Stam: Reds should grab Europa chance
Jaap Stam believes it’s important that Manchester United secure European football ahead of Erik ten Hag’s first season in charge.
Champions League qualification is now virtually out of reach for the Reds, as we are five points behind Arsenal in fourth with just two fixtures left, while both the Gunners and Tottenham Hotspur have games in hand over us and play each other in the North London derby on 12 May.
United are currently sixth in the Premier League table, which would be enough for a Europa League spot, as would fifth.
The team in seventh qualifies for the Europa Conference League, a competition which was only founded in 2021 and one we haven’t been involved in previously.
There has been an argument from some external quarters that United would benefit from not being involved in continental competition at all next season.
Arsenal's rise into the top four has arguably been aided by only having one domestic game per week this term, while Leicester City and Chelsea's Premier League title successes in 2016 and 2017 respectively were also achieved without the distraction of midweek games.
But Stam sees Europa League or Conference League involvement as providing a great chance for his compatriot Ten Hag, and the club, to claim our first silverware since 2017.
“I think it’s good to have European football,” Jaap told club media, ahead of Monday's morale-boosting 3-0 win over Brentford.
“I think it’s always good to show yourself on a European platform and show what you can do and how you’re performing and if you’re making progress or not.
“At the end of the day, it’s always nice to win trophies. Your colleagues, and a lot of other people, are asking me how long it will take for United to win trophies.
“It doesn’t need to take long and if you can play in a European competition, and win one, then I still think you’ve done a great job for next season.”
The 2022/23 campaign will be unlike any other, in that there is a five-week hiatus in the middle of the club season to allow the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar to be played.
That tournament’s presence is sure to disrupt the rhythm of teams across the continent, although it splits the group stages and knockout rounds of the European competitions and Stam feels the opportunity is there for United to build something.
“I think it’s good to be in there and to start playing these games and then create a feeling and get a rhythm as well for the players to do well in the league and also at a European level, so people around the world can see you’re coming and getting close to a certain level.
“You never know what will happen at the end of the season but I think if there are things to be won then I think you need to do it. You need to grab it.”
Stam will play at Old Trafford again on Saturday 21 May. Tickets for the Legends of the North game v Liverpool are still available.