Despite a rather average performance in the Premier League so far this season (only fifth, on 34 points and streets behind League leaders, Liverpool, on 64 points), Manchester United are performing well in Europe and have reached the Round of 32 in the Europa League. The Reds will face Belgian side Club Brugge at the Jan Breydel stadium on 20 February, with the second leg at Old Trafford a week later. A number of top European teams remain in the tournament but bookmakers tip Manchester United to lift the trophy at the Europa League Final in Gdansk at the end of May, with bookie Ladbrokes offering odds of 13/2.
Arsenal are also still in the mix but bookmakers place the Gunners pretty far down the reckoning, with odds of 9/1 that the London team will win the Europa League Final. The only remaining English side, Wolves,are placed at an outside 17/1 with bookie Unibet. The heavyweight teams of Sevilla (7/1 with BetVictor) , Inter Milan (8/1 with Bet365) and Ajax (also 8/1, with BetVictor) are seen as the most likely contenders to challenge Manchester United in the Final.
Winning a European title would mean a lot to Manchester United, and its beleaguered manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Fans are clamouring for good news as the team delivers inconsistent results in the domestic league (most recently, a 2-0 loss against stellar Liverpool) and continues to suffer injury problems, with Marcus Rashford’s stress injuries the most recent and calamitous.
In terms of securing Champions League participation next season, there are two routes still available for Manchester United. Firstly, they could qualify through a top 4 final placing in the Premier League. However, if the Reds fail to overhaul Chelsea (currently lying fourth in the Premier League table on 45 points, a rather significant 9 points ahead of Manchester United) Champions League action will once again be out of reach via this route, with concomitant negative impacts on income, investment in players to ensure future success, and club value. We reckon the myriad of fans won’t be too chuffed either!
There is a second option though. If Manchester United win the Europa League, as the bookies predict, the team will qualify automatically for the 2020/21 Champions League regardless of final position in the domestic league. So there is a lot to play for and Manchester United cannot afford to be complacent as the Europa League competition progresses from the Round of 32 in February through to the Round of 16, Quarter Final, and Semi Final stages in the next four months, culminating in the Final on 27 May.