The UEFA Europa League doesn’t really receive the kind of praise or adulation it should, and it’s starting to feel like it’ll take the rumored third European club competition for people to start taking it more seriously.
Alas, even with that being the case, fans of the Europa will continue to follow it fairly religiously – especially when you consider the quality of the teams that remain in this year’s edition of the competition.
Easing into the next round
Two teams who have confirmed their passage into the Round of 16 are Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, both of whom were able to do so by scoring six goals across their two-legged fixtures in the Round of 32.
United came into their game against Club Brugge with the scores locked at 1-1, and with the Red Devils needing to come out and produce a big performance.
They did exactly that against the Belgian side as they ran out emphatic 5-0 winners at Old Trafford. Fernandes, Ighalo and McTominay all managed to get themselves on the scoresheet, whereas Fred chipped in with a brace in the final 10 minutes of the game. Brugge did go down to ten men, but the real story was the performance and quality shown by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s man.
Speaking of whom, the gaffer spoke with the media after the game.
“I’m very happy. When you score goals and play like this, you’ll get more confidence. It was brilliant to see the start of the game. They had the right intent and created loads of chances. The game was more or less over after the red card.
“Bruno coming in makes a big, big difference. He had a hand in all three first-half goals. I’m very happy with his contribution.
“He’s in the middle of the season so he’s fit. He was in good form. We felt he was something we needed. It was a ready-made position for him.”
Wolves, on the other hand, were in a position of luxury as they were comfortably leading the tie 4-0 from the first leg last week. In what proved to be a far more entertaining second leg than it had any right to be, Wolves actually lost the second leg against Espanyol 3-2 with the Spanish side putting in a decent shift – but after their capitulation at Molineux, it just wasn’t enough.
Nuno Espirito Santo had the following to say after the game.
“It was a tough game. Espanyol pressed very high and controlled many areas, we were organised, but we should have done better with the ball.
“When we analyse the game, we have to realise the players and we have to be cautious and prudent about it.
“I think we should have done better, but the hard work was there, the organisation was there, the fans are happy because we made something that is massive for us. It’s a lot of hard work; last season, qualifiers, play-offs, group stages – all these things, so we are proud of what we’ve been doing.”
United will go on to play Austrian side LASK in the last 16 whereas Wolves face a tricky tie against Olympiakos.