Manchester United have endured a disappointing start to their Premier League season, having won just two of their first five games. This has seen them at an early disadvantage in the race for the top-four.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side's form has dipped heavily ever since the interim manager was handed a full-time job. What initially looked as a fair objective of qualifying for the Champions League by making the top-four now seems an uphill task.
Qualifying for Europe’s top tier as Europa League winners is yet another route that the Red Devils could opt for. However, one must think if an attempt at performing a balancing act between the two tournaments could come back to bite them.
United don’t possess the quality in depth to compete wholeheartedly in both the Premier League in Europe. Also, we have been provided with early evidence of how the side could be affected because of injuries, especially amid fixture congestion. Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Eric Bailly and Diogo Dalot missing the tie against Leicester City and Aaron Wan-Bissaka being named in the line-up despite not being 100 per cent fit.
The result from this game as immaterial. United could get the job done against Leicester with injuries but that does not mean they can get the right result when they face a fixture congestion during the business end of the season.
However, there is a risk associated with putting all eggs in one basket too, especially when in the basket of a knockout competition.
Given their squad depth, it could seem logical for United to focus on one of the competition. But the Red Devils need to elevate their level if they are to focus on a top-four finish in the Premier League. Liverpool and Manchester City are likely to claim the top-two spots and any two of the London sides could comfortably beat United to the next two.
A top-four finish calls for incredible consistency and leaves no margin for error. A Europa League win calls for an unparalleled winning mentality and a bit of luck. United must choose their route wisely based on the strength of their squad.
The Red Devils are no strangers to such a situation. They won the Europa League in the 2017/18 season despite and finished sixth in the League. But is Solskjaer as tough as Jose Mourinho? Will he assume the same approach? Only time will tell.