If your trophy cabinet is bursting at the seams and your valuation cracks 10 figures … look away.
Tuesday’s late window for Champions League games was not kind to planetary powerhouses like Manchester United, which drew Valencia 0-0 at Old Trafford, or Real Madrid, which lost 1-0 at CSKA Moscow, or Bayern Munich, which was held at home 1-1 by Ajax.
All three results are notable. But let’s start with Jose Mourinho and Manchester United.
Red Devils do nothing to assuage concerns over Mourinho
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Man United manager Jose Mourinho has to go.
There is way too much talent in this United side to dither to a listless, scoreless draw at home against Valencia. The La Liga mainstays have been very good in recent years, no doubt, but they’ve still drawn five of their first seven league matches this season and lost to Juventus a couple weeks ago despite Cristiano Ronaldo being sent off for the first time in his Champions League career.
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United did not exactly cover itself in glory once again. (Reuters)
United’s creativity isn’t there. The sync isn’t there. The tactics aren’t there. The goals aren’t there. And by default, the wins aren’t there.
Superstar midfielder Paul Pogba (mostly unduly) gets a hefty amount of criticism, but he at least offered outlet and opportunity all evening. The closest United came to scoring might have been this free kick in the second half:
In all, United managed just four shots on goal, and its cash-lavish lineup couldn’t crack an earnest but altogether middling resistance from Valencia.
None of this will quell the rumors of the inevitable third-season Mourinho split. It’s happened before, at multiple clubs in multiple countries, and it’s likely to happen again. And to be fair, it says less about England’s most decorated club and one of history’s most decorated managers, and more about the turbulent relationship he commands, wields and in which the club is ultimately swept away.
This is how things go with Mourinho. United gambled on him as its first hallmark post-Sir Alex Ferguson managerial hire. It didn’t work out, for a number of reasons. The question is, how long do both sides hang on?
Another nightmare for a Spanish side in Russia
Let’s be clear: Spain’s inexplicable World Cup loss to the host nation last summer had zero to do with Tuesday’s Real Madrid result.
But the echoes are there. For the second time in half a year, Spain suffered a shock loss inside Russian borders.
The three-time reigning Champions League winners outshot CSKA Moscow 26-8 and thoroughly dominated possession. The talent advantage was heavily in their favor. And so was the urgency, frankly, after Nikola Vlasic pounced on a hideous back pass by the normally reliable Toni Kroos in the second minute:
But Real Madrid could not find the back of the net, and despite a convincing victory over chief Group G rival AS Roma on the first matchday, the Spanish giants now sit second and next host Czech champions Viktoria Plzeň, which seems like an easy win but also comes less than a week before the season’s first El Clasico against Barcelona.
Who knows if focus will be lagging? (Hey, we have to gin up drama somehow.)
Ajax goes on the road and decks Bayern Munich, leaves with a point
No, this is not fanboy capitulating to our own Leander Schaerlaeckens.
Ajax went to one of Europe’s most intimidating venues, absorbed pressure, and earned a Champions League point because of it.
Sure, Bayern has the better talent, and probably had the better of the chances. That doesn’t change the fact Ajax used its latest generation of players-who’ll-be-bought-by-bigger-clubs-in-no-time to put seven shots on goal and give the six-time reigning German champions a rightful spook.
Towering central defender Mats Hummels headed home the first goal in the fourth minute off a cross from Arjen Robben, but Ajax right back Noussair Mazraoui used a deft first touch and clever finish to beat Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer and tie the game:
What does the draw mean in the grand scheme of things? For Bayern, probably not much. The German giants are almost assuredly still going to advance.
For Ajax, well, a home date against Portuguese power Benfica looms in three weeks. A win there would go a long way toward securing advancement.
Anything else? Well, that would make Ajax right at home with the European powers who leaked points on Tuesday.
Other Champions League scores
AEK Athens 2-3 BenficaLyon 2-2 Shakhtar DonetskAS Roma 5-0 Viktoria PlzeňTSG Hoffenheim 1-2 Manchester CityJuventus 3-0 BSC Young Boys
Joey Gulino is the editor of FC Yahoo and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.
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