Manchester United have two different routes into the UEFA Champions League, and that’s good, because missing out on Europe for a second consecutive year is not acceptable. Jose Mourinho became the very first manager in United history to win a trophy during his season on the job, as the Red Devils claimed the EFL Cup title at Wembley on February 26th.
They’re also alive in the quarterfinal round of the FA Cup, still possessing the chance to retain that title, as it was the only trophy Louis van Gaal won during his two years at Old Trafford.
While that silverware is nice and all, making Champions League is much more important, and each week it becomes increasingly apparent that one route is more likely than the other.
United were in sixth place when they got drubbed 4-0 by table toppers and almost certain champions Chelsea back on October 23rd. Since that awful debacle, United are undefeated in league play, with nine wins and 10 draws. They’re still in sixth place today however. Despite the hot streak (of sorts) they still haven’t made up any ground.
They’re just one point behind Arsenal for fifth, and three points off fourth place Liverpool (who also have a sizable goal differential on United), with whom they have a game in hand.
They also have a game in hand on third place Manchester City, whom they trail by six points. Down the stretch, the Red Devils will take on City, Arsenal and second place Tottenham Hotspur.
Given where they currently are, despite what they have just accomplished, and the rough road ahead, this is probably not the way for United. Their best chance back into the Champions League perhaps lies in ultimately winning the Europa League tournament.
On Thursday, United will battle in Russia for the round of 16 first-leg tie against FC Rostov. They will be heavy favorites in this contest, and maybe so no matter whom they face later on in the tournament.
The UEL might be their best option, because they have no one to blame but themselves for that due to all the dropped points in draws, especially so at home, versus much weaker competition.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times and NBC Chicago.com, contributes to Chicago Tribune.com, Bold, WGN CLTV and KOZN.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks