Europa League: How will we approach it next season?
With the UEFA Europa League group-stage draw taking place on Friday, many fans are wondering how manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United will approach the competition this season.
GO ALL OUT TO WIN IT
Official App Editor Mark Froggatt writes…
“Winning the Premier League title is always the priority at United, but that is evidently a long-term vision right now and Ole has even admitted it isn’t a realistic aim. Sure, you never know what may happen, but closing that 32-point gap on the current champions is clearly unlikely.
“The three cup competitions are therefore the most realistic opportunities to add silverware to the Old Trafford cabinet and, without doubt, a second Europa League trophy would be a fine addition. Everybody who was there in Stockholm two years ago, or watching from around the world, knows how it felt to beat Ajax in 2017. It was a standout night in our recent history: both emotive and euphoric, like the very best occasions, and increasingly described as this generation’s Rotterdam.
“Winning can also become habitual and, with Solskjaer building a younger squad, there are obvious benefits that would stem from success on the continent.
“Yet the reward for winning the Europa League is the most important incentive, with the victor earning automatic qualification to the Champions League group stage. That prize has revolutionized the competition since it was introduced in 2015/16, and it cannot be underestimated at a time when it’s so difficult to finish in the Premier League’s top four. That’s why I hope we go all out to win.”
Club reporter Joe Ganley writes…
“When I first started to go more regularly to Old Trafford as an eight-year-old boy in the early nineties, it would be lesser European games I would often attend, principally because tickets were easier to come by. I recall seeing David Beckham score his first senior goal against Galatasaray in 1994 – a dead-rubber game in which another Class of ‘92 player, Simon Davies, also scored.
“Gary Neville later made his unglamorous first-team bow in a UEFA Cup first-round match against Torpedo Moscow, in front of less than 20,000 spectators. Beckham and Neville are among the biggest names British football has produced in the last 30 years, but back then, they were inexperienced talents, with raw edges to their game that needed smoothing.
“The likes of Tahith Chong, James Garner, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood, to name a few, are in a similar place right now, and who knows how vital European experience at a high standard could prove to them? It means games against opponents playing a variety of styles, against professionals of all ages, from many diverse footballing cultures. What an educational experience!
“United will have to fight hard next season to reclaim a place in the top four, with six or seven teams all battling for the same thing, so perhaps there will be less opportunity for Solskjaer to be flexible in the Premier League. Our strongest XI could be needed in every single top-flight game.
“While the Europa League might lack the glamour of Champions League, that could prove something of a silver lining, as Ole embeds a new first-team identity while also developing the stars of the future.”
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.
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