7 reasons why bitter Manchester United fans should embrace the Europa League
The Europa League group stages aren't something Manchester United and their supporters are all too familiar with.
However, after a fifth place finish in the league last season, there'll be no Champions League nights at Old Trafford in the months ahead.
With supporters of rival clubs poking fun at United as they embark on a season in the continent's other, less glamorous club competition, here are a few reasons why even the most bitter of United supporters can embrace it...
1. Because Champions League football is boring these days anyway
For a start, us United fans were getting bored of this Champions League lark anyway. Hilariously, supporters of other greatly inferior English teams *still* get excited at the prospect of seeing their team playing football against the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona and Bayern Munich - a novelty that wore off for us long, long ago.
Potentially playing the likes of Qäbälä, SønderjyskE, Birkirkara and a bunch of other teams whose names look like the result of someone falling asleep on their keyboards is much more exciting. We wouldn't have it any other way.
2. Because the Europa League can't be fluked
Say what you want about the Champions League boasting the continent's most illustrious footballing names, it's still possible for a bang average team playing Djimi Traore at full-back to win the bloody thing.
You don't get that in the Europa League, where history shows it's almost impossible for a team to fluke its way to victory. The best team tends to win it, so we can expect to see this one in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet by the end of May.
3. Because shit teams from Belarus deserve the chance to see the World's Biggest Football Club™, too
By competing in the Europa League - especially the group stages - this current crop of United players will blaze new trails. Many of the 8,000 teams that compete in the Europa League group stages come from places that are nowhere near lucrative enough to warrant us playing a meaningless, money-spinning preseason friendly.
The chance to host some of the world's greatest footballers - the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Phil Jones - will be a truly special occasion for the lesser-known clubs United encounter on their road to Europa League glory this season.
4. Because Cristiano Ronaldo won't have to suffer the agony of facing the club he loves deeply
Provided Real Madrid don't finish third in their Champions League group, we won't be seeing Cristiano Ronaldo return home this year. By 'home', I mean his real home - Old Trafford - not the island of Madeira where he was born and raised.
As we saw back in 2013, our Ronnie was so overcome with emotion when he returned to United that he played for most of the night like a blindfolded Gabriel Obertan that had just necked eight pints. He might have eventually scored the winner that night, but he was far from the player that our great club created.
Without us being involved, he can at least concentrate on playing his best football this season without being distracted by the thought of potentially having to face the club at which he spent the happiest days of his career.
We can all take comfort from that.
5. Because Pepe isn't in the Europa League
No explanation needed for this one really...
6. Because the Europa League hasn't been tarnished by rich foreign owners
Nowadays, a handful of teams compete in the Champions League as a direct result of ludicrously rich men buying a real life football club after getting bored of sitting at home playing Football Manager in their pants.
Take City, for example. A decade ago, they were flirting with relegation from the Premier League (again). Ten years and a shit load of petrodollars later, they're reaching the last four of the Champions League - and club legends Sun Jihai and John Macken are nowhere to be seen.
Paris Saint-Germain aren't much better, either. Having turned the French league into an annual cakewalk, a team that your mums and dads are older than are now acting like they're European royalty.
Thankfully, there's none of this nonsense in the Europa League, where all of the teams competing are there on their own achievement / failure to finish high enough in their domestic leagues to get Champions League football.
7. Because Thursday is a much better night for watching football
Fancy a couple of beers while you watch United on a Champions League night? Fine, but you'd better not get too carried away. If you do, you've got *at least* two more work days to make it through until it's the weekend. The last thing you want is a stinking hangover.
This isn't the case in the Europa League, where fixtures are played on a Thursday night. So if you fancy having a skinful to celebrate Marouane Fellaini's heavily deflected 67th minute equaliser against FK Qarabağ, go ahead - you've only got a matter of hours left of your working week. Your boss probably won't even notice.
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