Manchester United and Manchester City both opened their Europa League campaigns with victory away from home – what are the chances of them meeting in the final? High.
United brushed aside Ajax 2-0 with relative ease – the only cause for concern an injury to Antonio Valencia – while City were made to work to see off Porto but see them off they did.
They came from behind to triumph 2-1 while the only other English team in the competition – Stoke City – lost 1-0 at home to Spanish outfit Valencia.
Now Valencia look a good bet alongside league rivals Atletico Madrid, who beat Lazio 3-1 in Rome, but it is hard to look past the two Manchester teams.
United are runaway favourites for the competition – and so they should be – then City, Valencia and Atletico – and what a prospect an all-Manchester final would be in Bucharest on 9 May.
United might have picked up victory on Thursday, but it came at some cost.
Welcoming back Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley to the fold, things were looking good for Sir Alex Ferguson as the title race reaches the business end.
And Young’s goal will do the winger no end of good – but Antonio Valencia is out for a month and that is a crucial blow for United in their Manchester shoot-out with rivals City.
Valencia is going to miss the away trips to Norwich and third-placed Tottenham, who are long overdue a win over United.
The Ecuadorian has the driving force behind United’s pursuit of City and he will be sorely missed.
England’s manager-elect Harry Redknapp has certainly raised a few eyebrows by suggesting he would take Paul Scholes to Poland and Ukraine.
Redknapp believes Scholes is still international class – good enough even to stand alongside Barcelona and Spain playmakers Xavi and Andres Iniesta – as he possesses both pinpoint passing and an unparalleled ability to dictate the tempo of a game.
But surely if Redknapp were to take the England job he could do slightly better than call up a 37-year-old who has recently come out of retirement for Manchester United and not played for his country since Euro 2004?
If the World Cup debacle taught us anything it’s that youth development is the way forward, as has been proved by countries like Spain and Germany.
Were Scholes to be picked and start, what sort of message would that send out to players like Jack Wilshere, Cleverley and the rest of this new generation of English youth?
No-one is expecting England to win Euro 2012, so maybe it’s time to leave players like Scholes in the past and concentrate on bringing a new generation that can compete in future international tournaments.
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