When Patrice Evra spoke about feeling embarassed about playing in the Europa League, it was time to put your money on Bilbao. Manchester United care nothing for minor titles. Alex Ferguson isn’t Jose Mourinho, telling people his first year with Real was a great success because he won the League Cup. The Champions League and the Premier League are the only things that matter.
Still, Ferguson was full of confidence, despite needing Davd De Gea to conjure up a brilliant performance between the goalposts to prevent Bilbao from some historic result. Any win against United, especially at the Old Trafford, goes down in the history books of many smaller clubs, and United got lucky with a penalty to still give them hope heading into the second leg.
Even most of the fans didn’t care. Less than 60,000 in attendance is unheard of in these parts, but tourists don’t bother themselves with these matches, especially when the home team does all but yell out loud that they don’t give a F^&% about getting knocked out from the competition. Their home match against a tough WBA opponent means much more to the Red Devils, still very much in the hunt for their fifth league title in six years.
Fernando Llorente showed once again that he just might be the best Spanish striker right now, with Roberto Soldado the only real competition. Iker Muniain, just a bit over 19, is heading in the same direction as well. Javi Martinez is a rock in the middle of the park, and there’s no wonder Bilbao are going through a sort of revival in recent years, although winning a title doesn’t look even slightly realistic. This isn’t the 1980’s.
English football is in some sort of slump. Chelsea have a good chance of getting knocked out, leaving the Champions League without an English in the quarter finals for the first time since the mid 1990’s. Manchester City didn’t impress in Lisbon, although they host the second leg, and are still the favorites to go through. With the Premier League title looking a lot more lucrative, especially financially, is it that surprising that both Mancini and Ferguson didn’t really take their matches too seriously?