UCL draw offers little resistance for Manchester United


Manchester United’s Champions League campaign will see them travel to Portugal, Switzerland and Romania to face opposition who, on paper, appear to offer little resistance to a successful group stage.

The draw this year was particularly brutal to many teams especially the other three English entries.  While United received a fairly easy ride to the knockout stage others were not so fortunate.

Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have been dealt very severe blows by being grouped with very strong teams who will give them all they can handle.  Lets examine the groups and who the potential qualifiers are.

Group C

Manchester United will once again face a Portuguese team as it seems Porto and Benfica take turns every year in drawing us in the group stage.  At least it feels that way. Benfica will be a tough test but they have lost a few players from team of last season but overall, they always seem to put together a strong side capable of beating anyone.  A tough hurdle but not a big problem based on our current squad and style of play.

The rest of the group basically should feel like a walk in the park.  Nobody should ever take any team in the Champions League lightly but there is nobody who will convince me that FC Basel has what it takes to beat United, nor do relatively unknown Romanian champions Otelui Galati (sounds like an Italian sports car or a flavour of Gelati) put the scare of God into me either.

Unlike many who always like to throw the political correctness into the discussion, I will deliver something a bit different.  Basically, no bloody minnows have a chance in beating us let alone knock us out at the group stages.  United will win the group easily and Benfica will come in second while Basel and Galati will fight it out to see if either is capable of beating each other for some points and minor consolation.


The group is a proper reward for a team that reached the final a year ago and in fact has ranked as one of the top four teams in Europe for the past ten years or so.  Manchester United deserve this easy group and although it will do very little towards preparing them for tougher European competition down the road, it will allow us to play more of our youth at times and break in our newcomers without feeling too nervous about it.  It will also allow us to rest some stars due to the packed schedule being so heavy between these games, the EPL schedule and Carling Cup.

I don’t expect United to route the opposition.  In fact we never really do.  Benfica will be tough and we may even lose to them away but the rest of the games should be no trouble even if we do not beat these teams by several goals a game.  Fergie always tends to play the group rounds with great caution and patience, which means a lot of 1-0 away wins. Look for the same this time around.

What of the competition?

As for our noisy neighbours to the south, Manchester City have unfortunately for them been placed in this year’s version of the ‘group of death’.  My God it will bea titanic struggle for any two teams to get out of a group which also includes Bayern Munich, Villarreal and Napoli.

Being a Bayern supporter as well, I am just cringing in fear over the possibilities of worst-case scenarios coming out of this group.  Napoli is not a great Italian side but lets face it, they are nonetheless an Italian side and they must be taken seriously.  Villarreal are always going to give teams problems as they are a top Spanish side with a lot of talent and experience.  Bayern were in the final two years ago and the additions of stars like Neuer, Rafinha, Boateng and others have made them stronger but they are also a club very capable of underachieving and so there are no guarantees coming from their camp.  As for City, well to be honest, I find it hard to believe they will not come out of that group but it would not surprise me if they came out as the second place finisher.  Bayern and Villarreal will fight it out to be the other side.

Arsenal are fortunate to be in this competition and I hope their experience helps them enjoy it because I have very little confidence in their overall chances.  Still, they are in a tough group with up and coming teams but teams who lack the real experience and cutting edge to be called favourites.

I personally love Borussia Dortmund and their coach Juergen Klopp.  I think that team led by teen sensation Mario Gotze have the tools to win the group but will inexperience hurt their chances?  Marseilles have a little more experience than both the German and Italian sides and so I am expecting Arsenal and Marseilles to get out of this group but Dortmund could surprise, as they are truly a quality side.  Poor Wenger, his woes just continue.  Arsenal should go through but then again, they could finish last.  Anything is possible with those underachievers who are now minus their engine room of Fabregas and Nasri.

What about Chelsea?  Well they will not be sending flowers and chocolates to UEFA headquarters any time soon I don’t think.  They too have been placed in a very difficult group with Germany’s second place finishers Bayer Leverkusen, Belgian champions Genk and the always-tough Spanish contenders Valencia.

