It wasn’t the smoothest first season in charge for Jose Mourinho.
Amid reports of the Portuguese boss feeling unsettled, his side promised much but failed to turn draws into wins.
Success in the Europa League, however, gives the Red Devils a free ticket into the Champions League group stages and Mourinho’s men should more than hold their own against Europe’s elite.
Manchester United finished the season in sixth position and there was a sense of resignation from Mourinho that he had squeezed out all of the potential from his limited squad.
Injuries hadn’t helped his cause, with a number of defensive mainstays on the sidelines simultaneously throughout the campaign. The Europa League may not be every club or supporter’s cup of tea but Manchester United certainly enjoyed their Thursday night jaunts.
Beating a gifted, but inexperienced, Ajax side in the final was vitally important for Mourinho and the club.
Not only do the senior team guarantee Champions League football next season but the UEFA Youth League awaits for the Under 19s.
There were some nervy moments along the way, with Celta Vigo’s late surge causing the former Premier League champions to panic at the back in the semis, but they saw the job through and can look forward to the draw for the group stage of the competition.
Mourinho’s men have plenty of transfer business to conduct this summer but they have been priced up as sixth favourites for the competition at around 16/1.
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Whilst the transfer saga of Antoine Griezmann is likely to rumble on all summer, Alvaro Morata is another possible addition to the side. The striker has been a bit-part player this season and would relish the opportunity of regular Champions League football.
Negotiations may take time to conclude, with Real Madrid demanding around £50 million for the services of the former Juventus man.
Mourinho may divide opinion but few can doubt his ability to set up his side for an important fixture.
His stifling of Liverpool may have sent numerous Monday Night Football viewers into a coma, but it worked effectively. His side were also perfectly balanced to see off Ajax and lift the Europa League trophy.
The former Chelsea chief is the master of avoiding defeat. Despite finishing below Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, they lost fewer games than their peers (five) and only Spurs were defeated fewer times across the regular season.
If Mourinho can add some killer instinct to his side this summer, they could take the Champions League by storm.
They should reach the knock-out stages, where avoiding defeat is the aim of the game, especially across two-legged ties.
His current squad is a mishmash of styles courtesy of ad-hoc recruitment by previous managers, but ‘The Special One’ has the chance to mould his side this summer and the recommencement of the Champions League in September is a mouthwatering prospect for United fans.