There has been an elephant in the room all season. It was easy to ignore it while United were winning and throwing silver cups over their shoulders back onto the pile. Now we must face up to the reality. The team has not put in a really good performance all term and finally we have been shown up for it.
In truth I always hoped it would be just around the corner but it never arrived and, spectacularly, any hint of it vanished without trace on Wednesday evening. Barcelona fully deserved their victory and frankly made us look like stone-age mugs.
This was not the neo-tactically adept Fergie at work. The team looked like a series of doodles on a piece of paper followed by the words “that’ll do”. Who can blame him. We have won so much this season without hitting anything like top gear, why not think it could work one more time in Rome. It didn’t. At all.
I feel very much like I did after the spanking we received in the San Siro two years ago at the paddled hands of AC Milan. Without any positives to dwell on. But, you know what, I am wrong.
Much like in that game United faced a team of great players putting in the performances of their lives. We have won the league, which I think we would all have picked as the most important trophy at the start of the season, and, well, we have our health.
Barcelona were outrageously good and our players just didn’t turn up. I think we all still feel, despite the recent success, there is a Roy Keane/Bryan Robson shaped whole in the midfield. Hargreaves should be back next season and that will help things along enormously. He, maybe more than any other, is the player we really missed in Italy.
This is not the time to change jobs, leave the wife, sell all the players and start again. Simply, we have been beaten by a better team. In all honesty I felt our players were getting a little hubristic in the build up to this one so maybe this jolt will do them the world of good.
The season is over, we have done well, now it is time to start ignoring those Ronaldo headlines.