Writers United: Let’s Knock ’em Out (ft. Harshal Patel)

A piece where the United lads give their opinion on the club’s Champions League journey so far, and rate the possible opponents United could face in the round of 16.

How do you think United’s CL campaign has gone so far? (Rating on a scale of 1-10)

9/10 – I think we’ve had a solid campaign so far. Fifteen points is an impressive total, especially given the fact that we were returning to the Champions League after a couple of years. The surprise loss at Basel aside, we won every game and scored a few goals along the way as well. Yes, it was a modest group, but you can only beat what’s in front of you, and going into the hat as group winners should hopefully give us a kind draw.

Rate United’s possible opponents in the Round of 16 in order of preference, 1 being most preferred and 6 being least preferred, with a little bit of insight into why you’ve rated them so –

Juventus (4) – Juve have had a slow start to the season, by their standards. Third in Serie A, the Bianconeri have struggled defensively after losing Leonardo Bonucci to AC Milan. That being said, any side with Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain upfront is a force to be reckoned with, and with Gigi Buffon continuing his age-defying heroics in goal, they aren’t a side I’d particularly like to face. Reaching two Champions League finals in three years is proof of their quality.

Sevilla (3) – The perennial Europa League winners have blown hot and cold so far, with their home form helping them through the group stages. The comeback to draw 3-3 from 3-0 down against Liverpool at the Sanchez Pizjuan was particularly memorable; however, having picked up seven of their nine points at home, I am quite happy to face them. Ever Banega does provide quality in midfield; nevertheless, I’d back United if we got them.

Bayern Munich (5) – Jupp Heynckes has steadied the ship after Carlo Ancelotti’s departure earlier this season. However, Bayern are not the force they once were. Robben and Ribery are ageing, while they have no backup for Robert Lewandowski. Manuel Neuer will return from injury in time for the knockout stages though, and with a strong midfield and Lewandowski firing, they are one of our tougher potential opponents. Still have bad memories from the 2009-10 campaign, where the tie turned on Rafael’s needless sending off.

Shakhtar Donetsk (1) – Shakhtar have arguably upset the applecart already, qualifying ahead of Napoli by beating Man City in the final round of fixtures. However, they do not boast the quality that some of the other teams in the hat do; they’re especially reliant on their Brazilian contingent. Their home form was superb, though, and while Shakhtar would definitely not be pushovers, they’re the easiest of all our potential opponents.

FC Porto (2) – Porto have been in strong form domestically, but finished second to Besiktas in their Champions League group. Vincent Aboubakar has been lethal in Europe so far, but the Dragons have rarely made it to the quarter-finals of this competition. Jose Mourinho would love to face his former side, and United should be able to handle them easily enough.

Real Madrid (6) – The absolute worst possible scenario. The defending champions were somehow pipped to top spot by Tottenham Hotspur; however, there are world-class players throughout that team, from Ramos to Kroos to Modric, and of course Cristiano Ronaldo. Gareth Bale (if fit) adds another dimension to their attack, and while they may not have had the best of starts domestically, the Champions League is their natural habitat. Our record against them isn’t the greatest, and I do not think we will be able to beat them over two legs.