Securing a top four place was always a priority for this season under Louis van Gaal. Finishing in seventh place last year was the worst outcome for the team for many years. and it was clear that Champions League football needed to be brought back to Old Trafford as soon as possible. With Manchester United now out of the FA Cup, fourth place is even more important now as it was before. But the current Manchester United squad would undoubtedly struggle against the big guns of Europe.
It is no secret that Manchester United’s biggest weakness lies at the back. The introduction of Marcos Rojo has somewhat strengthened the defence, but the weaknesses have been exposed far too easily within this season. If you put that weakness onto the biggest stage in European football, Manchester United’s defence would be cut through like a knife through butter. In the FA Cup clash with Arsenal, Monreal danced through in order to secure his goal – if Monreal can do it, you know the likes of Zlatan, Messi and Ronaldo would find it even easier.
Louis Van Gaal has not found his best XI yet, it could be said. After playing Wayne Rooney in midfield for far too long, he is now playing him in his best position, but he does not always utilise the best players. For example, Mata: when goals are needed, Mata does not play or is brought on too late to make a real impact. Van Gaal has worked wonders with Fellaini though, which has to be praised.
Another year without Champions League football would make things difficult for the big name players at Manchester United. David De Gea’s contract will run out this summer, and of course, Champions League football would certainly help De Gea sign a new one. As a world-class keeper, he should be playing with the best on the continent. This could be the difference between De Gea staying at Old Trafford, or moving on to the likes of Real Madrid, who are meant to be interesting in signing him. No doubt Angel Di Maria would be seeking a return to Champions League football – after all, he was the Man of the Match in La Decima for Real Madrid.
Being back in Europe would benefit the club financially, and securing Champions League would help to bring in even bigger names, should van Gaal look to strengthen his squad. But look at the players he was able to sign without it.
Having lost out on their best chance in recent years of reaching the final of the FA Cup, and with fourth place not secure just yet, it is not the time for Manchester United to be in the Champions League. If they can make the cut for a place, they will need to add to their squad if they will have any chance of progression in such a strong competition.