Are United right to focus on the Europa League?

Published by on April 5, 2017

Manchester United endured another frustrating home draw as Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late penalty earned them a point against Everton.

Phil Jagielka was the surprise first goalscorer in the 22nd minute, and as is becoming the norm, United missed a host of good chances.

It was an Ashley Williams handball that led to the spot-kick, but even the equaliser didn’t do much to ease the sense of growing concern around Old Trafford.

Now, it remains to be seen whether the club will be gracing the Champions League next season. On present form, though, they’re going to have to rely on winning the Europa League.

United are rightly the favourites for the competition at 11/8. To put that in perspective, they’re 9/2 to finish in the top four, but the odds should probably be a bit longer than that.

Jose Mourinho’s men may only be four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, though their rivals’ goal difference is three better.

They’re also five points behind Liverpool, but they do have a game in hand.

The trouble is, however much Mourinho likes to go on about their unbeaten run, they just aren’t winning games, and it’s hard to see where they’re going to close the gap on City.

Let’s take a look at their remaining fixtures with our predictions:

Sunderland (A) – Big win for United
Chelsea (H) – Chelsea win
Burnley (A) – Narrow win for United
Manchester City (A) -A draw at best
Swansea City (H) – Comfortable win for United
Arsenal (A) – A score draw
Tottenham Hotspur (A) – Another score draw
Crystal Palace (H) – Narrow win for United
Southampton (A) – United win

Of course, that’s all conjecture, but by our reckoning, Mourinho’s side should pick up another 17 points, give or take a few surprise results.

Liverpool have a much easier run-in on paper, as West Ham away is probably their hardest fixture. City have to play United, but other than that, their last couple of months shouldn’t be too difficult.

As for the Europa League, Lyon are probably the biggest threat to United. That said, the Ligue 1 side do not have anywhere near the kind of players the Red Devils boast in their ranks.

Mourinho is right to prioritise the tournament, but even if he’s not acquainted with the Europa League, he must know it’s notoriously difficult to win.