United and City could triumph in Europe this year
For the top two teams in England, Europe’s second-grade club competition may be seen as a nuisance to the title challenge of both the blue and red halves of Manchester.
With London sides Arsenal and Chelsea the only English teams still gracing our televisions on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings in Champions League football, it was almost unchartered territory for Manchester United and Manchester City to be playing on a Thursday evening against opponents who, you might say, “were lucky to be in the same competition as them.”
The Manchester outfits United and City faced Ajax and FC Porto, respectively, who once upon a time were European greats themselves, but, as time has passed, have been overtaken by powers from Italy, Spain, and the rest of England.
For the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini, this was a competition that, though admittedly may not be their greatest priority, is nonetheless winnable.
However, statements of how seriously the English outfits were taking this were certainly made in the shape of their starting line-ups. United had named a strong starting XI, with the likes of Nani, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand all included, whilst City, despite dropping the likes of Edin Dzeko, had Yaya Toure, David Silva and Vincent Kompany all starting.
Goals from Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez gave SAF’s men the advantage in the tie, with a 2-0 win in Amsterdam, in a performance that displayed the difference in ability the two clubs.
The Red Devils eased to victory, showing glimpses of quality when it was needed, and they now find themselves in pole position against a poor Ajax side.
A late Sergio Aguero goal saw the Citizens come from behind to win a close encounter against Porto 2-1.
Silvestre Varela opened the scoring for the hosts before Alvaro Pereira diverted the ball into his own net for the leveller.
The visitors impressed at the Estádio do Dragão, and will now feel confident of progressing in the competition against the current holders of the Europa League trophy. With both United and City now in favourable positions after the first leg, the Europa League could mean a real chance of more silverware for two clubs desperate for trophies at the end of the day.
The two teams have nothing to fear in the rest of the competition, apart from each other, and defeating two of what are arguably the better clubs still in the draw after the first leg means others should fear them.
Lokomotiv Moscow 2 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
Ajax 0 – 2 Manchester United
AZ Alkmaar 1 – 0 Anderlecht
Lazio 1 – 3 Atletico Madrid
Legia Warsaw 2 – 2 Sporting Lisbon
Plzen 1 – 1 Schalke 04
SV Salzburg 0 – 4 Metalist Kharkiv
FC Porto 1 – 2 Manchester City
Hannover 96 2 – 1 Club Brugge
Steaua Bucharest 0 – 1 FC Twente
Stoke 0 – 1 Valencia
Trabzonspor 1 – 2 PSV Eindhoven