Writers United: Let’s Knock ’em Out (ft. Rodney McCain)

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)

8- You can’t ask much more than to top your group comfortably, and I think we’ve done that very well. I think the results have been better than some of the performances, to be honest. Of the games we’ve won so far, the two victories over Benfica were both rather fortunate (down to errors by an inexperienced young goalkeeper), but we were clearly the best team in our Group, and even the defeat in Basel was one which could have been avoided with more care. It was a relatively easy group, and we’ve done no more than I expected us to do.

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 Seemingly perennial Champions of Italy, with some genuinely world-class players in their team, including Dybala and left-back Alex Sandro. They aren’t who I’d want to draw, but equally they aren’t a team I would fear as I would with Real Madrid- we could certainly get the better of them over two legs, but it would be a tough struggle.)

Sevilla – 3 Whilst I wouldn’t term a match-up with them as a “gimme”, I think we are more than capable of beating Sevilla over two legs. They have a few very decent technical players including young Argentine Joaquin Correa, but I’d be confident enough of overcoming them.

Bayern Munich – 5 Not a tie I want to see us getting stuck with; despite their bad defeat in Paris which cost Carlo Ancelotti his job and ultimately saw Bayern finish second behind P.S.G., the reigning Bundesliga Champions are a powerhouse, both domestically and in Europe, and have a squad brimming with brilliant players, many of whom will make up the bulk of Germany’s World Cup squad next summer. Why would we want to have to go up against the likes of Kimmich, Ribery, Lewandowski and Muller at this stage of the competition!? No, ta.

Shakhtar Donetsk – 2 They may have beaten a Manchester City reserve team 2-0 in their final Group game to snatch runners-up spot, but Shakhtar are not in the same bracket as some of the other sides listed here, and with the exception of the vast travel distance and questionable pitch involved in the away leg, I’d happily see United paired with them. Their squad is mostly a mix of experienced Ukrainians and some talented but inconsistent Brazilians, and whilst they would have to be treated with respect, there would be little reason to fear them.

FC Porto – 1 Despite their pedigree as a top European side, FC Porto are nothing like the side they were 15 or 20 years ago, and I’d happily take them on now. They have Iker Casillas in goal, and their danger man is Vincent Aboubakar, a pacy, accurate striker; however, we dispatched their fellow Portuguese rivals Benfica with relative ease, and a return to his former charges would hold no fears for Jose Mourinho. Yes please!

Real Madrid – 6 A nightmare. I’m still in shock that somehow Tottenham Hotspur managed to beat the reigning European Champions to top spot in the Group… put simply, we want to avoid any team that has absolute world-class quality like Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric amongst their number as long as we possibly can…..and hope someone else can knock them out for us! Our record against them going back through the years is not good (whose is?!?!), and I simply don’t see us being able to overcome them beyond a one-off game, where we might ‘catch them on a bad day’. No thanks.