Why Manchester United Have To Focus On Europa League Success5 min read
While Manchester United recorded an important draw against Liverpool last weekend, Ole Gunnar Solskjær will have been left frustrated for not claiming all three points.
There were clear signs of improvement in the first half, with the players responding well to the team instructions and intensity being applied in abundance. Daniel James and Marcus Rashford led the line expertly, closing down Liverpool’s defenders and not allowing them to play quickly as they usually do.
However, the Red Devils remain in 14th place in the Premier League: a sorry sight for all, with far too many questions than answers at this stage in their domestic campaign.
And so focus is now on the Europa League, or so it should be. With a group consisting of AZ Alkmaar, FC Astana and Partizan Belgrade, Solskjær’s men should be progressing from that group with relative ease.
For this Thursday’s fixture, their most difficult away game takes place in the hostile Belgrade, where the home fans will give them some reception. A draw, in all honesty, would be a good result, especially given where they are playing as well as their most recent form. Coming away avoiding defeat is a must.
Manchester United fans know this season is not going to be an overly successful or rewarding one, but there is still a glimmer of hope of what might come in Europe. After winning this second-tier European competition with José Mourinho at the helm, a large proportion of the squad, at the very least, have had the experience of what it takes to go all the way.
With what has, so far, happened in the Premier League, a finish inside the top four looks too big a gap to fill, in terms of consistency more so than anything else. Leicester City and West Ham are all pushing, while Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham will be vying for the remaining two spots unoccupied by Liverpool and Manchester City.
Which leaves United with the realisation that the Europa League gives the club their best opportunity to reclaim Champions League football for the following season.
Other hugely successful and important clubs, such as: AS Roma, Wolfsburg, Arsenal and Sevilla are in the competition, as well as the whichever teams drop down from the Champions League after the group stages.
Solskjær understands the need of Europe’s top-tier competition back at Old Trafford to entice the likes of James Maddison and Jadon Sancho next summer, two of which are priorities and will have other suitors lined up in abundance, and so should accordingly plan to utilise the squad’s best players in order to progress round by round.
There has been some talk of resting key members of the squad, but this can and should only be done after the Red Devils have cemented their position in the round of 16. To be thinking about taking their foot off the gas in mid-October, given they have already dropped points in the group stage, is a self-sabotaging mission.
Not all fans might like the prioritisation of the Europa League, but it is a needs must after what has happened so far in the Premier League. Manchester United still have a chance of Champions League football, but have to take this opportunity seriously and grasp it with both hands.