Manchester United have not been the same team since Sir Alex Ferguson left. David Moyes and Louis van Gaal couldn’t rebuild the squad, and as a result The Red Devils have been quite mediocre over the past few years. Jose Mourinho seemed to be the perfect manager to lead the team, but things haven’t worked out as expected.
Through 15 games in the Premier League this season, Manchester United sits sixth with 24 points. They are six behind the final UCL spot and three behind the final Europa League berth. Six wins, six draws and three losses is not going to cut it, especially when many of the last games were absolutely winnable. But we need to dig deeper than the numbers to analyze the team properly.
First of all, It’s not like the Premier League is an easy tournament. Some of the best players and managers feature there, and it’s hard to stand tall above the rest. And we also need to consider Mourinho needs time to assemble a proper squad together. Some players are simply not good enough to play for Manchester United, but he can’t fix three years of disaster in only one transfer window. The results might not show it, but the team is certainly on the right track.
Their history in the UEFA Europa League, however, has been different. The team finished second in Group A behind Fenerbahce but ahead of Feyenoord, talling 12 points in six games. At times they struggled in tough conditions (playing in Ukraine and Turkey on the road isn’t easy) but they got the job done. And more importantly, it seemed the team improved as the season advanced.
The Red Devils will try to reach the Round of 16 against Saint-Etienne. It’s not a piece of cake, but it’s a relatively easy fixture considering other potential opponents. They avoided any of the teams that come from the UEFA Champions League, for instance. Saint-Etienne is a decent team, but United is better on both sides of the ball. They should advance fairly easy.
Furthermore, the European games return in February 2017 which gives Mourinho time to a) maximize the improvements on the squad and b) sign new players during the January Transfer Window. Manchester United could use upgrades on center back, center midfield and the wings, as well as depth upfront. There’s enough time to analyze the needs and make adjustments.
Mourinho’s boys aren’t likely to turn things around in the EPL. But they seem poised to make a deep Europa League run considering their Round of 32 draw, the overall strength of the team and their experience playing in Europe. It’s on them to put Manchester United at the top of Europe, where they belong.