Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted that Manchester United need to win the Europa League this season, expressing the importance of Jose Mourinho bringing trophies to Old Trafford.
Mourinho’s men set up a quarter final date with Anderlecht next month after claiming wins over Saint Etienne and FC Rostov during the knockout stages.
This is indeed the furthest Man United have gone in the Europa League, with Sir Alex’s first and only attempt ending in a 5-3 aggregate defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the last 16.
And Ferguson, speaking earlier this week, was quick to emphasise the importance of claiming as many different forms of silverware as possible.
“The thing is, we’ve never won the Europa League,” he said.
“We’ve never won UEFA Cup, what it used to be. And we’ve got a great draw. I’m not saying it’s a certainty, but they’ve got a great chance.
“It gets you into the Champions League, too – it didn’t used to but it does now, and so that’s a great incentive. And there’s no Sevilla in it, so that’s good.
“If you win a trophy, it’s important. It’s a European trophy. It doesn’t matter that it’s not the Champions League – it’s still a European trophy. And if you win it, you get into the Champions League. The incentive is greater to do that.
“And your CV gets bigger. If we won the Europa League? Fantastic. Add it to the European Cup, the Cup Winners’ Cup, the Champions League – It’s bigger and bigger. We also want to be the most successful club in England.”
The old adage of not putting all your eggs in one basket is something that managers fighting on more than one front consider towards the end of a season. And Mourinho, still hellbent on chasing the top four over the next few months, will know that this saying applies to his current situation.
But from a fans’ point of view, going all out for Europa League glory serves as a tantalising prospect. United supporters haven’t experienced a proper European adventure in years and would, no doubt, prefer to see their side secure Champions League football next season by claiming a continental trophy as opposed to a ‘fourth place trophy’.