Under Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United were, for the most part, a formidable force in European football.
Last season they were knocked out at the hands of semi-finalist's Real Madrid after a controversial red card given out to Nani, and most will argue that had they remained with a full eleven on the pitch, United would have progressed.
In a usual season the prospect of the Red Devils making it to the latter stages of Europe's elite competition would be considered a foregone conclusion.
This however, as has been well-documented, is no usual season.
With the retirement of their legendary gaffer, and a period of quiet discontent following a largely disappointing transfer window, United are looking a lot less threatening in terms of their ability to trade blows with the biggest sides around.
There's no doubting that David Moyes' boasts aspects of considerable quality amongst his squad, and possesses a lions-share of Champions League pedigree amongst his starting XI, but in my opinion it won't be enough to see them compete at the highest European level.
Much has been made so far this year about United's lack of star quality when the likes of Van Persie and Wayne Rooney are out of the squad.
Although it's unreasonable to suggest the Premier League champions don't have a squad riddled with ability, I must concur that the individual world-class talent that provides the DNA of clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and even Chelsea and Manchester City, is not present at Old Trafford.
Last season United won the league whilst barely breaking a sweat, and they did so with an arguably average squad with regards to world-beating talent. Their apparent aptitude to take victories from games even when injuries and bans had taken their toll was very much testament to Sir Alex Ferguson's unparalleled influence, and they won't be able to fall back on that this year.
David Moyes- and I'll say know that I have every faith in his ability to cut it at the top- is going to take time settling into the job, and frankly put, is not in the same league as Ferguson just yet. His lack of European experience could be a problem if put to the test, and the fear-factor Sir Alex embodied is all but spent.
Put plainly, when those long European nights begin to pile up in amongst a hectic schedule guaranteed to involve a multitude of Premier League fixtures and long domestic cup campaigns, I feel United will be too stretched to remain a potent threat in the biggest games.
Their group, consisting of Shakhtar, Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad, has provided them with a very negotiable route to the latter stages, but once there they can expect the big guns to be waiting, and I don't think they're possessive of the same stubborn resilience under Moyes, as they were under his predecessor.
For me, United don't have enough quality to be a significant threat to the favourites of the competition, nor do they have the strength in depth to guarantee a solid XI if the usual starters are unavailable. The lack of the Fergie factor though, is the biggest hit to their European ambitions.
The Premier League may remain a possibility, but European glory is simply too much to ask this year.
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