The Europa League’s trophy is one prize that continues to elude Manchester United’s trophy case, and this year, it might be the sole ray of hope for the club. Although the Europa League is not considered as much of a big deal as the Champions League, United doing well might just be the only saving grace for them this season.
As far as their EPL position is concerned, the Red Devils are 13 points behind league-leaders Chelsea. Almost feeling like that annoying record which never stops rewinding, United are back to their woes like the previous season. And the one before that. The one before that, as well.
A top four finish seems highly unlikely for them, given how they’ve been playing. This could spell disaster for the ‘Special One’, and add up to the frustration and anger amidst the fans.
Their next EPL game against Tottenham Hotspur could be a deciding factor in that. They desperately need to win that match to at least have a wild shot at climbing up the league table.
While it does seem like United should focus on doing well in the EPL, the attitude within the team doesn’t seem so. Mourinho has never shied away from complaining about the troubles and tribulations of playing in the Europa League.
What Mourinho seems to be forgetting is the fact that Europa League winners obtain direct access to the Champions League, and that, honestly, will be comparatively easier for them than to try and secure a top 3 finish in the EPL.
Last season, Liverpool were in a similar situation and almost made use of this advantage, had they not lost to Sevilla in the final. The Reds beat United and Borussia Dortmund to make it to the final, but fell short against Sevilla.
However, this time around, the line-up of teams do not look as daunting as last time. Of the eight clubs who will drop into the Europa League from the Champions League for next Monday’s draw for the round of 32, Tottenham seem to carry the greatest threat to United and can be drawn from the round of 16 onwards. But with Mauricio Pochettino’s team only three points adrift of the top four, their focus is likely to remain on climbing back into the Champions League positions.
The other teams include Besiktas, Lyon, FC Copenhagen, Ludogorets, FC Rostov, Legia Warsaw and Borussia Monchengladbach and team like United should ideally not be fazed by any of those clubs. With their present form though, one can never be too sure.
After United advanced to the next stage, then they will have a good-enough shot at actually winning, and also securing a Champions League spot. Kills two birds with one stone, pretty efficient, eh?
On the other hand, they will face a rather busy schedule. And, it can be a risky business to prioritise the Europa League over the EPL. However, the reasons for doing so are not too far-fetched. They can gain a missing trophy and a place in the Champions League. Thus, this route might actually end up being their salvation this season.