We asked our Deadspin soccer correspondent just how important Manchester United's bouncing from the Champions League really was, and he wrote this. Pretend it's in our voice, and pretend we understand this soccer stuff.
As with everything to do with Manchester United, some of the "disaster" is being exaggerated a bit. Yes, it's a big deal that they didn't make it to the last 16 for the first time in 10 seasons. And that they finished bottom of what was considered a weak group, and so missed out on the UEFA Cup too (the UEFA Cup is essentially a second-string Champions League). But they haven't performed consistently in the Champions League for years now, and this year they were particularly abject. They only scored three goals in six games. So it's a big deal, but not necessarily a shock — they shouldn't have got themselves in this mess. They have a history of last-minute-out-of-adversity fairy-tale escapes and comebacks, and
people have got used to that. So when it doesn't happen it's surprising.
The other thing that's being exaggerated is how much it will cost them
financially. The number being thrown around is 15m, but that's based on them getting to the Champions League final, which was far from certain even if they went through. In truth, they've lost about 5m for not qualifying and missed out on maybe 3m they could have got from the UEFA Cup. The Glazer family claims there was enough "financial slack" in their takeover to cover the disappointment and missed revenue, but it can't help that Vodafone have announced they're going to cancel their 9m-a-year endorsement. The Glazer takeover depended on assumed future revenues and already they have taken a big hit.
Having said that, there will be other effects, potentially grave, of not qualifying. The manager may well be dismissed at the end of the season (the Glazers made no comment on his position when they talked publicly this morning). And it's a blow to United's ability to compete in the transfer market for the best players. Thanks to Glazer's penny-pinching takeover, the club was already going to have to get used to a smaller transfer budget than other clubs like Chelsea; now that will likely be even smaller. And while United could once say with confidence they were the biggest club in England and one of the biggest in Europe, now such claims come across as trading on a reputation. In recent years they've already missed a few high-profile players they were chasing to rival big clubs; who is going to want a join a club that looks like it's falling apart, when others can offer more title-potential and better wages?
It's weird: Man Utd are second in the league, and recently beat the leaders, Chelsea. And yet they're having a horror season: a controversial takeover, captain walking out, knocked-out of Europe completely before Christmas.
Champions League Exit May Cost Manchester United $173 Million [Bloomberg]
End Of An Era At ManU? [Fox Sports]