Having watched his nemeses Pep Guardiola and Barcelona tumble out of the Champions League, Sir Alex Ferguson will be cursing his luck.
Were it not for Guardiola and his Catalan maestros, the United manager might have already helped himself to a record-breaking total of four European cups for a single manager, and taken the club’s haul equal with Liverpool’s five.
Of course United didn’t deserved to beat Barcelona in Rome or at Wembley – far from it because they were outclassed on both occasions.
But it is the near misses like 2010 and this season when Barça succumbed to an early exit that will eat away at Ferguson.
Two years ago, United casually surrendered a two-goal lead to allow Bayern Munich to progress to a semi-final against a weak Lyon team, and the German side would go on to lose out to José Mourinho’s Internazionale.
For all they achieved that season, Inter were lucky to squeak past Barça and were hardly unbeatable, and no doubt Ferguson would have fancied his chances in the final against them.
This season has been a similar story for United.
Barça have looked fallible for months and if there was going to be a year their name wasn’t already written on the trophy, this was it.
But United just didn’t take Europe seriously enough this campaign. Ferguson threw away group stage points by playing weakened teams against the likes of Basel and Benfica, who have shown they are no slouches.
You get the feeling had they sneaked through to the last-16, United would have stepped it up a few gears as they usually do, and as Chelsea and Bayern have shown this season, anything can happen once you’re in the last-four mix.
Who knows what might have been for United. Critics will rightly point to their Europa League humbling against Athletic Bilbao and argue they were nowhere near good enough.
But that doesn’t always matter – Liverpool were staring group stage elimination in face before Steven Gerrard’s last-gasp screamer against Olympiakos started them on that famous journey to their fifth European crown in Istanbul against all odds.
You don’t always have to be straight out of the blocks.
What is it about Germans and penalties? Even at club level you can never back against them.
Philipp Lahm and Toni Kroos might have done their best to throw it away for Bayern Munich on Wednesday night but as soon as Bastian Schweinsteiger stepped up there was never any doubt he would seal the win.
At international level Germany – or West Germany as they were – have an even more incredible record.
It’s been 30 years since a German last missed in a penalty shootout – that was Uli Stielike but it didn’t stop Patrick Battiston’s France being robbed in Seville.
However at the Bernabéu, Kroos and Lahm showed a frailty from 12 yards which we don’t come to expect from German sides.
What was more striking was the bizarre choice of takers on both sides.
Arjen Robben stepped up and scored a penalty in normal time but was nowhere to be seen when it came to the shootout – perhaps scared off by Cristiano Ronaldo’s failure.
Even more bizarre was the decision to let Sergio Ramos take one when Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuaín was yet to step up.
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