Manchester United have kicked off their 2022/23 Europa League campaign pretty decently, regardless of their failure to top their group. Having sailed safely through to the knockout play-offs, we cannot help but wonder whether the Red Devils could actually win this season’s second-tier European competition.
The final of this season’s Europa League will go down on May 31st 2023, in Budapest’s newly opened Puskas Arena. The road to Puskas might be long, but Erik ten Hag’s side certainly hope they will not only be in the finals but also be the team that carries home the trophy.
Where Does Man United Stand at Present?
Manchester United failed to unseat Real Sociedad from the top of the Group E. They paid the price and find themselves in what has been argued to be one of history’s toughest play-off draws.
Eight Europa League group runners-up went into the pot to be matched up against eight third-placed teams from the Champions League in Nyon on Monday, November 7th. The outcome of this play-offs draw were downright dramatic. The Red Devils was drawn against quite a formidable rival, FC Barcelona.
This means that for United to progress, they’ll have to beat the Catalan giants. Thus, on February 16th, 2023, the team will travel to Spain, facing off against the Spanish side at Camp Nou (aka Spotify Camp Nou). And a week later, they’ll be doing the same at Old Trafford in the play-offs second leg.
Effectively, Manchester United now have two extra matches standing between them and 2022/23 Europa League victory. And we bet Ten Hag really wishes he didn’t have to deal with such a packed schedule.
United’s Past Performance in The Europa League
When Sir Alex Ferguson was at the helm of the club, the Red Devils almost exclusively competed in the Champions League. Between 1996 and 2011, the team’s continental football competitions primarily occurred in the Champions League. However, the dismal results of their 2011/12 group-stage campaigns in the CL plunged United to the depths of the Europa League.
Since Fergie’s exit, EL has gradually turned into one of United’s favorable competitions. In fact, Jose Mourinho steered them into winning the Europa League in 2017. Following this sweet victory, United has been a regular at this annual event over the past several years.
Manchester United vs FC Barcelona
The recently completed 2022/23 Europa League play-off draws pitted Manchester United against European football giants FC Barcelona. We feel that this has to be one of the greatest match-ups in the history of the second-tier European competition.
Indeed, the Red Devils going up against the Catalans brings back memories of some of the most epic nights in European football. The two are big teams with impressive game-play.
In 2009 and 2011, Barcelona, under Pep Guardiola, got the better of Man United under Ferguson. This season, Ten Hag is at the helm, and with better team coordination and unity, United are definitely going to be a challenging rival for the La Liga club.
Barcelona and Manchester United have thrown down some impressive showdowns over the years. The most recent match was in the 2019 Champions League quarter-finals. The meeting was humbling for the Red Devils, where they suffered a 4-0 defeat.
Nevertheless, the Red Devils have been victorious against the Catalans on various occasions. In 1984, while playing in the UEFA Cup-winners’ Cup quarter-finals at Old Trafford, United won 3-2 on aggregate. In 1991, the Red Devils won 2-1 under Ferguson. In 2008, Paul Scholes scored a winning goal against Barcelona, effectively kicking them out of the Champions League semi-finals.
Can Manchester United Win the 2022/23 Europa League?
There still is a whole lot of optimism that Manchester United can obtain some silverware in the 2022/2023 UEFA Europa League. The team already have an incredibly talented squad. And in spite of the few losses they’ve suffered so far, most people feel that they are still very well-placed to define how the tournament goes for them.
If nothing, this is a great betting opportunity as the odds on Man United are only getting higher due to a few losses in the early stages of the competition.
Rules acknowledge that losing a few games doesn’t mean losing the entire tournament. For example, some of the previous Europa Cup winners had lost some of their earlier matches but still emerged victorious at the end of the competition.
Manchester United currently stand in a strong position to lift the 2022/23 Europa League trophy. Since all that matters is qualifying for the next stage of the competition, Ten Hag’s team merely has to approach the remaining matches the right way to secure their victory.