This week’s Rant Cast focuses on one thing: the Europa League final. Much like the team, Ed & Paul have been phoning in recent shows in order to ensure full fitness for this special length preview of Wednesday’s game. The pod also includes an interview with Dutch football pundit Michiel Jongsma.
After 118 years Tottenham Hotspur prepares to say goodbye to White Hart Lane. The century has not aged the old ground well, with Spurs’ facilities outdated and other clubs moving ahead. It is testament to Mauricio Pochettino’s talent as a manager that he has taken the Lillywhites to second on the Premier League’s sixth largest budget. José Mourinho might typically be out to spoil the party, but with the Manchester United manager has long since prioritised winning the Europa League. It might not be a scratch team on Sunday, but it is likely to be far from full strength.
Sunday’s result against Arsenal was the game in which José Mourinho finally delivered on his threat to forsake Manchester United’s top-four hopes in search of a Europa League triumph. The Reds suffered a torrid afternoon at the Emirates, marking the end of a 25 game Premier League unbeaten run, one which must rank among the most uninspiring in football history. During the run United slipped from six points off the league leaders to nineteen. It is a damning statistic, yet the Reds are is still in the hunt for a second piece of silverware as the club welcomes Celta Vigo to Old Trafford with a place in the Europa League final at stake.
Perhaps, in private, José Mourinho will admit that Manchester United’s performance at Arsenal last Sunday was one of relentless mediocrity. In public, of course, he said something very different, defending his players and bemoaning a heavy schedule. Yet, United remained competitive against Arsenal for no more than 15 minutes at the Emirates. Then the home side took charge, with two quick goals securing the points for a beleaguered Arsene Wenger. It was a performance that should stimulate plenty of scrutiny about the manager’s approach this season – not least in his management of a squad that contains a mix of players too shattered to be effective and those too rusty to impress.
In the fortnight since the last Rant Cast Jose Mourinho has executed on a seemingly long-held plan: to bet everything on Manchester United winning the Europa League, at the expense of domestic league success. Draws with Manchester and Swansea City, then defeat at Arsenal has all but ensured a fourth successive season outside the top three.
The Europa League has provided United fans with something resembling a welcome break from the disappointment of the Premier League campaign. After the now typical draw against Swansea City last weekend, attention turned to continental conquests, and the first European semi-final involving Manchester United in six seasons. Celta Vigo stands between José Mourinho’s side and the Europa League final, but for the moment the focus comes back to the Premier League and Sunday’s fixture against Arsenal.