Man United's strength in depth and attacking threat will see Jose Mourinho's men deliver in Champions League

Mikael Silvestre made 361 appearances for Man United, winning five Premier League titles and the Champions League. The ex-France international will be providing a weekly column for Sport360.

Mikael Silvestre
by Mikael Silvestre
11th September 2017

article:11th September 2017

It took me until my tenth season in the Champions League to win it and by that time I was desperate – the whole team was too after what happened to Manchester United in 1998/99.

It was a big time for me in 2007/08 personally because I had torn my ACL and my was first game back was in the quarter-final against Roma so I thought ‘okay, if this is how it’s going to be, let’s do it!’ Patrice Evra had been doing so well that season so he had given me only a little time to play. I also came on against Barcelona at the end of the semi-final to keep things tight.

We felt like we had prepared for the game with all the details we needed, tactically and physically, and that if we respected the game plan we’d come out on top. It was a tight result and we were on the edge for 180 minutes, but after so many disappointments, it was time to do the job and we did it against Chelsea in the final.

Manchester United players pose with the trophy after beating Chelsea in the final of the Champions League football match at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on May 21, 2008. The match remained at a 1-1 draw and Manchester won on penalties after extra time. AFP PHOTO / Franck Fife (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Silvestre won the Champions League with Man United in Moscow in 2008.

We felt like we had found what was missing from the previous years. The work that Carlos Queiroz had done was key. He brought a tactical awareness that we needed in Europe that was different to the flow of the Premier League.

The EPL is high speed and English teams find it difficult to manage the down moments, when you need to keep possession of the ball – that’s what the Spanish and Italian teams do so well.

Cristiano Ronaldo was brilliant that year but we also had great players like Nemanja Vidic and Evra who had joined, and Michael Carrick who is the type of midfielder you need to respond to the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

But I think the English teams will do well this year, apart from Spurs who have a tough group.

Manchester United's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (L) and Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba attends a team training session at the club's training complex near Carrington, west of Manchester in north west England on September 11, 2017, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group A football match against FC Basel. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Much of the onus for the Red Devils will be on Lukaku and Pogba.

They all have quality players with quality managers. I might be a Red Devil but I don’t think I’m being biased saying Manchester United will do the best, as the quality on their bench sets them apart.

The transition from last season to this season is quite clear, they are being aggressive defensively and are quick in the transition.

The team was not very quick going forward after recovering the ball but they now have the players to do that.

Chelsea are also strong defensively. Yes they have conceded some goals, but they are well coached under Antonio Conte and they have Alvaro Morata who is a great finisher.

COBHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11: Manager Antonio Conte of Chelsea speaks to the media in a press conference ahead of thier UEFA Champions League group C match against FK Qarabag at Chelsea Training Ground on September 11, 2017 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Will Chelsea’s return to the Champions League bring success?

You can’t count a team out who has Neymar – you’d rather have him than not – but I think PSG will fall short.

It’s a tough season for Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. Winning every trophy with those players, and to keep up that motivation, will be a good test of character.

Barcelona will respond, I think because they are driven by the loss of Neymar and they are a great club with a massive history. They can’t afford to have a second season like their last so this can be a fresh start with a fresh manager. They will still be a real threat – whether that is enough, I don’t know.

Saint-Denis, FRANCE: France's midfielder Zinedine Zidane (L) gives his captain armband to defender Mickael Silvestre as he leaves the pitch for a substitution during the friendly test match France vs. Mexico, ahead of the 2006 World Cup, 27 May 2006 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. AFP PHOTO/ PASCAL PAVANI (Photo credit should read PASCAL PAVANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Zidane knows Silvestre’s traits well.



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