Manchester United’s struggles have not just been limited to the Premier League over the last few seasons. The Red Devils have failed to challenge for a title in Europe since their defeat at the hands of Barcelona at Wembley in 2011.
United have failed to reach the last four of the competition since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, progressing as far as the quarter-finals under David Moyes. In their first attempt under Louis van Gaal, the club were knocked out of the group stage after losing to PSV Eindhoven and Wolfsburg, while they were dumped out of the Europa League by Liverpool.
Jose Mourinho will operate in the Europa League in his first year at the club following United’s fifth-place finish in the Premier League. The former Chelsea boss has signed the contract with Man United as reported by Skysports. The Red Devils will be well-fancied in next season’s Europa League odds with the Portuguese in the dugout, which would secure their first crown on the continent since their 2008 Champions League triumph.
United have not been able to elevate the level of their game in European competitions, and they are far from alone in the teams from the Premier League to struggle.
Liverpool’s run to the Europa League final last season stands as an aberration as the only English team to reach a final on the continent since Chelsea lifted the Champions League in 2012. The competitive nature of the Premier League has been blamed by managers of the top clubs in the division, with the exertion of weekend matches taking their toll on their squads.
A lack of cutting edge may also be an issue in the case of the Red Devils as they mustered only seven goals in their six matches, while shipping seven themselves.
Last season’s exit from Europe’s elite competition served as a huge embarrassment for United as they finished third behind PSV and Wolfsburg, recording only two wins in the group. As a result, they were condemned to the Europa League, where their campaign almost ended in the round-of-32 against Midtjylland as they lost the first leg 2-1.
Only the emergence of Marcus Rashford fired his team to victory, preventing a shock exit at the hands of the Danish outfit.
However, Liverpool brought their run to an end in the round-of-16 with a comfortable aggregate win, bringing an end to another disappointing campaign on the continent. Mourinho will have his work cut out to reverse the fortunes of United in both league and in Europe as the depth of the Red Devils’ squad has been exposed at times.
Injuries to key players have brought the likes of Rashford, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Guillermo Varela on to play important roles for United in their respective campaigns.
The Portuguese will need to improve the level of play of the youngsters to a level that can help the club challenge for titles or seek depth from the transfer market to build a solid squad capable of coping on multiple fronts.
Mourinho has been unable to weave his magic on both domestic and European competitions, reaching only as far as the semi-finals of the Champions League during his two spells with Chelsea.
He will need to find the spark he invigorated in his first seasons at Porto and Inter Milan to get the Red Devils back to prominence in the Premier League and on the continent.