In the 1972 Olympics a cold war grudge match was fought on the basketball court. An unbeaten USA team teeming with NBA stars faced off against the might of an experienced USSR side.
At the end of the game, in highly controversial circumstances, victory went to the Soviets. Now I know little to nothing about basketball so won’t try to explain the complex rulings that led to this situation, but I know this much, the USA refused to accept their silver medals. It’s the most high-profile refusal of an award I know of, and the lack of class and sportsmanship displayed was remarkable.
On that note I choose to offer this point of view; Manchester United should not contest next season’s Europa League tournament.
I don’t say this in a fit of pique or petulance, I legitimately believe this ‘award’ is one that would not benefit the recipient or the giver. We’ve been here once before after suffering expulsion from the Champion’s League group stages (since when was defeat a means of qualification for anything?) and despite the manager and players making the right noises about going out there to try and win the trophy, we did in fact produce a few insipid performances that quite rightly curtailed our progress. The Europa League is a waste of time for a club of United’s stature. I thought the same when Liverpool were playing in it. It was all just so damned undignified.
Before the CL swelled to its current size we had three European trophies, all with relative charms, and I’ll never forget that night in Rotterdam when we beat Barca to lift the cup winners’ cup. However, once the big leagues started sending three or four clubs to contest the main prize it’s been obvious to all that Europe’s second trophy has been devalued considerably.
So, must we really maintain the charade that we even want to show up? Picture this, our rivals spend half of midweek on the long-haul to Turkey or Russia, meanwhile Juan Mata has had a productive training session, a nice cup of cocoa and is tucked up in bed at 9pm. Most of the squad having spent June in Brazil will now play ten fewer games during 14/15 and are raring to go as the season reaches its climax. Everyone is focused on the domestic, getting our house in order, rebuilding the squad and achieving results on the home front. Essentially making sure we get to play in Big Europe the following season.
The downside? Bad press of course. It unquestionably projects a bad image on the club. ‘Manchester United think they’re too good to play in this tournament’. Revisiting FA cupgate of 2000 but potentially worse. We were accused of permanently ruining the sanctity of the cup then, the same will happen now, but do we care? Can we get fined for declining to contest? It’s the Europa League, it had no credibility in the first place, us ambling through a group stage before meekly kowtowing to Hajduk Split is disrespectful anyway.
It smacks of a lack of class I’m sure, just like the US basketball team’s refusal to accept their silver medals, but the difference is I do not believe we are obliged to contest something just because we have qualified for it. It may even send a message to UEFA that the tournament is deeply flawed, and surely having a straight two leg knockout format all the way to the final would make for a better contest.
Sorry Monsieur Platini, those Ferrero Rocher are mighty tempting but unfortunately I’m washing my hair that night.
What are your thoughts on possibly competing in the Europa League next season?