Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has admitted that he’d prefer to win the FA Cup over the UEFA Europa League, although he understands the latter is more important to the club.
After being eliminated from the UEFA Champions League earlier in the campaign, United begin their quest for success in Europe’s second-tier competition on Thursday evening, when they go up against FC Midtjylland.
Ahead of the game, Van Gaal distinguished between his own personal ambitions and that of the club, per ESPN FC:
My personal wish is to win the FA Cup. I have already won the UEFA Cup and I want to win a title in England.
That is why I have come to this country, to make Manchester United champions or give them a title [in England], but I understand—for Manchester United it is much more important to win the Europa League because it will give us the Champions League.
It is not only my best route, but ours I think.
With a spot in the Champions League now given to the winners of the Europa League, there’s little doubt that this back-door route into Europe’s elite club competition is the best bet for United.
After losing to Sunderland in the Premier League last weekend, Van Gaal’s side find themselves six points back on local rivals Manchester City with an inferior goal difference and just 12 games remaining in the campaign.
It’s a state of affairs that has left the Dutchman under massive pressure, with Jose Mourinho being tipped to take over, per Joe Bernstein of the Mail on Sunday.
However, Bleacher Report’s Nick Akerman is unsure as to why the Portuguese would take the job in the immediacy, given the Red Devils’ current plight:
Nick Akerman @Nakerman
Would why Mourinho actually want to take over United this season? He’d be setting himself up for failure if he did.2016-2-18 09:57:01
While United supporters are used to their team challenging for the Premier League and Champions League, any kind of silverware would help Van Gaal accrue some favour.
After all, the club haven’t lifted any major prizes since Sir Alex Ferguson departed at the end of the 2012-13 season, in which they were crowned champions. Additionally, the Red Devils haven’t won the FA Cup since 2004, a stint that is far too significant for a side of United’s stature in the English game.
However, as Van Gaal noted ahead of their venture into the Europa League, this competition is one the Red Devils have never won before:
Manchester United @ManUtd
"It's a fantastic aim for us to win this cup because Manchester United has never won it," says van Gaal. #mufc https://t.co/GDyUe9CLQr2016-2-17 17:02:46
Both the FA Cup and Europa League carry a certain degree of pedigree and would represent a significant moment in the club’s history if they were to be won. But if United do want to be competing for the very best honours in the game again, Champions League football and the lucrative benefits it brings are vital, so prioritising that competition over the FA Cup is likely.
The Red Devils resume their FA Cup campaign with a trip to Shrewsbury Town on Monday night, and it’d be no surprise to see Van Gaal ring the changes after their midweek jaunt.
For the club’s supporters, a trip to Wembley and a trophy win under the arch would be blissful; sadly, as Van Gaal notes, that’s unlikely to be a priority for this juggernaut of a football club.