How will Champions League exit affect Manchester United's league form?

In the wake of Manchester United’s devastating defeat at Old Trafford on Tuesday night at the hands of Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson and his team must now find a way to ‘bounce back’.

“We've still got an FA Cup tie and we're still in a commanding position in the league. So we'll get over it, we'll bounce back,” - Mike Phelan, Ferguson’s assistant told reporters after the game.

Phelan had faced the media in the aftermath of the defeat, as the manager had been too ‘distraught’ to appear in front of the post-match press conference. Phelan described the atmosphere in the dressing room as ‘distraught’ after such a huge disappointment.

United had been firing on all cylinders and chasing a treble which is now out of their grasp this season but, as Phelan expressed eloquently and with immense positivity, there are still two other titles they can win.

United are currently 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League and are will face holders Chelsea in the FA Cup sixth round at Old Trafford. They must not hang their heads – they did the best they could do on the night, disappointments and surprises crop up from time to time in football and they must get up and get on with it.

In fact, perhaps the biggest factor in their shock was not the referee’s controversial decision to send Nani off in the 56th minute but rather the fact that they’ve performed so well and so consistently this season that perhaps they’d forgotten what losing felt like.

Their last defeat prior to Tuesday night’s was back in December against Cluj – that’s almost 3 months ago to the day. What they cannot afford to do is let this deter them from chasing a double.

Roberto Mancini was likely watching with glee on Tuesday evening, regardless of his assertions that he wanted United to go as far as possible in the Champions League, he must know that if anything could put a spanner in the works, it would be a big defeat.

Now, if Manchester United respond accordingly this weekend against Chelsea in the FA Cup they will feel much better – the equivalent of getting back on the horse after falling off; it will be exactly the kind of confidence boost they and their manager need after such a big blow to their season.

However, a defeat against the Blues and a second successive exit from a competition could have severe and dire consequences. Before Tuesday United had an invincible edge to them, they were indestructible.

Now, they have been made cruelly aware that they are mere mortals and if they are reminded of that again on Sunday, I fear they may make the last 10 games of the season in the Premier League very hard for themselves.

images: © flawka, © Paolo Camera

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