Manchester United Managers Have Rarely, If Ever, Disrespected The “Smaller” Competitions

Posted: March 9, 2017 in Chelsea, Europa League, European Football, Manchester United, Opinion
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So Manchester United managed to overcome a terrible pitch and a good team and are now in very real danger of reaching the final of the Europa League.

The pitch, at the end of the day, was the same for both teams although Rostov are, obviously, more used to playing on it. It didn’t really make a difference. Providing United, who had the better players, played to their potential then they were always going to be in a position to win the tie over the two legs.

In truth, this nonsense about pitches has become a bit tiresome in recent years. The worst surfaces nowadays are better than some of the best ones from twenty or thirty years ago and it has become an excuse in the same way as too many games has become an excuse.

The tournament is also well worth winning now that it offers Champion’s League qualification, particularly if you are an English team where the amount of competition may preclude your qualification through league position.

This is not a European journey United are used to making as, when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, they usually qualified for the Champion’s League without any outside assistance. It is, however, a journey with a trophy at the end of it and now the added bonus of the Champion’s League qualification for the winner makes it even more lucrative.

The last time United were in this competition they were knocked out by Liverpool, the time before that by Athletic Bilbao so their record is not very good but, on neither occasion could the mangers be accused of not taking it seriously. There were, no doubt, players who felt that the Europa League was beneath them.

That is not the case this time out as United were joined by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly in the close season and all were aware that they would be playing in the Europa League. In fact, all four gave up Champion’s League participation to join United!

Their attitude has to have rubbed off on the rest of the team which means that every player should be trying their utmost to win this trophy.

If further proof was required that they are taking the so-called “lesser” trophies seriously then one only needs to look at their performances in the EFL Cup.

Traditionally a competition used by the bigger clubs to give youngsters a game, it always got interesting towards the end when the managers suddenly realised that they had a chance of winning it and started fielding strong teams.

This season, Manchester United started every EFL Cup game with a very strong team and, as everybody knows, ended up by winning the tournament.

If, at the end of the season, United finish fifth in the Premier League but end up with the EFL Cup and the Europa League in the trophy cabinet, then the season will have been successful. Champion’s League qualification will have been secured and Mourinho can plan for next season with slightly less pressure than had he won nothing.

It will also, according to the experts, be easier to attract new players with the promise of Champion’s League football, although the four signings from last season tend to disprove this theory. Sometimes it is enough to play for Manchester United, the competitions are secondary. Arsenal, for example, qualify for the Champion’s League every year, but it doesn’t help them to keep their best players!

Whatever happens, the season looks like being a success. Whether or not that success results in more than the one trophy currently won, (two if you count the Community Shield), remains to be seen but Champion’s League football should return to Old Trafford next season, maybe even because of taking a “smaller” competition a little more seriously than some.

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