‘Manchester United have the best chance to win Europa League’: Former Manchester City defender Terry Phelan - Exclusive
To say that not many had estimated Manchester United would be able to finish top four this season would be an understatement. In an analysis chat show in October last year, the ESPN football pundits actually included Manchester United in the relegation battle discussion. Led by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United’s start to the season was horrid, and the team’s slump in form continued till the start of 2020. But fortunate changed for United after January.
Since 2-0 defeat to Burnley in January, United lost just one game in their last 22 matches across all competitions. Solksjaer’s side won 15 games in those 22, and the Red Devils actually managed to finish at the 3rd position in Premier League table, just behind derby rivals Manchester City.
The recent surge in form has definitely boosted the manager’s morale and has uplifted the mood of the fan base who are eager to see the club take on the top European teams in the Champions League next season.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, former Manchester City defender Terry Phelan credited Bruno Fernandes for changing the tides at Old Trafford. “I just think Bruno Fernandes coming in and he settled things. He did a wonderful job. He was scoring goals, a lot of them were from the penalty spots. But goals are goals at the end of the day, and they do win you games. You win games, you look great,” Phelan said.
Now, with a Champions League spot in hand, Solksjaer will be eager to finish the season with a trophy. Solskjaer’s United will take on LASK in the Round of 16 Europa League clash this Thursday, which looks like a mere formality on papers. United took a 5-0 lead in the first leg in March, and are expected to reach the quarterfinals with ease. From there on, it is just a matter of three games, and United could win their second Europa League trophy in the last four years.
Phelan thinks Solskjaer’s team has a great chance to do so this year. “I don’t think anybody gave Manchester United even a chance of reaching the top four. They are still in the Europa League, and they have got a great chance of winning the Europa League this year. They have the best chance than anybody. I can see them and Inter Milan, maybe, in the final. That would be a fantastic game if Manchester United do get through the next couple of games,” he said.
But Phelan stressed that all the problems for the club are not sorted and United might have to go after a few defenders in the transfer market to solve the issues at the back.
“I think basically, Marcus Rashford coming to form, Fernandes, coming to form... it’s the key players coming to form at the right time that helped the club. He still got problems at the back, it’s not done and dusted yet, he will have to go out and buy. We see Manchester United in the next couple of transfer windows of what they can really do. Especially, the current transfer window coming up. To see if Ole buys the right players, and what kind of players he is going to target,” Phelan said.
Phelan further added that Manchester United star midfielder Paul Pogba still needs to do more than he is doing at the moment for United’s cause. “I think Pogba needs to still pull his socks up a little bit. Obviously, fitness-wise, he was injured, and then we had the break due to Covid-19, and he has come back. I tell you, he’s got a lot more to offer,” he said.
“I just don’t think they are the greatest at the back, they do need a center-back, maybe another attacking midfielder, and maybe a forward, who can go into wider areas, in case a player gets injured,” Phelan signed off.