Last Chance at the Europa Saloon for Manchester United

So after a dramatic, nervy and noisy night at Old Trafford last Thursday, Manchester United’s season took another turn, this time for the positive. Ironically a 1-1 draw, the result that has been the bane of the Red Devils season, was enough to see them through to the Europa League Final at the expense of a spirited Celta Vigo side. A season of ‘what ifs’ (despite already securing a League Cup triumph) can now be turned into a very successful one with the opportunity to win two major trophies as well as the added bonus of a return to the Champions League for the so called biggest club in the world.

THE PORTUGEEZER ON A SALVAGE MISSION

Manager Jose Mourinho has been under pressure seemingly throughout the whole season, but most definitely in the last few weeks. Since April perfomances have been very average, Chelsea at home and Celta Vigo away the only exceptions in my opinion.  They have been very pragmatic, but also defensive to the point of playing his wingers as auxilary full-backs in some games. He claims that the amount of matches his team is having to play allied with an increasing injury / suspension list forced him to adopt a less than free flowing style as they were fighting on a number of fronts unlike other teams they were up against. Top four in the Premier League is unobtainable now after defeat to Spurs, it was an unlikely target anyway and even before he had  a Europa League Final to prepare for, the Portuguese manager had made Europe’s secondary cup competition the priority.

PLAYERS LETTING THE MANAGER DOWN?

One thing that is pretty noticeable is the fact that the players at the club have been generally getting away it, somehow avoiding the criticism which is being aimed at the manager. Whenever there is a ‘bad’ result, usually a draw this season, pundits, media and fans alike tended to be blaming Jose. Why? Well for me its just because of who he is and his irascible / confrontational character. Home draws against Stoke, Burnley, Arsenal, West Ham, Hull and Bournemouth, in which the reds of Manchester on the whole dominated would have been victories if not for the players themselves missing so many created chances, you cannot blame the manager for this. Twelve more points would have seen them comfortably in the top four as we stand and for sure a guaranteed crack at next seasons Champions League. For me it has always been a collective and the players are just as much to blame as the manager for the situation Manchester United find themselves in at the moment.

MARGINS

So in Stockholm, Wednesday 24th May 2017, Manchester United take on a youthful and exuberant Ajax in the Europa League Final. Under new manager Peter Bosz the Dutch side, have already come second in their domestic league this season and have qualified for the Champions League entering at the third round qualifying phase. They will however want to win this final as the winners go straight into the group phase of the tournament. The Dutch side will be more than motivated as they did not even make the group stage this season and hence ended up in the Europa League which will have driven them to make sure it does not happen again. So for both teams it is very fine margins, more so you would think for the English side as they were expected, especially under Mourinho, and with the resources that were made available to him, not least the buying of Paul Pogba for a world record transfer fee, to be making a title challenge in the Premier League and at a minimum to make the top four. A tense night is in store at the Friends Arena and the reputation of just one of the managers is at stake. Squeaky Bum Time to the max.

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