Sunday 25 September 2016

Like Van Gaal, Pat Nevin reckons Europa League is Man Utd's only 'realistic' way back to Champions League

Tom Rooney

Published 18/02/2016 | 19:06

Louis van Gaal Manager of Manchester United looks on prior to the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg match atnFC Midtjylland (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Louis van Gaal Manager of Manchester United looks on prior to the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg match atnFC Midtjylland (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

If some Manchester United fans felt Louis Van Gaal was being defeatist in claiming the Europa League to be club’s most viable route back to the Champions League, Pat Nevin believes he’s just being practical.

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After a moderately encouraging start to 2016 abruptly ended with an inert 2-1 loss to Sunderland last weekend, Van Gaal’s side find themselves in fifth position in the Premier League and six points behind Manchester City, who have drastically slumped of late.

Though the Europa League is seen by many as an arduous and almost redundant undertaking, or the ugly cousin of the Champions League, it does offer a way back to the top table of European football for those floundering in their domestic game.

Speaking to Setanta Sports before United's 2-1 loss away to FC Midtjylland, Nevin claimed that the Dutch coach was not throwing in the towel but setting an achievable target.

“It’s realistic; having been to see them a few times, including against Sunderland. They go on a little run and you think they’ve sorted it out, but then they go back again.

“It’s hard to expect Man City to fall or Spurs or Arsenal, or Leicester, enough for them to get back into it.”

The Ex Everton player also said that, despite the Europa League’s reputation, it is a worthwhile competition, particularly when considering the winner gets a spot in the Champions League.

With United failing to emerge from what was a very negotiable group in this season’s Champions League and their league form being so volatile, Nevin believes Van Gaal will put great emphasis on the clinching the Europa League.

Furthermore, the former Scotland international claims that the injury woes at United, including one to David De Gea in tonight's warm up, and Wayne Rooney earlier this week, should be considered when appraising Van Gaal.

"He did say in his comments that it’s not an easy one to win. But it’s an incredibly hard one to win; you need to get a draw to get all the way there and you need a bit of luck.

"We have to be honest about it, he’s had a lot of players missing. If he had a deeper, wider squad, he’d probably feeling more comfortable in this competition. I’m absolutely sure tonight, any top player who is fit starts this game and you try to get through to the next round."

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