Arsene Wenger believes that Manchester United’s Europa League success last season should not have culminated in Jose Mourinho‘s men receiving a place in the Champions League.
A 2-0 win over Ajax in Stockholm back in May, with Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan grabbing the goals, handed Man United their first ever Europa League trophy and a spot in the Champions League group stages despite finishing sixth in the Premier League.
Arsenal, on the other hand, couldn’t complete their usual ritual of managing a Champions League spot but decided to give Arsene Wenger a new contract nonetheless.
And the Frenchman, clearly upset at missing out on his annual exit to Bayern Munich in the last 16, has complained about Mourinho receiving a chance to compete amongst Europe’s elite.
“I was always against it,” he said.
“Because apart from Man United, who did win the Europa League, all the years before it was always a team who was kicked out of the Champions League by having been kicked out of it before.
“You cannot go into the season and think that [you will get into the Champions League by winning the Europa League].
“I always was not in favour of that, because I think at some stage it can influence on the championship.
“If a team is in April in a position where they have more chance to win the Europa League they can let some games go in the championship, and not completely focus on that, on the regularity of the competition.”
Wenger is a man of principles and isn’t afraid to share them, but these comments once again reflect an attitude that, over and over again, precipitates a kind of steady mediocrity that tears the club’s fanbase apart.
Firstly, the Frenchman needs to show some respect to Mourinho’s European record: the 54-year-old now has four European trophies under his belt and Wenger – mark my words – will win none in his career.
The Arsenal boss clearly doesn’t agree with the way United put their domestic campaign on the back burner by April, and yet this strategy is exactly why, by May, Mourinho was lifting a European trophy and Wenger wasn’t.
Wenger, for whatever reason, believes that a calculated, nicely orchestrated campaign quietly leading to a continuation of Champions League football through reaching a respectable league position eclipses Mourinho’s strategy of extreme pragmatism whereby he abandons one competition to focus on winning another.
But ask yourselves this: out of a fourth place finish and winning the Europa League, which event will posterity bother to remember?