A drab performance in the penultimate game of the season saw Manchester United’s Champions League spot disappear. The 1-1 draw with already relegated Huddersfield Town, meant that United will be playing their football on a Thursday night next season, pitting their wits in the Europa League. But is it as bad as it first seems?
Just two seasons previous, and with United finishing outside of the Champions League places in 2016, the Red Devils embarked on a Europa adventure under the tenure of Jose Mourinho. United would go on to the lift the old ‘Uefa Cup’ by defeating Dutch side, Ajax, in the final. A sixth place finish in the Premier League, which would shadow that of this current season, meant that United had only reached the Champions League by virtue of claiming the prize of Europa League victory.
The first stage of the fall out from non qualification to the UCL is that its now being reported that the players will now have their salary reduced by 25%. The second could be that United may now struggle to bring in any of their top targets, as most high profile names would want to stay just that!
Playing on a Thursday and then again on a Sunday is not ideal either. Some of the away games will include travel to the very east of the Europe, meaning that the players would not return home till the early hours of Friday and therefore cutting into their recovery and only leaving Saturday to train before the next fixture. Statistically, studies show that you only have around a 45% chance of winning a game if you have played 72 hours previous and the opposition has not. This is why a lot of Europa teams will get turned over by teams they are expected to beat, when they play on the Sunday.
If United and more importantly, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, are going to challenge to get back into either the top four, or more miraculously even the title, then its clear that a decent size squad is going to be needed to fire on all fronts. Like Sir Alex Ferguson used to do back in the early Premier League years, OGS could use the League Cup and Europa League to really blood some of these up and coming youngsters. By doing this, it would also cut down on travel and game time on the more important squad players. Be brave Ole, see where it takes us.
When Sir Alex dumped Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis in the summer of 2015, the football fraternity, including a large amount of United fans, thought that the gaffer had lost the plot. Little did they know that SAF had a back up plan which included the class of 92. Now we all know how that played out. But lets not forget that there were still the likes of Steve Bruce, Roy Keane, Denis Irwin and Eric Cantona in the dressing room. All strong characters with the will to win.
Ole could well benefit from playing the new breed who are on the cusp of becoming first team regulars. Mason Greenwood, Jimmy Garner, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes, are but a few who are banging hard on the door. Mason Greenwood’s goal record this season has been top drawer. Over 20 goals scored across all youth team age ranges. Chongy has played as recently as Sunday, coming on for the last 20 minutes against Huddersfield. Joel Perreira, as well as Dean Henderson ( currently on loan at Sheffield United ) could also provide a solid goalkeeping platform of which to build on.
So here’s the thing. Lets not get too bogged down in having to play on a Thursday and again just three days later. We have some exciting young talent of which we can now give even more game time. Play the kids who will have no fear and an appetite to impress. Playing a form of European football would also stand them in good stead for when United do return to the elite competition.
Thursday nights will be alright. We wont need a sitter, the gaffer can just bring the kids.
Ole’s at the wheel!