How Manchester United Can Win The Europa League

Manchester United Europa League Team Photo

Manchester United learned their Europa League fate this week. All of their remaining fixtures in the competition will be played in Cologne, Germany. The Europa League, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, will continue throughout August, with Manchester United’s round of 16 second leg against LASK Linz on the fifth of the month. The final of the competition is on Friday 21st August in Cologne and United are aiming to win their first trophy since 2017, seeing the Europa League as a realistic opportunity.

How Manchester United Could Win The Europa League

Unfinished Business

Amid all the excitement about winning the competition, Manchester United are yet to reach the quarter-finals. They thrashed LASK Linz 5-0 in Austria back in March, however, they still need to finish the job.

The second leg of the tie is an opportunity for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to play with his squad. The game takes place weeks after the Premier League ends, but just four days following a potential FA Cup Final. Solskjaer may use the match as a rotational tool, giving promising, young players game time. Alternatively, he may use the game to tick over squad fitness, ruthlessly giving his side the best chance of winning the competition.

It is almost a certainty that Manchester United will progress, so Solskjaer should be bold in his selection for the game. Back in November, the United boss selected a record-breaking youthful side to face Astana away in the group stage. Talents such as Dylan Levitt, Ethan Laird, and James Garner featured as United eventually succumbed to a 2-1 defeat.

Despite the disappointing result, the youngsters played impressively, and gained invaluable experience. The LASK second leg could provide similar benefits to those knocking on the door of the senior team, including exciting centre-back Teden Mengi.

Quarter-Final Draw

If, or when, Manchester United progress to the quarter-final stage, they will face one of two opponents. Either Danish giants FC Copenhagen, or Turkish side İstanbul Başakşehir. In the first leg of their Round of 16 tie, Başakşehir gained a 1-0 advantage, but the tie remains extremely tight. Solskjaer’s preparation will therefore be halted until the final result.

United should be confident against either side they face. Of course, football matches are not played on paper, but if they are serious contenders for champions, the Red Devils should beat both teams. Moreover, the Premier League’s project restart, as well as other resumptions across Europe, have showed that upsets are much less likely in matches played without crowds. One has to say that United would be favorites against either team, and this will only make their lives easier.

Copenhagen have former Premier League players amongst their ranks. Former United full-back Guillermo Varela plies his trade for the Danish side, whilst ex-Everton and Sunderland defender Bryan Oviedo is there too. 35-year-old Dame N’Doye leads the line for Copenhagen, and ex-Ajax star Viktor Fischer provides their creative influence.

İstanbul Başakşehir also have household Premier League names within their ranks. Arsenal and Manchester City’s old full-back Gael Clichy is with them, whilst ex-Liverpool stalwart Martin Skrtel is at the back. Demba Ba also plays for the Turkish side, and ex-Manchester City and Real Madrid star Robinho currently lines up for Başakşehir.

The Quarter-Final takes place on Monday 10th August.

Tough Semi-Final Draw

Any possible outcome for a semi-final draw is tough for Manchester United. Should they reach that stage, they could face anyone out of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Roma, Sevilla, or Olympiacos. All these sides pose a real threat to Manchester United and may stake a claim to win the competition. Three of the four are Champions League regulars, making the draw all the more difficult for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.

Wolves and Manchester United have faced off four times already this season. Twice in the Premier League, and twice in the FA Cup. Every single encounter has been a tight affair. The Premier League game saw a 1-1 draw and a 0-0 draw, similarly, the FA Cup saw a 0-0 draw and a narrow 1-0 United victory.

Wolves drew their first-leg tie with Olympiacos 1-1. Olympiacos currently lead the Greek Super League by a staggering 20 point gap. All their focus is undoubtedly on their Europa League campaign.

Manchester United have history with the Greek side from the 2013/14 Champions League campaign. Back then, Olympiacos comfortably beat David Moyes‘ United side at home, before a Robin van Persie hat-trick fired United through.

In the other Round of 16 tie, Sevilla and Roma are yet to face off. The first leg of their tie was postponed due to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain and Italy in early March.

Equally, both sides pose a potent threat to Manchester United. Roma and Sevilla are large clubs and often appear in the Champions League. Sevilla in particular know all about this competition, winning three titles under Unai Emery. Manchester United will be aware they must be on top form to get past either of these sides.

The semi-final date will take place on Sunday 16th August.

Manchester United Europa League Chances

A club the size of Manchester United always want to win trophies. They do not particularly want to be in the Europa League, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is desperate to win his first trophy in charge. The Europa League provides the perfect platform to show he is a top-class coach.

United hope to continue their rich vein of Premier League form until the end of the campaign. The fight for the top-four is imperative, as the players do not need the added pressure of securing Champions League football through the Europa League.

With United playing so well currently, they will be confident they can secure their first trophy since 2017. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally found a formula that works, with multiple methods of winning games in their weaponry. It is only a matter of time before this culminates in success, and everyone associated with the club will hope that it happens sooner rather than later. A massive opportunity looms on Friday 21st August as the Europa League final beckons.


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