United players reported to Carrington on Saturday after five days off after 11 games in 37 days. Some have gone on vacation and there’s every chance United will be in vacation mode when the Europa League resumes with the visit of LASK Linz, a draw in which the winners could play and United would progress further.
The significance of the Europa League to United has been diluted by their third place in the Premier League and its significance is incomparable with the final in 2017. The Uefa Cup was the only major trophy to have eluded United and its program coverage for The semi-final second leg with Celta Vigo was that of a puzzle from the “United trophy collection” and “the last piece” hovering over its slot.
The 2017 final with Ajax was also augmented by United’s domestic failure to finish sixth and the threat of a second consecutive season outside the Champions League. The campaign was based on their meeting in Stockholm and emotion was added two nights after the Manchester Arena attack.
“We won for them,” proclaimed a sweat-soaked Paul Pogba on the pitch, referring to the victims. Jose Mourinho had urged the players to win the “for the kids” final in his team speech and Ander Herrera spoke eloquently during his man of the match press conference: “I want to dedicate the trophy to the victims. It’s just football but what happened two days ago was horrible. ”
There was added satisfaction in the Old Trafford Museum housing two trophies after the much-loved coaching trident of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino ended the season pot-free. “In a bad season, in a season where sometimes I felt my team was the worst team in the world, where I felt like the worst coach in the world, we win three trophies and go to the Champions League by winning a trophy. , not by finishing fourth, third or second, ”boasted Mourinho.
A final in Cologne without loud supporters is not going to stir up emotions like those seen inside the Friends Arena in 2017. If United had again faltered and lost at Leicester, then they would go all-in in the Europa League , but there have already been discussions about the rest. the regulars of the knockout phase.
Sixteen members of the United squad have yet to hang a winner’s medal around their necks with the club and yet a hollow victory in Cologne would seem essential as United work to end a trophy drought that has lasted three years. They haven’t gone so long without silverware since the five-year gap between Ron Atkinson’s last FA Cup and Ferguson’s first in 1990.
The prospect of an international tournament bubble in Cologne is still unattractive for players stunned by the national outcome. Bruno Fernandes racked up 1046 minutes in 11 games, Harry Maguire played every minute and Victor Lindelof, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial started every league game.
United have yet to confirm their Europa League travel plans from the quarter-finals, but it is believed their intention is to fly to and from Germany. There are six days between their quarter-final and their semi-final, then five days before the final.
Nemanja Matic has underlined United’s intention to mount a credible league challenge next season and they are already at a disadvantage as the Europa League final takes place 22 days before the start of next season. Liverpool, already out of the Champions League, has a 48-day gap.
Solskjaer would never admit it, but the advantage of the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea was that United had a week off. The FA Cup and Europa League final appearances have reportedly encompassed 15 games in nine weeks, with the only downtime coming around the LASK game on Wednesday, when there will likely be 11 changes.
Recalling some, if not all, of the heavy hitters for their first game in two weeks against Copenhagen or Istanbul Basaksehir when they are insufficiently cooked to the makings of an early “shock” exit. If not, then maybe against Wolves, Olympiakos, Roma or Sevilla in the last four.
And United would likely avoid a kick.