Manchester United has been stumbling since Sir Alex Ferguson left the institution. Now they’ve reached the final of the Europa League, looking for a way to save their season. Along with a way to slide into the Champions League, something they haven’t achieved since Sir Alex parted away. But along their irregular form, there are other facts that make England’s greatest club feel the pressure.
In one hand is the struggle every English team has to face, the fatigue due to the extensive calendar. Adding to that the equally long fixture of the Europa League accompanied with the fact that they had to play on Thursday nights, difficulting the recovery process. Besides that, they will face a very young, quick and dangerous Ajax who have also the weight of history on their shoulders. Still, for United, the match is key since it can literally be the difference between a flop or a successful season.
Manchester’s history with the league and managers
This season was a special and spectacular show for the Premier League. As England’s top flight counted with the so-called “Super Six,” having some of the best managers of the modern game (Antonio Conte, Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho).
With all of them fighting for all the possible titles and with only four spots granting Champions League football, obviously, two were going to be left out. To what Manchester United, failed to achieve, reaching magically the 6th position. This despite having one of the longest unbeaten runs (25) in the history of English football.
Not only this was frustrating for both the institution and the fans. Since they were the club who spend the most on the transfer window, bringing huge names like Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, and Pogba. Including as well their new manager Jose Mourinho. But also because their bitter historic (Liverpool) and local (Manchester City) rivals achieved a better spot.
Due to the flopping form of the team, the pressure went up and the “top four” chase was lost a long time ago, Mourinho has focused all his efforts on the Europa League, in order to save the season. Now within a few days for the final match on Stockholm’s Friends Arena, on May 24th, the heat has grown upon United and over Mourinho.
Prove of it are his actions. In the last match of the season, against Crystal Palace, he made seven changes to the starting 11. Debuting several youngsters and giving a chance to less regular players. Also, his post-match press conference on Sunday lasted just 10 seconds. Entering a nearly empty media, asking “No questions?” and then leaving saying “good”. He has also asked for the press to stop nagging him about which team he will display on the final. As he is already busy and working on it.
How are the players dealing with the pressure
But not ony the coach is feeling the pressure, the players are doing as well. Even though they’re considering all the factors that surround them. Still, they have said they will do their best to avoid them influencing on the match. As they all want to save the season and achieve Champions League football next season. One of them is Phil Jones, who has struggled due to injuries and Mourinho’s pecking order. Still, the England center back will be on the squad in the final game and thinks that winning the Europa League final will be the key point to define their season.
One of them is Phil Jones, who has struggled due to injuries and Mourinho’s pecking order. Still, the England centre-back will be on the squad in the final game and thinks that winning the Europa League final will be the key point to define their season.
“That’s it in a nutshell, probably. It’s a defining moment in our season and we need to make sure we win the game. We know Champions League football is the end goal, but we need to earn the right to be in the Champions League and that’s by winning on Wednesday night. We would be disappointed if we weren’t in every competition. I can understand the tiredness but we need to give it one more big push”. Jones said.
Also United’s number 8 Juan Mata, who previously won the title on 2013 stated. “Yeah, it’s true the Champions League is the best competition and it’s one this club should be playing in every season. Now we are playing in the Europa League and if we win it as I did a few years ago [with Chelsea], it’s a double bonus, as it’s a trophy and a Champions League spot, so it’s very important for us.(…)”.
The final against Ajax will determine the short-term future of the club in all areas. Despite that United won the League Cup and the Community Shield this year, the bennefits of being in the Champions League are countless. As it will have a major impact on getiing transfer targets, qualifying revenue, TV contracts and more.