Three reasons why Man United can win the Champions League
Owen Fulda takes a look at three reasons why Manchester United are contenders for the Champions League this season
Mix of youth and experience
In Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger, United have two players who have both lifted the Champions League trophy once and they have the know how to do so again. Both are vastly experienced. Schweinsteiger has represented Germany on 113 occasions and won the World Cup in 2014, while Carrick is unfortunate to have accrued just the 33 caps for England. Wayne Rooney is also vastly seasoned in European football and will be keen to help pass on his knowledge to the youthful signings the Reds made in the summer. Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial have abundant energy and enthusiasm and will be hungry to make an impact on the grandest of stages this season. Manager Louis van Gaal could hardly have more European pedigree to call upon. He won the Champions League way back in 1995 with Ajax and has managed Barcelona and Bayern Munich since. A balance of youth and experience is vital in any winning team and United might have just found the right mixture to win the competition again this year.
The players are buying into the manager’s philosophy
Self belief is imperative at top-level sport and van Gaal is working round the clock to instill it in his recruits. Van Gaal’s possession based philosophy took a while to be accepted at Old Trafford but now the results are starting to speak for themselves. Juan Mata, who recently finished off a 45-pass move for United’s third goal at Southampton, said: “This is our second year with him (van Gaal) so it is normal and logical that we are understanding each other better, not just with him, but as a team as well on the pitch.” The Champions League is a competition where tactics are all-important. The end-to-end mayhem of the Premier League is replaced with a more studious, chess-like game of ball retention. Although they lost their first Group B game to PSV Eindhoven, the horrendous injury suffered by Luke Shaw played a part in that defeat. And United bounced back well to beat Wolfsburg 2-1 despite going behind to an early goal. With CSKA Moscow up next it seems the Red Devils are learning much from each European game they play so only a fool would write them off winning the tournament.
The Spirit of 1999
As Clive Tyldesley can’t seem to go more than five minutes without mentioning ‘the spirit of ’99’, it’s only fair that it’s the third reason why United can win the Champions League this year. This is the 16th year since the famous night in the Nou Camp when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer poked home the winner to evoke the memorable scenes etched in the memory of football fans worldwide. And yep you guessed it, one plus six equals seven, the most distinguished shirt number in the history of Manchester United. George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo all wore the typical wingers number to lift numerous trophies. Now 21-year-old Dutch star Memphis Depay has the honour. Could it be written in the stars that he should score a last-minute winner at the San Siro on the 28th of May next year to see United claim their fourth Champions League? Only time will tell.