As we all know, United failed to qualify for any form of European Football this season (unless you count the trip to Swansea), be it Champions League or Europa League. After finishing 7th in the league and failing to progress to the latter stages of either of the two domestic cups, United will be left at home in midweek.
There are some factions of United support that are trying to claim they will benefit from having no European Football for the coming season. It’s easy to see why some people would think that as they will be able to build for next season without having to be competing on too many different fronts. Also, instead of Louis Van Gaal trying to pull in several players for outrageous sums of money, he can bring in a few that will have the opportunity to adapt and get settled at Old Trafford. He can then repeat the process next summer which would be easier than bringing in 6/8 players at once a la Spurs (Summer 2013).
Personally, I’d disagree wholly with that. I think it would be easier to bring players in this year if United were competing in some level of European Football, preferably the Champions League. United still gave a very good account of themselves in Europe last year with the exception of the Away Leg of the Olympiakos tie. We won’t go there now though.. There was no shame in defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich. After last year’s domestic difficulties, nobody would expect to see United win any of the major trophies so it would have been easy for them to ghost in under the radar and make, at least, the knockout stages.
Were United competing in Europe, I think more players would have been brought in by this stage because LVG would know himself that this squad needs more strength in depth. How are they expected to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City? Even Liverpool are splashing the cash this summer for their return to Europe, which will hopefully be shortlived.
Another reason why European Football is so important is because it is vital for the existing players in the squad. Alright, a lot of the lads there now have come under heavy criticism for having a bad season and are low on confidence but no squad is completely built on World Class talents such as Ronaldo, Messi or Van Persie. The best United teams of recent years were built on a foundation of reliable players such as John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Phil Neville and, of course, Park Ji-Sung.
The reason I mention this is because it is going to be much harder to keep the current squad’s equivalent of those names happy if you don’t have as many games in the season. At the moment, there is still a decent sized first team squad if all were fully fit so there would be no problems with picking a 25 man squad for Europe, especially when you consider Van Gaal’s faith in youth and academy set-ups.
If you can’t allocate some game time for all of these players, a lot of them will become unhappy and you will see them begin to seek moves elsewhere. Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and Shinji Kagawa are three players who have what it takes to be top class but, for now, have been consigned to squad players and I fear they may walk.
Hopefully it doesn’t happen that these players go in hunt of a move and are given adequate first team football. Hopefully, next season sees a couple of more signingsto try and beef up a squad that is competing in European Football yet again and hopefully, we have more to shout about than in the last 12 months or so.