Manchester United have practically secured Europa League for next season after winning the EFL Cup final against Southampton just over a week ago. They will be in the third-round qualifiers if they fail to secure top 4, and fail to win the FA Cup. But, should Manchester United continue their current efforts in the European competition, to seek that precious Champions League qualification spot?
For those of you that may not know, winning the Europa League grants you entry into the Champions League. Straight into the pot for the group stages. Pretty simple, especially for a team like Manchester United, right? United currently sit in 6th place, like they have for quite a length of the season, but they are only 2 points of 4th place. However, they are powering through the Europa League, after easing past Saint-Etienne in the round of 32. Would it be wise for Jose Mourinho to ditch out on the league to win another European trophy to add to the mighty club’s history?
Manchester United probably have the strongest squad amongst everyone else remaining in the competition. Many would even argue that they are favourites to go on and win the whole competition completely, and I would have to agree with them. The only teams that could come close, in my opinion, would probably be: Lyon, Roma, Borussia Monchengladbach, or Zenit; and I think Manchester United could beat all those teams swiftly in the space of two legs. Manchester United travel to Russia on Thursday for their first leg against FC Rostov, whilst Lyon and Roma play each other. This alone, could be huge for United, because at least one of the favourites is soon to be knocked out of the competition. Compared to last season, the other competitors in the cup are dramatically weaker. Albeit, there are some strong teams this year, but last year there teams such as Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Sevilla, Napoli, and even Bayer Leverkusen. If you look at the teams now, in terms of difficulty, the teams are drastically different. Back to the main point, Manchester United could easily take on most of the teams that are remaining in this competition, which could prove them to be likely favourites to win the whole thing.
credit Chi-Heng Yang
It’s also hard to believe that Manchester United are unbeaten in all competitions since the start of November, due to the fact they’ve hardly moved in the league table. Baring in mind, their last defeat was in the Europa League against Fenerbahce, but you cannot argue with the fact that their unbeaten run is extremely impressive. Whilst on this run, they’ve been competing in the league as well, and have been maintaining a solid position and point accumulation within that time. They have clearly proven that their squad is more than capable of running in the Europa League, and the league at the same time. However, towards the end of the season, when legs start tiring, they could start slipping due to the fact they are trying to compete within two different competitions (three including FA Cup), which is where the risk of partaking in two competitions could affect them. However, their squad is extremely experienced, which could mean that they are more than capable to go the extra mile and win the mighty European contest. So, this is why they should go for the Europa League:
- They are most likely the favourites
- Their squad is more than capable to go on and win the competition
- It will automatically place them into the CL, benefiting themselves and the BPL
- A new trophy for the cabinet
- Proof to other clubs that they can still compete with strong European squads
- Not that they need it but, they’ll receive huge income of money from winning
- CL qualification would attract bigger players, even though they are a big club
Is the Risk Worth It?
Imagine if Jose Mourinho did take upon the idea that he wants to win the Europa League and ditch the Top 4; but then fails, and loses in one of the knockouts. Depending on what stage of the competition that this may occur, it could prove to be fatal. If they were to get knocked out by Rostov, they could definitely have a big chance of still reaching the top 4, whereas if they lost in the semis or the final, then top 4 could already be sealed by then, and they will most likely not be in it. Like I said before, Manchester United should be more than capable of beating all of the remaining teams in the competition, but there is always a chance of them under performing on the day. Manchester United seem to be attracted of collecting draws as of recent times, and draws are the exact opposite results that you want to be picking up during knockout stages of a cup competition.
credit Gordon Flood
So, let’s paint a picture: if Manchester United did something what Liverpool did last season. They lose interest of getting top 4, and pursue the Europa League instead. Let’s say Manchester United lose in the final, and they fail to break into the top 4. Would their season be deemed to be a failure? Baring in mind, they’ve won the EFL Cup, which have gained them entry into third-round qualification for the Europa League. However, I’m 100% sure that Manchester United fans DO NOT want Europa League for a third successive season. Especially with the squad they have, they should not be playing in the Europa League. Having elite players like Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who is most likely to sign a new contract), David De Gea, and Juan Mata, they definitely should not be playing in the Europa League. Those players are Champions League material, and for them to fail to capture entry to it again would be seen as quite laughable towards the Manchester United squad. So, here are my reasons to as why Manchester United should not chase the Europa League, and should pursue Top 4 instead:
- It’s a fairly risky move. If they’re eliminated in the late stages of the competition, it will effect their league stance
- Even though they are unbeaten since November, they are not consistently winning, and you must win in competitions like these
- If they fail to win it and fail to get Top 4, star players will be put off at the fact they don’t have CL
- A fairly laughable season if they fail to win it and miss out on Top 4, especially including the amount they spent in the summer
- Fans will be displeased at the fact that they are missing out on CL again
- Not much progress from last season would have been made if they failed to win it
- Other European clubs may think that they are not capable of competing in higher-end competition
To conclude, I think Manchester United should chase Europa League. I believe that they are definitely more than capable of winning the competition. Their squad have drastically changed since last year, and the competitors within the competition this year are somewhat weaker than last year. Also, if they did win it, it would hugely benefit the BPL in 2017/18’s Champions League campaign because they could potentially have five English teams competing in the tournament. Although it is a risk, I think it’s a risk worth taking for Jose Mourinho. He’s a competitive manager, that wants to win all trophies that his team compete in, so why not this one?
Do you agree with me? Should Manchester United put all force into Europa, or is it too much of a risk? Let me know in the comments below!
featured image by Ian Middleton-Duff