Manchester United last night continued their Europa League campaign with a commanding 3-0 victory in the 1st leg of their last-32 tie against AS Saint-Etienne. Currently fighting on all fronts for trophies, and involved in a tight battle to secure a top-four position in the Premier League, the secondary European competition could be seen as a distraction.
Yet, considering the real possibility of finishing 5th or 6th in the league, despite an impressive unbeaten run, success in the Europa League could be United’s best means of securing Champions League football next season. Here are three reasons why they can win it…
They take it seriously
Despite Jose Mourinho’s repeated suggestion that the competition is bad for his side and they don’t want to be in it, as reported by the Telegraph as early as September, the Portuguese boss has continued to select strong sides.
For yesterday’s 1st leg, 3-0 victory over Saint-Etienne, Mourinho only made two changes. Sergio Romero replaced David De Gea in goal – as he has for all European and FA Cup ties – and Marouane Fellaini came in for Henrik Mkhitaryan.
In more recent complaints about fixture congestion, caused by Manchester United’s progression in three different cups, Jose has pledged to approach the games to win, as stated in the Independent.
Furthermore, the Times have this morning described how Mourinho ‘berated his players’ at half time last night, for showing complacency in their performance and being too relaxed in their approach to the game.
If Jose continues this approach, even when entering second legs with a considerable advantage, the Red Devils stand a great chance of winning the Europa League and securing automatic Champions League qualification by doing so.