Manchester United are rolling right along under Jose Mourinho. They're really starting to find their form under the Special One, and they finally look like a team with a style and purpose. While they still sit outside the top four in the Premier League, they're still right in it with a chance to finish in a Champions League spot, they've won the EFL Cup, are in the round of 16 in Europa League, and they've still got an FA Cup Quarter final against Chelsea ahead of them.
But all those competitions means tons of matches for the run in and they'll have to rotate their squad. The question becomes which of the competitions is most important? What should they prioritize and make sure they have their best teams for?
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The case for the Premier League
Manchester United have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on playing and coaching staff since Sir Alex Ferguson left, but they haven't seen any success in the Premier League to show for it. They currently sit in sixth place, but they're just three points outside of the top four with a game in hand, and a real shot at finishing inside the Champions League places. It's clichéd to say it at this point, but every single league match matters, and United need their full strength team if they're going to finish strong and secure qualification.
Even if they see success in other competitions, if they don't make Champions League, this season will be considered a failure and making up a three-point gap is plenty reasonable.
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The case for the Europa League
Yes, I know, it's Europa League. It's the little brother of European competition, but it has merit. Winning a trophy always matters, but most importantly, the winner gets an automatic spot in Champions League. United aren't guaranteed a top four finish, but if they lift the Europa League trophy, they're in the tournament just the same. United are probably the best team left in the tournament, and on paper, with their full strength side, they should be the favorites to go on and win.
The case for the FA Cup
Winning trophies breeds a culture of success. The very best teams treat winning as a habit, and that means winning in whatever competition is at hand. The FA Cup is still an extremely prestigious tournament, and any silverware is welcome silverware for the Red Devils. They're coming up against a Chelsea side who's already running away with the league, and there's a chance to at least get a little bit of respect back. Jose Mourinho will be extremely motivated against his old side as well, so there's a real feeling that they'll go all out to progress against the Blues.
Plus, if they get through Chelsea, a trip to Wembley beckons.
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The Verdict: Premier League
...followed closely by Europa League.
United need to finish in the top four. Manchester United without Champions League football is simply not Manchester United. Until Mourinho brings proper European competition back to Old Trafford, the supporters won't be satisfied, and the players he's recruited won't be happy to stick around for long. As big as their FA Cup tie against Chelsea is, there are more important matches at stake, and the chance to qualify for Champions League via Europa League is a more important possibility than getting one over on Mourinho's old side.
It's easier said than done to get the rotation correct to balance all these competitions, but qualifying for next season's Champions League has to be the priority. That means the league has to come first, followed closely by Europa.