashley Young free kick, in the 84th minute to put United two goals ahead and secure the club’s second FA Cup semifinals appearance in seven seasons (United enjoyed a run of five final-four appearances out of eight in the years prior).

Tottenham Hotspur, who trail United by four points in the race for second in the PL, were the first side to advance to this season’s semifinals by winning 3-0 away to Swansea City on Saturday.