Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Manchester United’s addition to the Europa League is how seriously the club will take it. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have drawn Dutch club Ajax in the knockout stages and will, from February onwards, find themselves playing Thursday-Sunday while they remain in the competition.
It remains to be seen whether Ferguson, as we approach the latter stages of the Premier League season, decides to rest his big stars in search of domestic glory or whether he truly wants to win, what is, Europe’s second competition. Ferguson has admitted however that he would like to secure the trophy, as he wants to win each competition the club partakes in, but you can’t help but feel we will see a mix of youth and experience, much like the Carling Cup.
The likes of Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison, Zeki Fryers and Michael Keane will surely get the chance to impress, while squad players such as Ji Sung Park and Jonny Evans will take on a much more senior role in the side. I expect Wayne Rooney to be used as and when, but aside from that, Ferguson will more than likely pick a solid team which he feels can do the job.
It isn’t quite the European glory that Ferguson would have hoped this season, but it is an important competition nonetheless and could prove invaluable in giving European experience to young players who would not have seen action in the latter stages of the Champions League. And plus, the chance to beat bitter rivals Manchester City along the way will prove too strong a reason to sacrifice their competitive spirit.