I would have taken a CL QF place and a top 3 finish in the league before the start of this season. We've enjoyed 3 great years with 3 league titles and 2 CL finals to show for it.And at this level it's very hard to stay at the top for long. And with the departures of you know who, virtually no one gave us a chance at the start of the season. So with that context, the fact that we were involved at this stage of the CL and with a reasonable though dwindling chance at the league, it isn't a bad season at all.
However what makes it hard to swallow is the manner of the defeat. Coasting 1-0 away from home with hardly 15 mins to go and then 3-0 up and away at home within the first half. You expect United to win from those situations. Fergie's bitter reaction at the end tells the story. I'm sure he would have had some words with Rafael as that was the incident that changed the game. You can argue all year on how that was or wasn't a justified sending off but he has the tendency to get carried away on a lot of occasions.
Some observations from the game:
Fully fit Berbatov or a struggling/limping Rooney?
On that evidence, Fergie seems to think Rooney on one leg is better than Berbatov on both. Having hardly moved for the last 10 odd minutes of the half, United were effectively playing with 10 men. Should Rooney have come off at the half? Also if you are Berbatov your confidence probably took a hit last night.
Michael Carrick is having a shocker
There's no progress in Carrick's game. He's not maturing or developing any dimension of his game. There are hardly any forward passes in him and he was at fault for both of Bayern's goals yesterday. He's having a bad season and really shouldn't be in the starting eleven on form. If Hargreaves is not going to be 100%, Fergie needs to take a look at central midfield again in the summer.
Rafael needs growing up
No more 'young and inexperienced' excuses. The challenge yesterday was immature and cost us a place in the semi and arguably the finals of the CL. A Fergie rollicking is in order. He's great going forward and really creates chances but incidents like that undo all the good he brings. That's the difference between an average player and a good player.
Nani and Valencia were the bright spots
They were superb all through and playing without a striker their work rate was top notch. For all the talk about Robben, he never troubled the backline as much as Nani and Valencia who toyed with Bayern in the first half. The 3-0 lead was a testament to that.This was the biggest game of the season and they were so up for it and that's always a good sign.
Bayern were lucky
Having said all this, at the end of the day it took a wonder one-off strike to win the tie for Bayern. With another ref on another day, we would have gone through. If Robben tries that volley again 10 times, he won't get that contact and placement.We played them off the park for long periods yesterday and qualification would have been quite deserved. Shades of Porto there.
Looking ahead now, I don't have any expectation from the title run-in. Chelsea really need to throw it away now and it is highly unlikely that they will. I'm sure Fergie will ask the team to give it a go and take care of our fixtures and be in a position to take advantage should slip ups happen. But the focus now is on the areas Fergie needs to strengthen in the summer. He's signed a striker today who I know nothing about. Hargreaves situation needs to be monitored and with Scholes and Giggs playing even lesser role, we need to look at some creative midfielders to add to the squad.