Sir Alex Ferguson has advised Jose Mourinho to focus on taking Manchester United to Europa League glory because of the Champions League place that is up for grabs for the competition winners, with the top four looking like it is slipping away from the Portuguese’s grasp.
United currently sit fifth in the Premier League table, though they do have two games in hand on fourth-placed Liverpool with a four-point gap between the two rivals.
But with Arsenal also in the hunt for a top-four finish, United could easily find themselves finishing fifth or sixth, which would result in another season in the second-tier Europa League and a significant reduction on prize and television money. That’s why former manager Ferguson, who took United to the Champions League trophy twice, believes Mourinho should ensure that the side win the Europa League this season to guarantee a place at Europe’s top table.
“The season is still alive,” Ferguson told Sirius XM FC, the US radio station. “They’ve won the League Cup and are in the Europa League and I think they’ve got a great chance there. It’s very important now because if you win it, you’re into the Champions League and at the moment the Premier League is a real fight for the positions behind Chelsea with Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool, ourselves. It’s not going to be easy to get into the top four.
“They could do it but I look on the Europa League as a great chance. First of all, the club has never won the Europa League. It adds to the CV so I think we’ve got a good opportunity.”
United resume their Premier League campaign this weekend as West Bromwich Albion travel to Old Trafford, buoyed from their 3-1 victory over Arsenal 10 days ago, before the international break. Defeat would leave United facing an uphill battle to get back into the top four, and Ferguson believes that had they not thrown away points in games that they failed to win at home, despite dominating the match, they could well be challenging Chelsea at the top of the table.
“I get on well with Jose and think he’s doing a really good job,” Ferguson added. “He’s been a bit unlucky actually because there are home games this season they’ve been absolutely brilliant in but have drawn them. If they’d got those wins they deserved they’d be challenging for the league, there’s no doubt about that.”
One thing that Ferguson made a point of during his trophy-laden 27 years with the club was using success to breed further success, and he believes that Mourinho is already doing the same thing by winning the Community Shield and the League Cup this season.
“Winning a trophy at United is the most important thing,” Ferguson said. “That’s what the club’s history is about – winning trophies. I looked upon the League Cup as the manager [Mourinho] does: this is an important trophy. I was fortunate to win it four times. It doesn’t matter what the trophy is, if you get to a final you want to win it.”