Manchester United: Antonio Valencia Injury Proves Europa League Needs Overhaul

Frank Wagner@Fw1812Correspondent IFebruary 17, 2012

In case you haven't noticed, Manchester United was eliminated from the Champions League in the group stage this season.

So why are they still playing in Europe?

Oh right, the Europa League.

The annual competition to crown the 17th best club in Europe.

So yesterday, when Manchester United defeated Ajax 2-0 in the Netherlands, it was an important match, right?

No, not really.

The Europa League has become a farce.

Honestly, would you EPL fans rather have your club win the Europa League and finish fifth in the league, or not compete in the Europa League and finish fourth?

You'd take the latter every time.

That's why it felt like a punishment when Manchester United were put in the Europa League for finishing third in their CL group.

Now the Red Devils are forced to play more matches, suffering more opportunities for fatigue and injury, with no upside in Europe and a domestic title race in full tow.

Almost inevitably, then, came yesterday's injury to Antonio Valencia, whose hamstring will keep him out of action for a month.

The frustration at this injury is understandable; why do we have to play these matches anyway?

It's a fair question; just the fact that one asks the question, though, proves the Europa League needs a major overhaul.

Luckily, I have two quick fixes that would fix the Europe's Europa problem.


Disintegrate the League

Don't get me wrong, I know why the Europa League is there.

Not every club that wins a cup or finishes high in the table can be in the Champions League, so there's a lower league for them to enjoy European football.

Wait a second, why can't they be in the Champions League again?

The UCL is already staggered, with qualifying rounds to get to the bigger clubs; why not create more qualifying rounds for clubs that in the past would have qualified for the Europa League?

Why is a club that wins the FA Cup not given a chance in the Champions League while a club like Arsenal, who hasn't won a trophy in the past 7 seasons, allowed to compete in the Champions League each season?  After all, isn't the FA Cup winner a champion and isn't that what we're looking to reward?

This system would create more buzz in the opening few rounds (with possibly more high profile clubs competing) and border on the feel of the FA Cup (with lots of qualifying and everyone given a chance to win).

Admittedly, though, it would need some cramming in the schedule.


Give the winner an automatic UCL berth

Let's be honest here: the Europa League is a second-rate competition.

That's not a knock on it; it is meant to be that way.

So why is the prize for the winner of the competition merely another Europa berth for next season?

If the winner of the Europa League were to qualify for the Champions League in the following season, the competition for the title would be much fiercer than it is now.

Admittedly, clubs like Manchester United this season (who have UCL qualification almost locked from their EPL standing) would not be affected by the new rule.

However, the competition would have a much greater reputation so that matches would carry more weight.

Hence, losing Valencia yesterday would have just been a tough injury blow instead of a frustrating loss in a meaningless match.


There are just a few ideas that could improve the Europa League.

The league clearly needs a shake-up.

UEFA must take action.


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