On paper none of these clubs should pose much of a threat to Chelsea but then again the Blues never seem to play well in the early stages and the ongoing question mark that has become Fernando Torres needs to be finally answered.  If he returns to his top form, Chelsea will have it easy.  If he continues to struggle, then all bets are off.  I look for Chelsea and Valencia to come out of this group but Leverkusen have some quality and in players like Ballack, Kiesling and others, they have experience too.  Still, Chelsea should have just enough even though they will be missing Petr Cech for many of these games due to injury.  No Cech makes things more interesting and even tighter to call.

Finally, let me quickly gloss over the other groups.  Real Madrid should have no trouble in Group D even though they are up against very experienced French side Lyon as well as Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb.  Ajax is no pushover and neither are Zagred but Real and Lyon should advance with ease.  Mourinho will be super determined to get his club to the final this year.  And lets face it, he has the horses for the courses.

Inter will have their hands full with the Russian outfit CSKA as well as Lille and Turkish minnows Trabzonspor in Group B.  Inter are not what they were with Mourinho but they should still go through due to all that experience.  It will be a fight between CSKA and Lille for the second place spot with CSKA grabbing it.

Group F seems kind of tight simply because the top seeded team FC Porto does not look all that tough having lost their manager from last year.  Still, they will fight it out with Shakhtar, the difficult Russian side Zenit and Cypriot minnows Apoel.  Porto should have no problem advancing along with either Zenit or Shakhtar.  Let me go out on a limb and predict Zenit.

And what of the mighty Barcelona?  Well lucky them, they get to visit the San Siro early and take on a tough AC Milan.  After that they will have no problem with super minnows Viktoria Pizen and Bate Borisov.  Both are capable of an upset, but not against Barcelona.  It will be Barca and Milan in a cakewalk.

Let’s get down to business…..

The Champions League draw has ensured that the group stages should be highly competitive this season.  Many tough groups and nobody other than Barca and United seem to have a free ride.  Thankfully, pedigree and performance has ensured us an easier grouping and I’m sure we will meet the demands and get through it unscathed.  Now enough talk and lets get on with the tournament.  I for one can hardly wait




  1. Nice wrap up Grog, good read.

    This kid, Mario Goetze, they say he’s the German Messi, can he play through the middle?

    • Yes he can. When it comes to playing positions Gotze is similar to Mesut Ozil as he can play both CM, AMF, LAM or LW positions with great effect. I would rate Ozil slightly ahead of him in vision, but only slightly while Gotze is a superior finisher capable of striking with either foot while Ozil can only use his left. Gotze has fantastic touch, finesse and vision and can also add pace and strength to his game which does not remind me of Messi but more of Lothar Matthaues but without as much grit and defensive ability. Still, Gotze can play a defensive midfield role if pressed and he is not an embarrassment there as he is good at marking and a very decent tackler as well. I personally love his pace short but very exciting dribbles and most of all, his incredible vision for through balls.

      Germany are so blessed for the future because of Gotze, Ozil, Thomas Muller and also Tony Kroos. They are all kids and all have such great potential having already achieved so much at so early a time in their young careers. I love Wesley Sneijder but at 19, he was nowhere near Gotze in skill or imagination. I can only imagine where Gotze will be when he is 27. Barring serious injury, he truly has the potential to be the next great German start to win a Balon D’Or. But for him to do that he will have to choose ambition over loyalty and at some point in the next few years will have to leave a small team like Dortmund either for Bayern Munich or come to England or go to Spain or Italy.

      England is also blessed with some great young talent like Clevelrey, Wilshere, Adam Johnson, Jack ROdwell and of course Smalling and Phil Jones. The only thing standing in their way is time and Fabio Capello.
      Cleverley and Wilshere have tremendous potential as well and although I wouldn’t rate them up there with Gotze and Ozil, they are no slumps and have tremendous upside. Thank God Fergie owns most of these kids and hopefully in the future we can add Rodwell to the mix to basically possess the nucleus of the future England team within Old Trafford.
      Smalling, Jones, Rodwell, Cleverleyaqnd Rooney will hopefully man the spine of the England and Man Utd sides of the next ten years. And that is an exciting prospect indeed. Adding a Rodwell and Gotze to the mix would make United positively Barca like. 🙂

      • His settled position seemed to be right attacking midfield last season in Dortmund’s narrow three. He played in the middle or left positions(again in the attacking midfield three) when others were missing. He is very intelligent and technically gifted, and suited the team’s play brilliantly. They were excellent to watch last year but Nuri Sahin was a big part of their passing game and he’s away. It will be interesting to see if they have replaced him or if their style will differ from last season.

