Money can’t buy you love. Nor, apparently, can it buy you smooth sailing through European competition. Free-spending EPL Titans Manchester City and Manchester United have both been eliminated from the UEFA Champions League. Finishing third in their respective groups, they must pinch their well-recompensed noses and brace themselves for less fashionable Europa League play.
United needed a draw against FC Basel to advance. The Swiss club withstood the barrage, dispatched them 2-1 and swiped their spot in the final rounds. City entered the final round needing a win and a Villarreal result to go through. They fulfilled their part, beating group leaders Bayern 2-0, but the Yellow Submarine failed them and lost to Napoli 2-0.
Manchester City fans will get over this. The Champions League is a novelty. They were drawn in a difficult group. Most can clearly remember them being relegated to League One not to long ago. For United, however, it’s a disaster. Knockout stage play had become a birthright under Ferguson. They drew an easy group. They were expected not just to advance, but to challenge Barcelona for the trophy. Now, they must focus on their league campaign, where they are five points back of their noisy neighbors and were walloped 6-1 by them at home.
English pundits, who used Champions League preeminence as a gauge of national strength, must now grasp a world in which Italy, who just lost a place, sent more teams to the knockout round and France sent the same number. With neither Chelsea nor Arsenal looking imperious, it’s probable the semifinals could be English-free for the second time in three seasons.
[Photo via Getty]