Will UEFA League Qualification Spark Man United To Success? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Will UEFA League Qualification Spark Man United To Success?

Posted: May 11, 2015 at 2:35 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

A return to Champions League football is a whisker away for Manchester United. With Saturday’s victory over Crystal Palace, Louis van Gaal and his charges took a huge step toward achieving this season’s minimum aim.

Getting back into Europe’s elite club competition would mean a return to a sense of business as usual for United. The fallout from Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement has been long-lasting, but by once again taking its place in the Champions League, United can establish that it is well and truly on the way to being back.

With the summer transfer window looming, the Red Devils can ill afford to miss out on the top four again.

The club was successful  attracting high-profile transfer targets in last summer’s window without the lure of European football.

However, one season without looks like a blip. Two begins to look like a pattern.

It is easy to imagine a conversation between the club and agents—or players—this time last year, pointing out that the club is set up for success, both in terms of finances and facilities. Van Gaal replacing Moyes meant there was once again a manager in place proven at the elite level.

However, given how hard going Van Gaal has found this season, the promise of future success may not be enough this time. The path back into the Champions League—if it is to be a path back—has been a rocky one for United. If the sense of recovery in a post-Ferguson world is going to continue, then next season will have to see more consistent performances from Van Gaal’s men.

Players possessing the quality to improve United’s squad will want to be competing for football’s most desirable trophies, and the Champions League is surely one of those.

United’s signing of Memphis Depay may have been confirmed before qualification has been secured, but he has a personal relationship with Van Gaal, and even with their recent wobble, United was still in the box seat for a top-four finish at the time of that confirmation.

There is, of course, a financial benefit to competing in the Champions League, but given the enormous domestic television deal, it would not be a financial catastrophe for United to miss out on another season.

United’s new kit deal with Adidas reportedly contains a clause that means United would lose money if it failed to qualify for Europe again at the end of this season, but it has a season’s grace before that comes into effect, per Mark Ogden of the Daily Telegraph.

As well as increased appeal to players and the financial implications, there is the important question of momentum. Although fourth place is hard to celebrate for United fans, spoiled by a generation of unparalleled success, it would nonetheless mean that this season’s targets will have been achieved.

Assuming that happens, Van Gaal and his staff will be able to build on the positives from this season—particularly United’s excellent performances in big games—and use the rhythm of midweek and weekend games to further bed in his system.

At the beginning of this season, it seemed that there may have been some benefit to allowing Van Gaal more time on the training pitch with his players. After all, Liverpool’s good run last season came when it was able to concentrate fully on domestic matters.

However, for success to come back to United, the club needs to prove it can compete domestically and in Europe. Ferguson’s success will always be the barometer, and one of his most remarkable gifts was to ensure that success in one arena did not diminish chances of glory the other.

His side won the league in both the seasons in which he won the Champions League—and may well have done so again on two occasions were it not for the emergence of Pep Guardiola’s remarkable Barcelona side.

The Champions League is United’s natural level. It is an elite club in terms of their global appeal,  their stadium and their history of success.

Qualifying for it again will be a key part of the process of bringing success into the here and now.