        Those four are great young players but they are not all going to fit into one team. At best I could see three of them being squeezed into a starting eleven. They also offer vaguely the same qualities so I don’t see any of them other than Muller being able to offer something different. At least one will have a disappointing international career. I reckon it will be Kroos.

        • Yes I do because he is totally versatile. Like Nani, he can play across the midfield but unlike Nani, he can play in the middle and even in a pinch be holding midfielder. He is tidy and very smart and has all the tools to succeed. I see no reason why he could not adapt to our system.

  2. Dortmund will win Group F. So it is between Arsenal and Marseille with 50/50 chances. Shakhtar will win group G – they had a good run last year and now have solid CL experience. Shakhtar have plenty of talent, they kept their key players so they will be tough to beat. Players like Jadson and Srna would definitely add to United midfield.

    • isn’t srna a Full back? I thought he was there captain and left full back.. 🙄

    • Easy to say because they are German champions but they have to strikes against them right from the start. One, they lack the experience of understanding how to play in the Champions League as well as how to build up to games and rotate properly within their Bundesliga schedule and the CL. Secondly, they are an attack minded side that hasn’t figured out yet that some games requirre them to fall back and defend. This will get them skewered in Europe initially I think but Juergen Klopp is a great manager who will eventually adapt and learn. Like Fergie he and his team will have to get bloodied first before they progress. They could finish second in that group but I honestly feel they will not qualify for the knockout stage.

    • hahahaha. Sran was the guy with perfect crossing, corners, passing in FM2010 🙂

  3. I arrogantly predict 16 points from our Group (with the draw coming at Benfica)….Interestingly we got 16 points from our group stage when we won it in 07-08 drawing our last game in Rome. History shall repeat itself!!!!!

    • That’s an accurate prediction. The only thing that could scuttle that would be Fergie going all conservative when we travel to Romania or Switzerland where wins should come but not easily. I predict 16 points as well. I also think Benfica will give us the hardest time at home as well.

    • However, I just saw that we play Benfica away for our first game, so we may actually win this one as our lads are hungry for European football…so, maybe 18 points is realistic, unless Olefjhetat Galatjisasa (spelling?) give us a stern eastern European game (though I doubt it)


    • Fantastic! Pogba seems to score every game he plays; I can’t wait for his senior debut.

      I feel bad for Diouf as he obviously has some raw talents, but there is no way he’ll find his way into the 1st team with the depth we have a striker/forward positions; it seems like Kiko and Diouf are fighting it out for bench position next year when Owen/Berba may leave.

  4. The best bit is that it means we have ample opportunities to field weakened teams that give youngsters some European experience. It seems we always get an easy ride in the group stages. In some ways it is a blessing but at the same time I think we will struggle in Europe this season so I would have preferred some tougher challenges.

  5. Quick questions.
    1.How many seasons does Real Madrid and Lyon have to play each other for it to no longer be a coincidence? Is this not like the 5th time in 6 seasons?
    2.Are Manchester United and Barcelona the other commercial “rivalries”? Can’t bet against those two next May
    3. You can bet a million on one of the knockouts being an all English affair.
    4. Arsenal WILL progress by the skin of their teeth. Look out for Gervinho.
    5. Arsenal WILL be unceremoniously knocked out(maybe by Chelsea in the all English affair”. This will result in the complete falling apart of the rest of their season.
    6. Italian teams will embarrass themselves this season. Technically innovative, physically outdated. Won’t keep up with anyone
    7. Spain’s participants are now boring the crap out of everyone. Honestly, do they only have Villareal and Valencia? And will any of that duo ever do anything to bring unpredictability to this ever depreciating and dull tournament?
    8. For the millionth season in a row, Leo Messi will achieve ridiculous statistics and the bland Champions League commentators will erroneously declare that they’ve run out of superlatives, closing with “brilliant”
    9. The bland commentators will for the 20th season in a row, show blatant bias for the, rugged and boring English teams. Especially the Catalondon (nursery)giants.
    10. Jose Mourinho will embarrass the whole football fraternity, with on and off pitch tactics that will showcase his utter lack of class

    • wait a minute… did you summarize last season or predict this season 😉

    • The bland commentators will for the 20th season in a row, show blatant bias for the, rugged and boring English teams. Especially the Catalondon (nursery)giants.

