Manchester United take on St Etienne in the Europa League this evening with the hope of getting ourselves in a good position for the return leg, to boost our chances of reaching the round of 16.
While this competition clearly has never been the priority of anyone at United, it is a way in to the Champions League and it is a trophy that we’ve never won before. United may well finish in the top four anyway, currently just four points behind 2nd place Manchester City and two points behind third placed Spurs, but the prospect of a cup final outweighs any excitement over league position.
Paul Scholes has spoken exclusively to RoM on behalf of Enterprise Rent-A-Car about his hopes for the season. He fancies United to win the Europa League and given a choice between that, or finishing fourth, he wants the trophy.
RoM: Do you think United can win the Europa League this season?
Scholes: Yeah. I’m convinced they can win it. It’s not always been the priority over the years – you can understand that – but now it is because we’re not guaranteed to be in the top four. I think we will finish top four, but we’re not guaranteed it, and it’s a great chance to get in the Champions League. I think we’re more than capable of winning it. We’ve never won it – there’s a reason for that, it’s not always been a priority. This year it’s probably the main priority.
RoM: What was your opinion of the Europa League when you were a United player?
S: Like I say, it was a second rate competition.
RoM: I suppose we were never really in it, were we…
S: We were in it three or four times, but only when we got knocked out of the Champions League. I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it – people who get knocked out of the Champions League shouldn’t go straight into the Europa League. They should be gone and that’s it. It was just never something we were that motivated to be in.
RoM: I suppose you’re going into that deflated and it’s hard to pick yourself up?
S: Yeah, that’s it.
RoM: In order to qualify for the Champions League next season, would you rather United win the Europa League and finish out the top four, or finish trophy-less and fourth?
S: I think I’d rather win the Europa League. Winning a trophy, winning a medal, great trip for the fans, go to Sweden themselves for a couple of days, would be nice.
RoM: Otherwise we just turn into Arsenal, I suppose, settling for fourth…
S: Yeah, exactly. We don’t want that, settling for top four. But I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll finish top four anyway.
RoM: Who do you reckon will drop out then?
S: Who will fall out of it? I think Tottenham will fall out of it. Even though they’re in a good position, you saw last year, when it got to March, April, they couldn’t really take it.
RoM: Is that the mental side then?
S: Yeah, it’s the mental side I think they’ll struggle with. And the other one, I think Liverpool or Arsenal this year.
Read part I of the interview with Scholes discussing trying to kick Ronaldinho for failing to sign for United and the best player he’s played with at United.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car is an official partner of the UEFA Europa League. As a fan of the game, visit www.enterprise.co.uk to enjoy special rates on car hire across Europe.