On May 26th, 2020, Manchester United will face Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the Europa League final at the Stadion Miejski in Poland. After emphatically beating Roma 8-5 on aggregate in the semi-finals, the Red Devils booked their place in their first European final since the 2016-17 season. Despite the satisfaction that such an achievement brings to the club's players, supporters, and staff, Paul Parker, a former Manchester United defender, believes that only winning the Europa League would constitute failure. So, is the 57-year-old right with that assessment?
Is Europa League Success a Triumph in 2020-21?
Although Manchester United hasn’t yet won the Europa League, few can argue that they’re the favorites against Villarreal. The Yellow Submarine booked their place in the final following a 2-1 aggregate win over Arsenal. However, the Spanish team looked vulnerable at the back, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang twice hitting the post in the second leg at the Emirates. Because of that, Paddy Power’s Europa League odds winner has the 20-time English champions as the favorites, pricing Ole Gunnar’s Solskjaer’s side at 4/5 to win the competition in 2020-2021, as of May 11th.
◦ Man Utd 6-2 Roma (2021)— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 29, 2021
◦ Real Madrid 6-0 FC Zürich (1964)
The Red Devils become the first team in 57 years to score SIX in the semi-final of a major European competition pic.twitter.com/5HVkNVTC0f
Even if United win the Europe League, Parker believes it won't be enough to keep the club’s supporters happy. While the Red Devils want to go all the way and clinch the trophy, it’s worth remembering that Manchester is only in the Europa League because they failed in the Champions League. During the group phase, United finished third in Group H behind RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain and lost three of their last four fixtures.
However, there needs to be an element of realism. United didn't win the Carabao Cup, and they aren’t in the FA Cup final. As such, the Europa League offers the only chance of silverware. If they finish second in the Premier League with a respectable total behind Manchester City and lift a European trophy, that is a success relative to the club’s modern history.
Solskjaer Mustn’t Follow in Mourinho’s Footsteps
Because of United’s history, there’s an argument that just winning the Europa League is a failure. However, success is somewhat relative to a club’s immediate position. Solskjaer and the team’s players will have higher ambitions, but using the Europa League as a springboard wouldn't be a negative. What the manager can’t do, however, is follow in Jose Mourinho’s footsteps.
After winning the Europa League in 2016-17, Mourinho failed to clinch another trophy at Old Trafford before being sacked in December 2018. United’s collective expectations haven’t dropped so low that they’re happy with one competitive triumph every few years, and that’s evident from the Portuguese manager’s tenure and subsequent dismissal. There’s no shame in Solskjaer and the Red Devils winning the Europa League, but it needs to be the start of a consistent trophy-winning future.
United Have Targeted the Europa League
Say what you like about the Europa League, but it’s a tough competition to win because of its gruelling fixture scheduling and travel demands. After dropping out of the Champions League, Solskjaer took the competition seriously, and he deserves credit for that. The Red Devils were always in it to win, so now they have to go on and win it on May 26th.