It may have been easy for the two Manchester clubs to not take the Europa League seriously so the draw has actually helped the competition with two very exciting ties which wouldn’t have looked out of place the Champions League. Two tricky away ties were up first for the teams with United playing Ajax and City playing Porto so this was a great opportunity to see whether the managers believed this competition was worthwhile or not.
Let us first start with United, (because there game was first not because of preference) they picked quite a strong team but also took the opportunity to give a few players an opportunity to get minutes under their belt after recovering from injury. Tom Cleverley and Fabio started and these two were probably the only two that could have been replaced by better players but nevertheless they have enough experience to be put in the side in a big European game. When Patrice Evra was left in Manchester, I was a little worried Alex Ferguson was not taking it seriously but his reasoning was acceptable enough as it had been a tough week for the French left back with the whole Suarez saga. His pre match press conferences also confirmed that he wants to win this competition now he is in it as it is the only one he has not won as United manager and we all recognise Fergie does not accept defeat against any team in any competition. So, he started Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez up front and it worked well with Hernandez scoring the second goal and ultimately putting the tie to bed. As previous stated, it was an opportunity to give players with fitness doubts a game and Ashley Young was one of these and he played quite well and opened the scoring which will give him confidence for the remainder of the season.
Now, onto City and they probably had a more difficult tie against Porto as the Portuguese team have been in fantastic form and very rarely lose at home in any competition. When Varela opened the scoring for Porto, the City fans must have thought it may be difficult to get back into it but the players themselves showed that they are ready to compete and even though it’s not where they want to be, they still want to win as much silverware as they can this season. An own goal got them back in the game but in fairness they had deserved it as they had created quite a few opportunities. They went onto win the game with Sergio Aguero grabbing the winner from off the bench. This shows that Mancini wanted to rest him but had enough respect to have him on the bench to bring on if he was needed. A draw would have been a good result, but obviously the manager wanted more and this is why he brought on Aguero and this shows that he also wants to win the competitions.
I believe it is a good thing both Manchester clubs are in the Europa League because they will want to outdo each other and get further than the other. If only one of them had dropped into the tournament then I think they may have decided to focus on the Premier League more and forgot about Europe this season. Now, the Europa League will also gain more attention than it usually does which can only be a good thing for UEFA.