CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FAILS
Yesterday evening saw Manchester United get off to the worst possible start in their Champions League campaign. A horrendous Lingard backpass saw the unfortunately named Wankdorf erupt as Young Boys bagged a 95th minute winner.
While it’s undoubtedly a terrible start, there’s still every reason that United should progress out of a group rounded off by Atalanta and Villarreal but there is precedent.
United alone can think back to disastrous Champions League campaigns in 05/06 and 11/12 but they are far from alone when it comes to big sides just never getting going in the competition.
So in honour of United and Lingard's disastrous night in Bern, we’ve picked out the ten most catastrophic campaigns since the tournament's 1993 rebrand.
While there are plenty of stories of minnows coming in and getting duly bartered, that’s a lot less fun than when the big boys get sent packing. So without further ado, let’s get it into it.
AC Milan – 1996/97
Losses to Porto, IFK Göteborg and Rosenborg meant Milan could only muster 7 points in 6 games as a side boasting one of the strongest squads to ever feature in the competition crashed out in spectacular fashion.
Barcelona – 1997/98
In a year in which they finished comfortably atop the La Liga table, won the Coppa Del Rey and boasted a squad that included such stars as Rivaldo, Stoichkov, Figo and Luis Enrique in their side, it’s fair to say it came as a bit of a shock when Barcelona came plum last in a Champions League group that contained Newcastle, PSV and Dynamo Kiev. In two games against Kiev alone they managed to ship seven goals and score none.
AC Milan - 1999/00
The 1999/2000 Champions League season is definitely one to forget for Milan fans. In a group with Galatasaray, Hertha Berlin and Chelsea the group favourites picked up just one win in six as Maldini, Schevchenko and co walked away with a seriously disappointing six points from six games.
Juventus – 2000/01
There’s capitulation and then there’s Juventus’ 2000/01 Champions League campaign. After managing one win in their opening four fixtures against Hamburg, Panathinaikos and Deportivo La Coruna, Juventus managed to lose both of their remaining games 3-1. The first match against Hamburg saw Zidane sent off after 29 minutes with Edgar Davids following on 33. Not to be outdone the final game of the group would see Van der Sar and Darko Kovačević both dismissed as Panathinaikos cruised to victory.
Bayern Munich – 2002/03
The 2002/03 season would see Bayern finish with an impressive Bundesliga and DFB Pokal double, a feat potentially aided by the fact that after the 13th November they certainly didn’t have to worry about European fixtures disrupting their season. They crashed out of a group featuring Lens, Deportivo and Milan with a genuinely impressive 0 wins. A dead rubber final game against Lens did at least see the debuts of a young duo named Lahm and Schweinsteiger.
Manchester United – 2005/06
One win in six games saw United crash out at the group stage for the first time in 11 years. In total United managed just three goals and a single win in a group with Villarreal, Benfica and Lille.
Manchester United – 2011/12
One of the all time great Champions League humiliations. Just a year after making the Champions League final, United finished third in a one horse race. Facing off against Basel, Benfica and Romanian champions Otelul Galati, they managed just two wins, with both coming against the hapless Romanians. A final day loss to Benfica ensured United missed out on an estimated £20 million in income.
Juventus – 2013/14
In a year in which they reached an historic 102 points in Serie A, losing just two of 38 games, Juventus absolutely tanked in the Champions League. They matched their league loss total in just six games as they faced off against Copenhagen, Galatasaray and Real Madrid. A solitary win at home to Copenhagen in the groups penultimate game looked to have restored hope, only for Gala and Wesley Steijder to then condemn them to the Europa League.
Liverpool – 2014/15
In a group with Ludogorets, Basel and Real Madrid Liverpool managed a solitary one win in six, with that win only coming courtesy of a 93rd minute Gerrard penalty against Ludogorets. Two draws against Ludogorets and Basel in the final two games sent them down to the Europa League where they were immediately knocked out by Besiktas.
Benfica – 2017/18
Though a long way from being a giant of the modern game, it was still a real shock when Benfica exited the 2017/18 group stage with zero points. In six games against CSKA, Basel and United they scored just one goal and conceded 14.
Words by Andy Gallagher
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