To where do we book our plane tickets???By: Ian | August 30th, 2012
Earlier this afternoon, spaced out considerably into a half hour meeting of people in suits, the Champions League group stage draw took place in Monaco. The buildup was understandly rowdy, with several people extracting pens from suit pockets and others still shifting in their seats. The agenda got underway through the explanation of the rules, mainly who country representatives can allowed to play. Then the draw got underway…
Denis Law began to draw Pot A, with some difficulty. In order to make the draw as long as possible, the little champions league balls containing the team names were almost unopenable. Fabio Cannavaro, who came on later, had less trouble, but then he did admit going on a specific course with Steve Mcmanaman. Oh, the life of the retired footballer. A team name was drawn by poor struggling Denis, and instead of just going alphabetically, Steve then picked the group number. This sent the already excitable audience into fever pitch, being in Group E is just too exciting understandably.
Anyway, Utd were drawn in Group H. Progression seemed assured as, by pure good fortune, there was no one else in it. Sadly, George Weah came along and drew the Portugeuse team Braga from pot B to join us. We didn’t do great against Benfica last year, so let’s hope for an improvement in Portugal, and at least it’s a short trip.
From Pot C came the Turkish representative Galatasaray. Quite a far trip and a hell of a greeting awaiting us, no doubt. The ‘Welcome to Hell’ posters will probably have to be dusted a bit, but be sure of a lively atmosphere. Completing group H were CFR Cluj of Romania. Together with Braga, they are opposition Utd have never faced. I like that element of the Champions League, meeting new teams.
Overall, I do not think the draw is difficult. That happenened last year, and out we went. But Sir Alex has stated categorically that will not happen this time, there will be no ’stupid mistakes’ and no one will be taken lightly to remove any complacency or overconfidence of progress. The only downside is the length of some of the away trips, but that cannot be used as too much of an excuse. As such, I fully expect a group-topping performance in the group stage, if only to eradicate the bad thoughts of last year.
In other news, it looks as though Berbatov is on the way out before the transfer deadline tomorrow. It looks like Fulham now, after some fuss with Fiorentina, and he is undergoing a medical there for something like a £5m move. I never believed he was the right player to buy in the first place, and although I admire his considerable talents and sublime touch immensely, I think the £32m paid, a club record, was excessive. It now looks as though that chapter will be closed.
Your thoughts on the Champions League Draw below please.