      Actually, I have not yet come across a commentator who is not unbelievably biased in favour of Barcelona. I was watching the UEFA Super Cup tonight and I had to switch off at half time because of my disgust at both how boring Barca played (to my taste anyway) and at how cringeworthy the praise was coming from both ITV and Sky Sports.

      The English teams are the great entertainers of world football, why else would the Premier League be the most watched league in the world?

      Mourinho has got to be the most exciting personality I have ever witnessed in modern football. My favourite speech of him (which all the Barcalovers can shove up their overused Catalan asses):



      • You said it. It was a disgusting and boring game with Barca boring the snot out of everyone especially Porto. There was this one time when they strung ten passes in a row and never moved one foot forward in the process. I`m sorry but they don`t play football, they just play short pass keep away and then when the defense is just fed up watching this, they hit you with a long through ball and you`re dead. Some might think this is innovative, brilliant or smart, I think it`s cowardly and boring.

        And you think the commentators are biased, well how about the ref. Anytime a Barca player has the ball and somebody gets near him, he goes down like he got shot and guess what, the ref calls it on the Porto player. They are diabolical cheaters and they have every official in the game and the stupid as Hell media in their back pockets. They are a cancer that has to be cut out before it spreads to the point of viral proportions.

        • Couldn’t agree with you more Grog! Thing is – that Barca will play their COMATOSED football of little passes going nowhere – UNTIL the opposing team score against them and they have to come forward. So to have any chance, opposing teams have to look and push to score against Barca 1st. That’s what United did in USA – I know it was only pre season tour, but Barca were desperate to win that game believe me. When we scored they had to come forward and we got more goals on counter. So that’s my thoughts anyway. I certainly agree with your points about Barca players eternally going down and rolling around. I think Barca prove tho that for some teams CHEATS prosper!

        • They are truly a disgusting lot and any fan out there or any broadcaster and journalist out there that cops to their wicked plan and supports them, well they are all disgusting as well. One would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to figure out that lot and what they are all about. Amazingly the most manly of all their players is Messi because 50% of the time he avoids going down and fights it off because he is so goal hungry and greedy. Can’t really knock him for that but I hate him nonetheless.

          I just wished the governing bodies were ruled by fairness and justice instead of money. If they were Barca would not be getting away with this crap and would have to earn their silverware the old fashioned way. They do have the talent to win without resorting to cheating and acting like little cunts. Nothing would make me happier than to see some team not only knock them out of Europe but actually embarrass them and rough them up to. Am I jealous of their success? No. Because I really do not believe they fully have earned it. Every game they play they have 13 men vs 11. The referee is the 12th man and UEFA, FIFA and LA LIGA all combine to be the 13th man. Hard to beat a team with 13 players short passing and boring you into an early grave. If one feels that slipping the opponent a sleeping tonic just before they attack them is their way of playing the game, well they are a prick and lack the courage and respect true champions would show their opponents.

        • Barcelona are truly the greatest evil in world football and must be eradicated 👿 👿

        • What are Real Madrid then? They are hardly much better and are managed by a classless prick.

  6. If Hernandez is available and Fergie doesn’t play him, I don’t care IF it is in PL or CL – then Fergie will be very foolish. I say this because Hernandez and Mickey Owen are the only NATURAL goalscorers we have got. Yeah give Danny Welbeck some games – but I do not think he will score too many goals for us. He played most games for Sunderland last season – and he missed goal opportunity after goal opportunity. Cleverley I love, but he shouldn’t be played to death, because look what happened to Jack Wilshire playing for Arsenal and England – too many games and he is injury knackered regularly. I am pretty certain that Rooney will miss his usual good portion of games thru injury – and that will gladden my heart – because Nani will get some respite from the scouse bully. I remember Rooney being out last term – and Nani was the ace card provider of assists and goals – the lad stepped up. I think we will do okay in Europe – IF Fergie doesn’t get his team choices wrong! Park has always played great against Le Arse, and I expect him to play this weekend against them.

