Manchester United fans have had some extremely pleasant times in their long history, but with that comes painful, burning emotions such as those provoked on Tuesday night as Real Madrid knocked them out of the Champions League.
Firstly, lets get the situation with the red card out the way. In my opinion, it’s not a red card. It’s dangerous, it’s rash, but is there any intent from Nani to harm Arbeloa? No. Does Nani have his eyes fully locked on the ball with the sole intention of bringing the ball down? Yes. He has simply attempted to bring the ball down, as many do, and had the unfortunate circumstance of Arbeloa colliding into him. How has the referee not spotted or recognized that Nani has no desire to cause harm to Arbeloa? His head is facing the other way.
Part of the pain comes from that, it really does. But, there is a feeling of injustice and that this United team hasn’t been given a fair shot. It’s also the fact though that this United team will never reach that Wembley final this year in a season were I really felt a treble could be on. The Premier League was already pretty much wrapped up and is all but won now. Focus could have been placed on the Champions League into the latter stages and it’s a pain that they’ve been knocked out in a tie where I don’t think they deserved to be.
Ignore any debate about the red card’s justification and you’re still thinking that United were looking solid and on-course of the last eight, even if Madrid were still in the game. Jose Mourhino has come out and said after the game he feels the best team lost. This United team never know when they’re beat and they showed that tonight going to the last minute. There is a spirit, a belief and it is a shame that this season is not going to see United reach their full potential in Europe.
I think the fact that time is running out for Sir Alex Ferguson at the club is what makes it even harder to take, personally. United fans are aware that with each season passing, it’s one year closer to the end of this quite simply unrepeatable era at a club. It seems like that pain was etched in Ferguson’s mind too. Following defeat he was clearly distraught and decided against any media interactions, which he also decided was best for the rest of his squad.
United are bad losers, they know that, but that’s a factor that makes them so great. They just want to win. It’ll hurt that it’s another year that yet another brilliantly rebuilt United squad from Ferguson fell with a sense that better could have been achieved. Don’t get me wrong, a League title and possible FA Cup is fantastic, but right now, in this moment, few things are going to ease the pain that I and all United fans are feeling.
There is so much to be proud of tonight and little to criticize if anything in the United performance and squad. From the quite simply astonishing Ryan Giggs to the tireless running of Danny Welbeck, United gave it their all and did a fine job. Anger, emotional pain and disappointment will be running through that squad’s mind, but for many it’s also a feeling of just and what could have been.