IN the wake of Manchester United’s disastrous Champion’s League exit, Louis Van Gaal has moved to reassure fans that his side will treat the Europa League with “as little respect as possible”. United’s 3-2 loss away at Wolfsburg ensured the German side qualified for the knockout stages alongside PSV, dumping United into Europe’s secondary competition.
After the defeat, Van Gaal was asked whether his side would go all out to win the Europa League. “Of course not,” he said defiantly. “I want to continue this club’s proud European tradition, by not taking this competition seriously in the slightest.”
Perhaps the most damning indication of Van Gaal’s attitude towards the competition, came when he suggested that a “forgotten man” may come in from the cold. “It’s only the UEFA cup,” he said. “I might even give Victor Valdes a game.”
Manchester United’s only Europa League appearance to date came in the 2011/12 season when they were humbled by Athletic club and Ander Herrera. The Spaniard, who has fond memories of Athletic’s proud run to the final that year, tried to put a positive spin on a disappointing night. “We need to see this defeat as an opportunity to win the Europa League. Come February, I for one look forward to cheering the lads on from the bench.”
One reporter asked Ryan Giggs whether it might be worth trying to win the competition, to help appease the fans. The United assistant gave the idea short shrift: “Maybe if they change the name back to the Cup Winner’s Cup, we might.”