Que Sera, Sera
Now that the dust has settled on another European season it’s time for me to reflect on this year’s travels in the Champions League. Unlike the previous 2 seasons it was spent solely in the top tier of European football, and the for the first time in 4 years we made it to the knock out rounds. In United’s continued period of transition it represented progress, even if it was ultimately uninspiring, ending with the defeat at Old Trafford to Sevilla.
It was disappointing to not proceed to the quarter finals, we’d have mirrored 2014 again with a tie against Bayern Munich and have a chance to prove ourselves against Europe’s finest. Instead we can only look forward to the 2019 campaign and dream of a trip to the final in Madrid. Worse though, having beaten City, Liverpool are worryingly close to another cup. Hopefully Ronaldo and co. can stop them and make it 3 in a row.
The 2017/18 European Season In Review
A season that started with Spanish opponents ended in the same fashion. There were a few new places to visit and other twists along the way, but here are the key stats.
Trips Missed: 1 (Moscow)
Miles Travelled: 9,006 (return)
Furthest Trip: Skopje – 3,096 miles
Shortest Trip: Basel – 1,208 miles
Cheapest Match Ticket: Skopje – £13
Most Expensive Match Ticket: Seville – £89 (subsidised by United to £54)
Cheapest Pint: Skopje – £1.50
Most Expensive Pint: Basel – £6.00
Average Travel Cost: £174
At just over 9,000 miles travelled it pipped 2015/16 but came short of the 2016/17 season, albeit with a few less matches to attend. The Super Cup game in Macedonia against Madrid was country number 18 for me, whilst the 19th and 20th came soon after with the trips to Lisbon and Switzerland – and 60th birthday celebrations with my dad! Having skipped Moscow, a 4-1 win, there wasn’t much to shout about in terms of results from the 4 games I saw; 1 win, 1 draw and 2 defeats, with just 2 goals scored…
The group stage of both European competitions means a guaranteed 3 games between September and December, so the right timing of country to gameweek is imperative to enjoying the conditions. Thankfully our only warm weather opportunity, Lisbon, was mid-October and mid-20 degrees, made better with cheap, strong lager in the form of Super Bock. This was nothing compared to the trip to Skopje though, an August treat with the cheapest pints of the season and a heatwave to boot; 40 degrees actually being too hot to sit anywhere but in the shade of the pub, with fans and constant water spray.
The trip to Macedonia brought with it another memorable first, crossing the border from Bulgaria in the EU, to a non-EU state. A ropey bus and a dozen or so United fans almost stranded without passports would have made a story, but we did eventually make it to Skopje – and back! It was this trip that almost left us hotel-less too, with a Madrid vs United cup final too mouth-watering a prospect for the locals who thought it’d be reasonable to massively inflate hotel prices. With intervention we managed to get the hotel to honour our original booking, but another new encounter for European travel.
Visiting Iberia, for Seville and Lisbon, helped by the good weather, made the more interesting trips in terms of culture. Both amazing cities with so many great places to eat and drink. Lisbon being my stand out trip just due to the fact it’s a wonderful place to spend a few days in the sun, particularly down by Almada and the waterfront. Both these trips worked out the cheapest too; £134/135 to put the average for the 2017/18 season at £174 – somewhat cheaper than both of the previous 2 years I’ve kept a record of. Perhaps a lesson learnt on booking quickly and considering all options.
On the point of costs, it wouldn’t be a complete review without mentioning the cost of tickets. For our short campaign this season the prices rocketed from the delights of £13 in Eastern Europe to the stinging heights of €100 for the knockout round against Sevilla. This was well documented and incredibly petty by the Spanish club, though nothing we haven’t seen before. Thankfully United subsidised the price (by inflicting the same price on away fans) to help prevent this becoming a precedent. At a time when ticket prices reflect such a small percentage of clubs income, it’s a bit of a disgrace that fans who travel all over to see their team are still the ones being punished. Next up, the £115 FA Cup Final…
A worse than poor performance to see us eliminated in the last 16 really isn’t good enough. As much as we say it’s more about the trip, that’s no use when we can’t progress in the knockout stages. Trips aside, the club have to be competing against the top few teams in Europe; it’s even more infuriating to see rivals Liverpool so close to another final. 2017/18 did bring a milestone in 20 countries with United and just over 9,000 miles travelled in Europe this season but as ever, we’re spoilt and we want more. But first, let’s just hope the Scousers don’t do it.