Last year many agreed that Manchester United were unlucky to have been knocked out of the European Champions League by Real Madrid. Controversial decisions led to United's dismissal from the tournament, but if they had have progressed they may have found themselves in a spot to fight for the trophy.
This year United go into the tournament with a good first win against a strong German side, the same squad as last season and some extra strength in midfield. However, David Moyes has made the spectacular announcement that Manchester United don't have the class needed to win the tournament. No other manager of any other club competing this year has conceded that their team won't win the trophy this year, including the noticeably smaller clubs than United.
Moyes stated: "To win the Champions League, you need five or six world-class players," following by, "That's the level you have to be at to win it. We've not got that yet but what we have got is experience."
So, how many players do Manchester United have who would be labeled as world-class? Do they have the 'five or six' needed to compete?
David De Gea.
If De Gea isn't world class, he's certainly on his way to being so. He can make top class saves - especially from long range and dead-ball situations. A goalkeeper with those skills would be handy against players United may face if they qualify for the knockout stages.
Gaining good experience at United, he looks like he can make a great showing this year in the Champions League. And now he has big-game experience from last year's competition, nerves and inexperience shouldn't be as apparent as they may have been last season.
A world class centre back. He may be ageing yet when paired with one of United's up-and-coming defenders - all of whom now have good CL experience - he can affect the game as good as at any point in his career.
This may cause contention among some, yet Carrick is the bedrock of United's core formation and has experience to suit any big-game occasion to support those around him. A world class passer and game-regulator, seen as not quite Scholes yet not too far off.
Nani's well-known problem has been consistency. This year however, upon watching in-depth replays of Nani's appearances so far, you'll find his passing to be sharper and his ability to retain the ball in attacking situations keener than what has been observed in the past. If Nani gets the chances, he could put in a few world class performances for United in the CL this season.
His new contract and new attitude all favour his chances of minutes on the pitch and although you may not think of Nani as a world class player, it's undeniable that he is capable of coming up with some world class magic on the pitch. These moments are important in knock-out stages, when a game can be decided in one special moment.
You aren't labeled as the best player in Germany for no reason. Kagawa is proven and although English football fans may still be unaware of his talent that doesn't take away from his performances against big clubs in the recent past where he's picked apart the meanest of defenses with passes so easy on the eye you may not have registered the skill involved. Kagawa will have a goal and assist rate up there with all of the English team's best playmakers when considering minutes played if he's played in position this year.
Rooney's record last season speaks for itself and he has taken the mantle of free-kick taker extraordinaire. Rooney has seemingly improved his fitness levels so far this season, playing consecutively in games and looking sharp in all of them. He will get to play alongside world class players this season and will look to further his bond with Robin van Perise, something that people forget is only a year old.
Robin van Persie
The Dutchman is undoubtedly world class and wants a Champions League trophy as much as anyone in football. He can achieve that with some magic and help from Rooney and Co. Moyes has baffled many by writing off United's chances even if others in Europe have strengthened.
The bookies have generally placed United in the top six this season in terms of an outright winner; in the mix along with last year's winners Bayern Munich, Ronaldo's Madrid, Messi's Barcelona and the English teams of Chelsea and Manchester City. United are still listed as twice as likely to win the competition than Arsenal (who are tipped for some form of success this year) according to bookmakers.
A good mix of youth and experience in the squad, and with a team more gelled than the last two years since new arrivals and youngsters started to break into the first team, some steel in the centre of the park with Fellaini's arrival and Hernandez coming off from the bench, United could well upset many in this year's competition.
If United aren't one of the favourites for this year's CL then they are the best looking dark horses in the running for years. We'll also have to wait to see what the draws in the knockout stage bring up.
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