8 Dec 2011

It's Thursday Night Football For United

As Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League at the first hurdle against Basle, most notably the happiest people excluding the anti-United football fans, would have been the TV executives of Channel 5 and ITV4, who would have thrown clenched fists into the air in celebration of securing their new blockbuster programme called the Europa League, to be aired on Thursday evenings in February 2012.

On paper, United's group was set up for last years finalists to advance to the knockout stage. It spectacularly backfired against Basle as the English champions trudged off the field of play at full time following a 2-1 defeat, heads transfixed to the turf, as it started to sink in that Manchester United, will now be entering unfamiliar territory in February next year, when they will compete in the dreaded Europa League, a Competition that the majority of Europe's elite clubs would rather not be associated with or involved in.

United only have themselves to blame for this seasons early Champions League exit, but it was the manner of the defeat against Basle that was alarming. Supporters also seem certain to be heading for a direct head on collision with Man Utd owners the Glazer's over ticket prices for the Europa League games. Rumours are surfacing that they intend to keep ticket prices the same for the Europa League as they would have been for the Champions League.

The Glazers could also even infuriate supporters further more, by increasing ticket prices to try and make up for the unexpected financial losses in lost Champions League revenue, believed to be in the region of £20million for failing to qualify for the knockout stage. If his is true then United supporters who are against the Glazer ownership will simply use these matches as demonstrations against the Americans by not buying tickets for the Europa League games.

So United will now be playing in a European competition early next year that will not involve the Uefa Champions League anthem being blared out on the Old Trafford PA system. The last time United failed to make the knockout stage was 2005, but a least that year, they were that bad they did not qualify to drop in to the Europa League basement.

It makes you wonder if Sir Alex would have preferred to finish bottom of the Champions League group this year and avoid the dreaded Europa League? One thing is for sure, Television executives will welcome Manchester United's early exit with open arms, as United will guarantee extraordinary TV ratings that they will never have experienced before. TV insiders say that a similar previous Europa show involving Liverpool was "ok" for viewing figures, but they expect the Man Utd viewing figures to be in a different league all together to their Liverpudlian rivals.