    • I’m not too sure, every time we’ve handed Arsenal their asses it has always been with a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation with either Rooney or Ronaldo as the complete striker up top. Hernandez, in shit hot form in a 4-4-2 formation last season, didn’t do too well at the Emirates but then again our away form sucked anyway…

      I’ll go out on a limb and suggest we play 4-3-3:

      De Gea
      Rafael Rio Smalling Evra

      Carrick Park Anderson

      Young Rooney Nani

      Throw on Hernandez if we haven’t destroyed Arsenal before the latter stages of the game. Fergie may also play Jones instead of Rafael, and switch Smalling to RB. Playing Evans (please just NO) would be foolish IMO since it gives the Arse a glimmer of hope. They still have RVP up front after all, who remains a world class striker.

      • I don’t see us going that defensive at OT against a weakened and low-confidence Arsenal side. I can see MAYBE one of Carrick or Park starting, but not both. Why change Cleverley after his good performances thus far? I’d also rather have a 100% fit Jones than a 80% fit Rio in defence OR maybe give Jones a shout at DMC for the game? I would love to see Chicharito start, too, as it will keep Arsenal’s defence on their toes.
        (Rafael is also out with injury, so maybe you were meaning the other Da Silva twin; they are basically one in the same)

        Arsenal do have Gervinho, Song, and Frimpong suspended as well Wilshere, Koscielny and possibly Gibbs injured. Thus, we should ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK

        Prediction/”Hoping for” Lineup:

        De Gea

        Fabio Jones Smalling Evra

        Young Cleverley Ando (or Carrick) Nani

        Rooney Chicharito

    • Well mate, Danny Welbeck isn’t a “scoring” striker so I wouldn’t complain about him getting too few goals. Although an attacker, he will never be top scorer until he has managed consistency. But I can see him get a lot of assists for us this season!

      • Mate we don’t need Welbeck for assists ar the expense of strikers who give us the goals we need – chicharito and Owen. Welbeck is played as a striker, and if he cannot consistently get goals – then he should not be given a strikers role. He may surprise us and get the goals – but I doubt it! We will just have to wait and see if the lad does – but I still maintain we need Hernandez and Owen to get us the goals we need when all is against us – and the bus is parked. It was Hernandez who proved he could do that last season miles better than anyone else. In fact I would go as far as to say – his goals in the important games WON the PL for us. If Fergie doesn’t play him, then I think he will leave for Madrid who have asked the Glazers to name their price for Chicharito. But maybe that’s why Fergie is blooding some of the youngsters – so he can get the Glazers another Ronaldo type sales result.

  7. Some players just have a habit of doing well against a certain club. Paul Scholes had it against Newcastle, Becks against Spurs and Ronaldo against Villa. Rooney also does well against Newcastle, scoring in almost every game he has played against them… But his natural nemisis is Arsenal. He has, I think, 9 goals in 13 games against them which really is an impressive total. He has to play!

    Another one who tends to do well against Arsenal is Anderson. It was in this fixture he really made a name for himself back in 2007, in the 2-2 draw where he and Hargo totally dominated and rediculed Arsenal’s midfield. Then in the 4-0 win he went absolutely balisic, having what was probably his best game for this club! I’ve never seen Ando so good before, and this was HIS game. Then later in the season he was, along with Tevez, the ones who changed the game to let us get a 2-1 comeback win. He has since had many great games against Arsenal, such as the Champions League semi-finals and in our 1-0 win last December when only he, Park and Vidic was the difference between us and Arsenal. Those two have to start!

    • I find it very strange that a United “fan” dislikes Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, very odd indeed. 🙄

  8. Just seen the previews of tomorrow morning’s papers.

    The People are saying that Nasri had a personal agreement with SAF to join United on a £7m a year deal, but that deal came to a halt when his agent demanded a tax free payment of £4m. United refused and City then came in with a £9m deal, and even with City’s mega bucks, the agent demands where so extortionately high, that even they baulked at the cost, almost causing the entire deal to collapse. It is at this point that Nasri is supposed to have personally contacted United to try and reboot his deal.

