Manchester United fans may have been crying in their tea cups because of the Red Devils Champions League exit on Tuesday night, but those moaning about being in the Europa League should moan no longer, as a place in the Europa League is anything but a booby prize.
The competition is full of very good teams and if United want to progress, that is a big if, then they will have to be at their best to be successful in the competition.
Adopted brother of the Champions League
The Europa League is often treated like the unwanted adopted brother of its big brother the Champions League. A lot of teams in England seem to want to avoid it, but elsewhere in Europe clubs seem to rate it highly.
Foreign bosses of English teams such as Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp have taken the competition seriously by picking relatively strong teams. Both teams won their groups and will be handed more comfortable draws in the knockout stages because of it.
The disliking of the Europa League is mostly caused by the fact that the participating clubs gain far less of a financial reward from participation than the Champions League. UEFA have tried their best to promote the competition by names changes and extra incentives, the biggest being a place in the Champions League for the winners.
Then there is the issue of playing on Thursday night and then Sundays, which seems to affect those delicate professional footballers’ brains.
A piece of silverware
I have often defended the Capital One Cup when it comes to it being a piece of silverware worth winning. For the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham silverware has not exactly been flooding into the trophy cabinets of late.
The big spending of the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City has led the two Blues to lead the race for the Premier League title in recent seasons.
Liverpool had a close shave with the title a couple of seasons ago, but the Reds have won just one trophy in the last nine years, while it has been nearly seven years for Spurs. Both team’s last silverware came in the much-maligned league cup.
Both teams have history of winning European trophies in the past, the Reds more than Spurs, but any trophy that is winnable should be an aim for either of these clubs.
Manchester United have won the Premier League in the recent past, but experienced Dutch boss Louis van Gaal has been criticised for his team’s style of play. The Europa League is an unexpected adventure, or an unwanted one depending on which United fan you listen to.
United are still in the Premier League title race, even if it has been by boring teams to sleep at times this season. The Red Devils have stiff competition for that title, so the Europa League could provide Van Gaal’s side with another excellent chance of silverware.
An English winner
This season there is a major chance of an English team winning the Europa League. Liverpool is one of the favourites to win the trophy this season at odds of 11/1, with only Dortmund and Napoli shorter odds in the betting.
Manchester United and Tottenham are also pretty short odds to win the Europa League this season. Liverpool and Tottenham look set to continue to field strong teams in the competition. How United approach the competition remains to be seen.
All the English teams will fancy their chances of winning the competition this season. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping to take his ‘heavy metal’ brand of football on a European journey for a bit longer.
Mauricio Pochettino has built a very good young team at Tottenham. Maybe their consistency could be called into question though.
The Europa League may not have the glamour or the financial pay-off of the Champions League, but it is definitely a trophy worth winning, especially with the massive carrot of a place in the more lucrative Champions available to the winner of the competition.
The English team’s chances of making it to the latter stages of the competition will depend on Monday’s draw. All three English teams will be seeded and highly confident of progression into the next stage at least.
Should English teams go all out to win the Europa League?