So, Manchester United crash out of Europe before the knockout stages for the first time in a decade. Their 2-1 defeat at the Estadio de Luz against a weak and injury hit Benfica side meant they finished bottom of Group D, and so did not even have the consolation of UEFA Cup football.
There's no complaints from this corner: six games, one win, three goals scored is simply not good enough in 450 minutes of football. Especially in a group against a Benfica side struggling in their own league, a poor Lille side and a second rate Spanish team in Villareal.
At the risk of repeating myself, this is not a complete surprise. Whilst I fully expected United to win tonight, the decline (especially in Europe) has been going on for six years. No away win in Europe since November 2003 and a dearth of goals have seen United fail to get anywhere near winning the trophy since their success in Barcelona in 1999.
They simply aren't good enough a side any more, or, more interestingly, tactically unable to compete with European opposition. What this means for the manager is, I suppose, the key issue. Not only is his transfer kitty reduced by anything up to £15million but the reality is that the Glazers are increasingly unlikely to want the manager to remain at the helm after the end of this season. Probably the only thing that can save Fergie now is a Premiership title, but with the imperious form of Chelsea this seems unlikely.
Plus, changing the manager could go either way. A new boss could bring in players and galvanise the team into a better unit. Or, the whole thing could fall to pieces completely as it turned out it was Ferguson holding the whole shebang together. Who knows?
I'm not one for overreaction so you won't see me yelling for the manager to be sacked. I just think that it is further proof, were any needed, that United are a team in seemingly irreversible decline.