Manchester United certainly ended the 2016-17 season on a high. With goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan securing them victory in the 2017 UEFA Europa League Final against Dutch side Ajax back in May giving them a guaranteed place in the Champions League group stages, the club has reasons to be positive. But can they build on their European success this season?
Having secured their place in the tournament, all eyes at Old Trafford will now be turning towards the next Champions League and whether the side can take their Europa League success to the next level.
With Real Madrid and Juventus battling it out in last season’s final, the competition will be tough. Man United’s eyes will be on the prize, but it will take more than good luck to topple the giants of Europe – especially Real Madrid, who have won three times out of the past four seasons.
Man United start the contest in a reasonable position, and manager Jose Mourinho has some advantages under his belt.
While The Special One has said he’d like to confirm a few more transfers to get the team in tip-top position, cash is on his side. It’s believed the club has a whopping $300 million more in the bank than the next-richest Premier League club, which means Mourinho will have the pick of the bunch when the next transfer window opens.
Even without the potential for top transfers, the squad is already in a decent position. Midfielders like Ander Herrera offer Mourinho a tactical brilliance that can be hard to come by in modern players, while goal scorers like Paul Pogba give the team a tangible competitive edge.
Mourinho is also known for his strong commitment to game strategy. Before the Europa League final, for example, he made each player watch a video detailing the Ajax opponents they were going to come up against – and the weaknesses they could exploit.
At the same game, he arranged his players in a defensive triangle in the centre of the field to nip Ajax’s midfield offensives in the bud and push them into playing on his team’s terms. There’s no doubt that Mourinho knows both his players and his opponents inside out, and he’s comfortable manipulating their positions on the pitch to his advantage.
Let’s not forget, Mourinho has done it before. He has claimed Europes biggest prize on two separate occasions, neither with one of the games ‘elite’, as he led Porto and Inter Milan to European glory.
Eyes on the prize
With one European trophy at the club already under his belt, it’s clear Mourinho is after a spot in the Champions League final – and United’s combined advantages mean many punters are watching the odds on which sides will reach the next final with interest.
Some of the best UK betting websites currently offer odds of around 16/1 on Man United winning the Champions League outright. For many fans, there’s a real glimmer of hope that the team might rekindle the spirit of 2008 and rise to the top.
Nobody doubts that United have a bit of work to do over the summer and beyond. However, with Mourinho’s eye for detail and a squad of great goal scorers and top tacticians on the club’s benches, the chances of the Red Devils scaling the heights of the next Champions League are looking rosier than ever.