This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
As quoted by The Manchester Evening News, Paul Ince has raised concerns over the consequences Manchester United could face from a season of Europa League football this year.
The Red Devils will be featuring in European football’s second-tier competition this season after finishing sixth in the Premier League.
Whilst Ince praised Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for getting rid of players he didn’t want, he questioned whether the side had enough squad depth to compete on multiple fronts this season.
He said: “What worries me about United is, although it’s good that Ole’s stuck to his word and got rid of players, they’re lacking in squad depth. The Europa League is coming round fast, that means Thursday games and Sunday games, how is he going to deal with that?
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“He’s not got a big enough squad for it, look at what happened to Burnley when they played in the Europa, their league form struggled massively. I can see that happening to United.
“Winning the Europa might be their best chance at a Champions League space, so it can’t be taken lightly. It’s hard for players to suddenly start playing on a Thursday night. When they start travelling and coming back and getting tired from these extra matches, I can see another huge dip in their performances in the league.”
The biggest thing Solskjaer will have to work out is where the side’s priorities lay. The United boss needn’t look any further than Premier League rivals Arsenal to see the amount of damage a lack of focus can do to a team. The Gunners seemed like they couldn’t decide whether their main target should be a top-four finish or winning the Europa League last season, and in the end, they did neither.
Come the business end of the season, when – and it really should be a case of when not if – United are in the knockout stages of the Europa League, a decision has to be taken in terms of the kind of team they put out. Do they feel they stand a better chance of winning the competition and thus securing Champions League football? Or would they be better off by throwing all their eggs into the Premier League basket and trying to finish inside the top four?
What they end up doing could well turn out to be the most defining decision of United’s season.