The reigning Premier League champions have endured their toughest season in decades since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson after 26 years in charge at Old Trafford.
We knew it wouldn’t be easy for David Moyes and it has been far from that but the Scot now faces a dilemma as United look to the future – do the Red Devils want and need to be in the Europa League if they miss out on a top four spot?
Firstly, there is still plenty of the season left to go and following the signing of Juan Mata and the return to fitness of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie it’s still well within the realms of possibility that United could march into the top four to qualify for the Champions League come May. They are presently 7 points of Liverpool in fourth with 14 games worth 42 points up for grabs and United will surely give it their best shot.
But, if come May they miss out, would the club be better off with or without the Europa League? Generally, it’s better to be involved in European competitions than not, especially if Moyes wants to sign top players to build his own over the summer but, on the flip side, playing on Thursday evenings makes challenging in the Premier League tougher for those teams involved.
We have seen the toll the Europa League can take on teams with Newcastle, Tottenham, Liverpool and Swansea – it impacts the team’s ability to really compete at full strength in the Premier League due to the lack of rest and time to prepare in between Europa League games and Premier League fixtures at the weekends. Playing on a Thursday night in Russia, for example, is not the ideal preparation for a midday clash with a domestic title rival on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the club’s chief executive has insisted the club are not reliant on European football financially so not being in receipt of the income from the Champions League (or Europa League) wouldn’t be as much as a problem for United as it would for some of the other teams mentioned above.
United could be best off avoiding European competitions all together (as Liverpool have been doing this term) and pushing on with domestic challenges next term. But, alas, no one would argue, the best-case scenario of them all would be wrapping up this season inside the top four or, better yet, winning the Champions League title to swipe a place instead of whoever finished fourth.
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