Manchester United’s Europa League campaign continues tonight with a last-32 tie against St Etienne, but is the Europa League a help or a hinderance for Manchester United?
Jose Mourinho has once again admitted that the Europa League is not a tournament he wants to be competing in, however, it is a tournament he will be wanting to succeed in for sure. Mourinho is a winner and wants to win everything available to him.
He picked up his first piece of silverware at Old Trafford at the beginning of the season, with a victory over Leicester City in the Community Shield at Wembley. Many people don’t like to count that as a ‘proper’ trophy, but Mourinho has the chance in to pick up the next one in just over a week, as the Red Devils head to Wembley to take on Southampton in the EFL Cup.
The season still in front of us
United have 13 Premier League games remaining, as well as still being in the FA Cup and Europa League. If they were to reach the final of both of those competitions, Manchester United could still have to play a further 27 matches in 98 days! That is a game every 3.6 days!
United are currently 12 points behind Chelsea, who look in invincible form of late, meaning that the Premier League title is surely out of reach. However, a top four finish would be the main target for Jose Mourinho’s men to ensure qualification to next season’s Champions League. So is the Europa League a hindrance to that?
Well, of course, the Premier League isn’t the only way into the Champions League. Winning the Europa League also gives you an option to do so too. Is it a help to United’s campaign that they have two opportunities to qualify, whereas the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal only have one? (assuming Arsenal can’t overturn a 5-1 deficit against Bayern Munich)
Liverpool and Chelsea have gone through the whole season so far only playing only on the weekend, and for the majority of the season, it has shown as they have been then freshest and in-form sides.
My personal view is that it is a hinderance. My personal view from the beginning of the season has been to get out of the Europa League as quickly as possible. Six group stage games and a further nine knockout games is like adding a half a season’s worth of Premier League fixtures into the calendar.
However, it is also a trophy we have never won. If it’s a tournament that we are going to take seriously, which it looks like we are, then it is a trophy we must try to win. It could have a serious impact on our Premier League campaign and could see us finish outside the top four. We can’t allow the additional fixtures affect our league form, only for us to fail to win the Europa League on the 24th May. We must win it!
Mourinho has got a relatively strong squad, with strength in depth in most departments. If he can rotate his players sufficiently enough and keep them fresh and more importantly, injury free, we have a chance.
Overall, yes the Europa League and the additional fixtures it brings is a hinderance. But it also gives us a second bite of the cherry and the chance to add a trophy that is yet to grace the bulging Old Trafford trophy room.
We just have to hope that we do the job in at least one, if not both campaigns.