It was with a bit of a whimper that the 2015/16 European season ended against Liverpool, a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford not enough to turn around the defeat at Anfield. After being knocked down into the Europa League I’d come round to idea of a potential final in Basel, Switzerland, but it was not to be. Even more frustrating was that our conquerors were drawn to play Borussia Dortmund, a place I’ve longed to visit with United at their impressive Westfalenstadion.
Exit from the Europea League means that we cannot automatically qualify for the Champions League by winning the tournament, as it stands United are sat in 6th place in the league, equal on points with West Ham and 1 behind Manchester City in 4th. With 8 games remaining there is every chance that United can make it into the Champions League, well, the qualifying round at least. A place in either European competition however, is almost guaranteed with both 5th and 6th in the league gaining a place, whilst United could still automatically qualify for the Europa by winning the FA Cup(!)
The 2015/16 European Season In Review
Looking back on this season in Europe I’ve enjoyed so much (football and results aside) with visits to a couple of new countries and a few good stories to tell. Here’s a few stats to summarise the last 8 months.
Trips Missed: 1 (Eindhoven)
Miles Travelled: 8,340 (return)
Furthest Trip: Moscow – 3,872 miles
Shortest Trip: Liverpool – 90 miles
Cheapest Match Ticket: Moscow – £18.50
Most Expensive Match Ticket: Midtjylland – £71
Cheapest Pint: Moscow – £2.40
Most Expensive Pint: Midtjylland – £5
Average Travel Cost: £230 (excluding Liverpool), £187 (including Liverpool)
After the highlight of scoring 4 goals away in Bruges, there were very few others to celebrate, in fact there were no other winning trips at all. A draw in Moscow was followed by 3 defeats and essentially summed up the United performances this season. Of course though, it’ll always be about more than just the football; there’s no point in travelling over 8,000 miles to simply take in the game, and there really have been some memorable moments.
The trip to Moscow was spectacular and well timed, with the low, oil-influenced exchange rate certainly contributing to the fact that it was one of the cheapest cities I visited this year. On the flip side Denmark was as expensive as I’d expected, at least in terms of drinking. As described in my post for the Midtjylland game, the cost of the match ticket was extortionate and almost twice as much as the average price of the other 4 games. The trips to Germany and Belgium were definitely much more reasonable price wise, even if there was a little less to see in each place. I have, of course, taken in plenty of culture in each city and country; keeping a tab on the average price of a pint became a slight obsession and an increasing challenge as more was consumed. Seeing Red Square and the Kremlin in Moscow was a personal highlight, Bruges was quaint and picturesque and Copenhagen provided plenty of sights (though don’t go out of your way to see the Little Mermaid statue). The only quiet place I stopped at was Hanover/Wolfsburg, with less tourist spots aside from the impressive German Christmas markets – definitely a recommended time to visit anywhere in Germany.
Winning in Bruges was also added to by the mostly sunny weather, there was a bit of rain over the few days we were there but the match was played under the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. In contrast we had to cope with below freezing conditions at both Moscow and Midtjylland. I spent about 3 days in each city, though there were a few trips with multiple legs and stop offs in other parts of each country. Bruges started with a ferry from Hull to Rotterdam and then a train for 120 miles crossing the Netherlands/Belgium border. Moscow was more direct, with the 6 hour flight split up with a changeover at Munich airport. Travelling to both Wolfsburg and Herning started with a flight to Copenhagen; for Wolfsburg it was then a flight to Hanover before a 50 mile train, whilst Copenhagen to Herning was a little further with a 200 mile rail journey.
It’s been trains, planes, automobiles and ferries, always with price in mind. The average total travel costs across all trips (excluding the £14 return trip to Liverpool) was £230; the cheapest being Wolfsburg at £182 whilst Herning was the most expensive at £262 – more than Moscow! (£250). I was happy to stay in hostels in Germany and Holland, both working out at £17/night, whilst I went for an upgrade to a hotel for Russia and AirBnB apartment in Belgium.
With all hope in August I’ll be planning my next trip into Europe; 5 months feels like a long wait, so I don’t know quite how I’d feel if we fail to qualify and have to wait 17 months like in 2014. Either way, there are more potential travels to be had. This summer United play 2 games in China for the preseason tour. I’ve always pondered travelling out of Europe to do one of these trips, with recent tours visiting the USA, Australia, South Africa and all parts of Asia. The games this year are in Shanghai and Beijing, with flights from Manchester to either destination currently priced at around 600 quid. There are a few logistics to consider but if it all works out my next venture abroad could be my furthest yet.