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Qualification still in Man Utd’s hands as Benfica bag last 16 spot

| 23.11.2011

Benfica seemingly have a curse over Manchester United.

Whilst we are used to dominant and unforgiving showings from the Red Devils both on domestic and European fronts, Fergie’s men are in danger of bowing out of the Champions League at the group stage for the first time since the 2005-2006 season when Benfica qualified from their group.

The Portuguese side’s 2-2 draw at Old Trafford last night saw them progress to the knockout stages, meaning United travel to Switzerland knowing they need to draw against Basel to guarantee qualification.

And that is no mean feat considering the Alexander Frei-inspired side would have escaped Old Trafford with all three points bar an Ashley Young injury-time equaliser.

Elsewhere in the group, only Otelul Galati stand in the way of Benfica cementing their position atop of Group C, and the Romanian side should be expected to finish with no points.

What has been worrying for United fans recently has been the increasingly evident defensive frailties of the team, particularly in Europe.

Phil Jones as of yet appears too raw to play as a foil for the ageing Rio Ferdinand in the Champions League.

Although his performances have been impressive going forward, they have been overshadowed by lapses of concentration such as his own goal last night.

The Old Trafford side will also be desperate to get Wayne Rooney back into the sort of blistering form he demonstrated at the start of the season, and the role he plays away in Switzerland could be key to United’s chances of progression.

Although a very tough trip to Basel awaits, we should still expect the three-time European champions to make the last 16 of this season’s Champions League.



John Klee