What price a familiar face coming back to haunt Manchester United?

  • Posted on: 28 July 2015

Back in 2012/13, Sir Alex Ferguson’s final Champions League campaign at the helm of Manchester United was brought to an abrupt halt by Real Madrid at the round of 16.

The man to deliver the knockout blow was one Cristiano Ronaldo, with a former Old Trafford favourite returning to his old stomping ground to dash the dreams of those who once idolised him.

A similar story could be about to unfold in 2015/16.

We are not talking about club icons here, but United will be all too aware that familiar faces could come back to haunt them on European football’s grandest stage.

Louis van Gaal is preparing to embark on his first Champions League campaign as Red Devils boss, having delivered on his initial remit of returning the club to the top four of the Premier League.

The job is, however, only half done, with United having to safely negotiate the murky waters of the qualification play-offs before they can consider themselves to be back among the elite.

Everyone associated with the club will be keeping their fingers crossed for a favourable draw, with big money spent on the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay in an effort to once again compete for top prizes at home and abroad.

UEFA competition betting markets have responded to an impressive recruitment drive by trimming United's price, but it would be foolish to read too much into their chances before a group stage spot has been secured.

The worry on that score is that a big-hitter from the likes of Italy or Turkey could cross their path, with it also possible that one of last season’s quarter-finalists, Monaco – conquerors of Premier League opposition in the form of Arsenal along the way – could set up a heavyweight two-legged tie.

It is, however, the presence of Lazio and Fenerbahce that will be catching the eye of United followers and causing them a few sleepless nights.

Were the latter to be paired with the Red Devils, two men who may feel they have something of a point to prove to Van Gaal would find themselves back at the Theatre of Dreams in the away dressing room.

Nani and, more recently, Robin van Persie have been allowed to leave Manchester for Istanbul this summer, and both have enough match-altering ability about them to cause their former employers serious problems were they to be handed an immediate reunion.

Lazio would probably be a more favoured option for United, but the Serie A outfit may well have a mercurial talent in their ranks that would like nothing better than to emulate the exploits of Ronaldo before him and crush the continental ambitions of a club that helped to mould him.
That man is, of course, Ravel Morrison.

Having decided to call time on an inconsistent spell in English football which saw him fail to convince at Old Trafford, West Ham United, Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff City, the enigmatic 22-year-old has made the bold call to try his luck in Rome.

Morrison has made an impressive start to life with Lazio – netting twice and providing two assists on his pre-season debut to draw comparisons with former fans’ favourite Paul Gascoigne – and United, with their Champions League fate still hanging in the balance, will be eager to avoid offering him another big stage on which to shine when the play-off draw is made.

While it is always nice to see old friends, it can be uncomfortable when they show up unexpectedly.