    We, naturally, told him to get fucked!

    So next time you hear him blathering on about it being about trophies, it’s really all down to the $$$.

    • personal agreements are useless nowadays. F’ Nasri…

      We don’t need him, we have Cleverly!

      • Hope he does. I fear that Fergie will go for Park, Fletch, Carrick and Chicharito instead of the likes of Ando, Young, Cleverley and Welbeck… I don’t think this is the game to play is experienced and soft, this is the game we should field youngsters to show they are up for it, have the grit, passion, and true quality to play for United. I am not underestimating Arsenal, but if we do play these talented guys I can see one of the games of the season coming here!

        • I hope to God that Park doesn’t play today. I love him to death, but he just isn’t what we need today. We need to hit Le Arse hard and early and hopefully nick a goal in the first 20 mins to settle ourselves down. Today is, on paper, probably the weakest Arsenal side we’ve played in years and with all their injuries and suspensions we have to take all 3 point, no and’s, ifs or buts about it. I can’t remember the last time we won our first three games of the season, but today shall be the day!

          Don’t really take if Chicharito or Welbeck plays today. I am leaning towards Chicharito.

          De Gea

          Fabio Jones Smalling Evra

          Young Cleverley Ando (or Carrick) Nani

          Rooney Chicharito

        • Park has been mighty against Arsenal last 3-4 times.

        • He has, and he looked good in pre-season as well. But I feel we have started out with a fluid play we haven’t had in a while with Young, Ando, Clev and Nani as our midfield, with Rooney dropping deep. I don’t want us to just “win” today, I want us to hammer them playing beautiful football! :mrgreen:

  9. May the footballing gods today grant us the right to destroy and humiliate Arsenal 😈

  10. Today will be a big test. Yes the start has been exciting but we just about but deserved the win against West Brom and Spurs record at OT is frankly awful.
    Arsenal are no mugs, too many have wriiten them off but they are a good side and will be a real test.

  11. Last time we were overconfident and went with a 4-4-2 we lost to Arsenal! OK they are a mess this season but they have a habit of raising their game against good opposition. 4-5-1/4-3-3 has been so successful in recent years and I would love to see a Carrick Anderson Cleverley threesome to see how it works

    • That migh be a good idea, Rooney up on his own with Anderson and Cleverley joining in would be good.

    • Yeah I wouldn’t mind that… As long as Young, Anderson, Rooney and Cleverley play I would be delighted, they bring so much variety to this team it’s incredible!

  12. I’ve come across a lot of people who claim we should go forward with a 4-5-1 formation today because that’s what’s been succesful against them. But we have to remember that this Arsenal isn’t the same as the ones we’ve usually been facing! Not nescecarilly because of the quality possessed, but rather the players available. With Song, Wilshire, Diaby and Frimpong out, Rosicky and Ramsey are the only midfielders in their possession making them resort to a 4-4-2 instead of their usual 4-3-3. Vermaelen, Djorou and Sagna are also facing late fitness tests! We’ll see how they turn up, and with what team, but as long as they only deploy 2 in the middle I see no reason why we shouldn’t use two strikers and two midfielders as well! 😀 Attack, Attack, Attack!

  13. Dzeko is looking too good too… should be 2-2 now (Crouch and Bale should’ve scored)

  14. Only way City can win EPL is if they avoid infighting, which means they need to go from success to success and remain undefeated all season.

    • Thing with Dzeko is that he can score for 20 games in a row, but then if he goes the next two games without scoring he won’t score for a couple of weeks again. He is either deadly and brilliant or shit and westeful, lucky for us he has chosen to start this season well, so I expect him to suck eventually!

        • Yeah, just that Dzeko will score more frequently than Berba… just over more different runs. Let’s say Dzeko may score 20 goals between August and January, but will only score 2 or 3 goals from then until May. Berba was different, scoring 11 goals in 3 games! 😆 We all know the story

    • Did the Modric saga cause a rift in the locker room? Isn’t that the only real change from last season until now?

      They are also unfortunate to having played us and city back-to-back.

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