Thursday, April 08, 2010

Disaster in Manchester

The 2009-2010 season is winding down in the Barclays Premier League. It's been an entertaining season, thanks to Chelsea being really good, Manchester United continuing to compete at a championship level, and the surprisingly competitive play from Stoke City and Wolverhampton.

Another great storyline has been the work of Tottenham and Manchester City, both of whom are in the running for fourth place and a spot in the UEFA Champions League qualifying for next year. The "big four" usually includes the aforementioned Chelsea and Manchester United, along with Arsenal and Liverpool. Arsenal is holding down third place, but Liverpool sit in sixth, four points back of fourth-place Manchester City.

While there is an entertaining race at the top with Chelsea and Manchester United down the stretch, and a race to avoid relegation involving the likes of Burnley, Hull City, West Ham, and maybe Wigan, the biggest story of the last week is the disaster that fell upon Manchester United.

The Red Devils were at the top of the league, and favored to win the Champions League, when they traveled to Munich for the first leg of a quarterfinal series with Bayern Munich. ManU led 1-0 late in the match, but a deflected free kick tied it, and Bayern Munich got one in the final minutes to win 2-1. Making matters worse, star forward Wayne Rooney was lost to a broken foot, meaning he would miss a big league match a few days later, along with the second leg against Bayern Munich.

Last Saturday, United hosted Chelsea at Old Trafford. Chelsea controlled the first half, but only led 1-0 at the break. United played better in the second half, generating some chances and having more possession. However, they fell behind 2-0 on a controversial goal by Didier Drogba. Why was it controversial? Because Drogba was clearly offside on the play, but the referee's assistant, standing right where he needed to be, inexplicably blew the call.

United got one back, but lost 2-1 and fell out of first in the Premier League.

If that wasn't enough, United blew enough of a 3-0 lead over Bayern Munich to fall out of the Champions League when the teams got together at Old Trafford for the second leg of their series. Munich scored two after falling behind 3-0 to make it a 3-2 match, and since the teams tied on aggregate, Bayern won the tiebreaker by scoring more away goals than United did.

In a matter of seven days, Manchester United fell out of first place in the Barclays Premier League, and was eliminated from the Champions League.

You can't draw up a worse week than that for a traditional European soccer power.

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