If Manchester United go on to win the Europa League in Gdansk at the end of May it will be fascinating to see how their players and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer react to it.
United are looking to avoid a four-year trophy drought and the Europa League has presented them with the very real possibility of silverware. But above the pay grade of Solskjaer, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire and company, the club’s owners and executives have rendered the competition virtually meaningless.
Winning the Community Shield now holds more prestige than Europe’s secondary competition, which will be destroyed by the greed of the desperate dozen clubs who have signed up to a European Super League. To put it into context if the selfish six of the Premier League walk away from Uefa’s competitions then Aston Villa, Wolves and Crystal Palace would be in line to qualify for next season’s Europa League.
That’s not to disrespect those clubs, who add competition and colour to the Premier League and, more importantly, value the role they play in the pyramid, but Europe’s biggest competitions are usually played to a higher standard. United’s greed has made sure that is set to be a thing of the past.
By treating the Europa League with complete contempt United have made a mockery of their forthcoming semi-final with Roma, a historic club not quite rich enough to get an invite to the closed shop European Super League, for that is what it is, despite desperate attempts to suggest otherwise.
United are now trying to win a competition under a governing body whose president fired so many shots at the deceitful dozen yesterday that it was difficult to keep a count of the casualty list.
Ed Woodward was in the crosshairs of Aleksander Čeferin, who said of United’s executive vice-chairman: “He called me last Thursday evening saying he’s very satisfied with and fully supports the reforms and the only thing he wants to talk about was Financial Fair Play, when obviously he had already signed something else.”
After committing themselves to a project that will almost certainly destroy Uiefa’s competitions, United resigned from the European Club Association and Woodward gave up his Uefa role.
Yet they wish to still play in the Europa League this season, a competition run by Uefa. United will be extremely fortunate if they aren’t kicked out of the competition before the first leg against the Serie A side at Old Trafford a week on Thursday.
If United do escape the axe falling on their European hopes this season, then they will have their ground adorned with Uefa imagery and sponsorship, which will make for a bizarre sight.
The club will hope that by the time that game rolls around the anger will have subsided and they can return to trumpeting the success of Solskjaer’s team on their website and social media platforms.
But the Europa League should barely be worthy of a mention from them now. It would almost be too embarrassing for United to win it.
You’d hope that the Glazers and Woodward understand the position they’ve put the playing staff in and how they’ve sullied United’s best chance of silverware. But then these are the people who see parallels between their greed in signing up a closed shop league that the fans detest with Sir Matt Busby’s “defiance” in taking United into Europe in 1956, despite the Football Association opposing it.
Instead, United will probably win the Europa League and Woodward will use his next investors’ call to talk up the success of Solskjaer’s team. A manager and a set of players who deserve success, but could have it overshadowed as a result of the actions of the owners of the club they represent.