Champions’ League: Manchester United crash out

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
March 10th, 2004 • 4:28 am

I didn’t see the whole game last night, only the first half. But what I saw was enough to convince me that Manchester United’s exit from the Champions’ League is far from being a total shock.

The match report in The Guardian is a good description of what happened. What it fails to mention, however, is that Manchester were just as guilty of simulation and theatrics as Porto were. In Manchester’s case, Ruud van Nistelrooy was the usual culprit. His game is turning more and more into a parody of itself: bully your way into the penalty box, and then fall at the slightest contact. Phil Neville was outrageously clumsy as usual.

That being said, Giggs and Scholes would probably have saved the day if the linesman hadn’t deemed the midfielder offside on his second goal when he so clearly wasn’t (although I’ll readily admit that I thought he was offside too until I saw the replay). So it was a combination of bad luck, defensive frailties, and an inability to finish off the opponent in the second half that ultimately caused Manchester United’s unravelling.

I certainly wasn’t particularly impressed by the Porto players. The entire first half that I saw was marred by theatrics on both sides. It was quite shameful, really — and it’s not surprising that the game hinged on a bad refereeing decision after all, even though it didn’t involve simulation. If Arsenal manage to qualify this afternoon, I sure hope that either they don’t draw the FC Porto in the next round, or the UEFA appoints a better team of referees.

The bottom-line is that Manchester United don’t have much left to hope for this season. The Premiership has not been won by Arsenal yet, but it’s looking pretty good for them — much better than it did last year. Man U could console themselves with the FA Cup, like Arsenal did last year, but they’ll have to beat a very determined Arsenal side in the semi-final on April 3.

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