There was a collective sigh of relief in England this week that the European Super League debacle has been swiftly killed off, thanks to the intervention of fans, the media, the Government, managers and players.
The repercussions for the “dirty dozen” clubs that had signed contracts to join the Super League are not yet known. The owners and boards of Manchester United and Arsenal, counted among the six English clubs involved, must now eat humble pie in the hope that the season can continue to its conclusion with their participation, particularly as both clubs are semi-finalists in the Europa League and have a realistic opportunity to reach the final on 26 May at Gdansk Stadium in Poland.
United’s quarter-final matches against Granada proved to be an easy proposition for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s team with the Reds winning 4-0 on aggregate. On the evening of Thursday 29 April Manchester United will play Roma in the first leg of the semi-final, with the concluding match the following Thursday. According to Which Bookie , bookmakers are strongly tipping the Reds to reach the final, with odds of 13/20 from Unibet. Roma are very much the underdogs with odds of 5/1 from BetFred that they will upset the apple cart and proceed to the final.
Arsenal, too, won through to the semi-final stage in fine style. After a 1-1 draw against Czech opponents Slavia Praha on 8 April, the Gunners proceeded to demolish their opponents 4-0 in the second leg a fortnight later. Manager Mikel Arteta knows that winning the Europa League title this season is the only way the team will be able to play Champions League football next season, as Arsenal are only ninth in the Premier League table just now, nine points behind a top-four finish. Arsenal will play Spanish side Villareal at the same time as Manchester United takes on Roma and the bookies are confident that the Gunners will win through as well, with odds of 19/10 from bookmaker SkyBet. Arteta remains cautious, however, and when talking about the first leg says “Yes it will be a tough game. Villarreal are a top side and Unai is the most successful manager in the competition”.
That said there is a realistic and enticing prospect of a Europa League final featuring both English clubs, which has only happened once in the last twenty years. That all-England final featured Chelsea and Arsenal, and the Gunners were hugely outplayed, losing 4-1. Many of the Arsenal players who experienced that defeat two seasons ago are still on the team roster, and they will be driven to lift the Europa League cup this time round.
Manchester United’s performance this season has been pretty solid and the Reds are likely to finish runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League this season. The bookies favour ManU to win the Europa League this year, be it Arsenal or Villareal that they play in the final. Bookie SBK offers odds of 6/5 to that effect as opposed to odds of 37/13 for an Arsenal win.
Talksport football pundit Jason Cundy offers some views that many Arsenal fans won’t want to hear, telling the Sports Bar recently that “They (Arsenal) shouldn’t win this competition. Man United should win it”. He added “Arsenal won’t win it. I don’t know how Arsenal can. The only way Arsenal can is if United rock up and stink the place out, which they can do, and Arsenal put in a performance above expectations.” If the dream Europa League final of Manchester United v Arsenal does indeed take place, we expect that Arteta, team captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his fellow players will be extremely keen to prove Cundy wrong.