David Moyes’ first year at the helm, having replaced the great Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, hasn’t gone quite the way any Red Devil fan would have liked. Manchester United is all but mathematically eliminated from winning the English Premier League, and even worse, aren’t likely to finish in the top four — which means they won’t qualify for the Champions League next season, and will also struggle to crack the top six, which would keep them out of even the Europa League next season.
But it is in this season’s Champions League that United can in fact find success, having made it all the way to the quarterfinals of Europe’s biggest inter-league competition. While it is impossible at this point in the competition to get an easy draw, especially considering the seven possible clubs they could’ve drawn (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea), United were handed possibly the most difficult opponent: Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga. Munich are the favorites to win the competition for the second straight season and have already wrapped up a league title in Germany. But if United are to win the competition, they’ll have to go through Munich at some point anyway — so why not face them now when they’re running high on their incredible victory over Olympiaco’s, backed by Robin van Persie’s hat-trick to beat the Greek club 3-2 on aggregate scoring. There is no good time to face Munich, but for United, there certainly could be a much worse time.
United arguably were lucky to have advanced past Olympiaco’s, having lost the first leg 2-0 on the road, but they were treated to a spectacular treble by van Persie, and were fortunate that Olympiaco’s continually missed big opportunities to pick up the lone goal they needed to advance. It will be luck, and a lot of it, that will give United any chance at beating Pep Guardiola’s German side — who recently advanced over Arsenal of the Premier League with somewhat ease.
If somehow United get past Munich, which Moyes believes is a real possibility, there would be a lot of steam behind United as they roll into the semi-finals against a far lesser opponent than the German giant. “This football club is capable of it. If we play to our capabilities, which we’ve not shown that often this season, I think we can be a match for any team,” said Moyes. “This club has history in the competition. It knows what to do at this stage. We’re not shocked to be in the quarterfinals — it’s something we do regularly. We will try to get into the last four now.” Confidence is where it needs to be, but it will only take them so far. United will need everything to go their way, but it’s not impossible. What seemed to be a lost season could quickly become a memorable one, but they still have a long ways to go.