Will trophies matter to Manchester United if they don’t make the Champions League?

Manchester United are sixth in the Premier League. They’re very much in the race for a top four spot, and with it a place in next season’s Champions League, but they’re on the outside looking in. And missing the Champions League wouldn’t just mean another season without a place in the world’s biggest club competition, they’d reportedly lose out on tens of millions of pounds as part of a clause in their contract with adidas.

Making the Champions League is a huge deal for Manchester United, essentially. The question now is whether getting in is the only thing that can make for a successful season.

While the Red Devils have had some issues in the Premier League, that hasn’t been the case in cups. They’re into the FA Cup quarterfinals and are cruising along in the Europa League. Meanwhile, they have Sunday’s League Cup final offering them a chance at a trophy.

Could silverware ensure a successful season at Old Trafford, regardless of what happens in the Premier League?

The Europa League is an obvious exception because if the Red Devils can capture that trophy, they will be into the Champions League, but what if they only make it to the final? Or the semifinals? And they pair that with a League Cup and FA Cup double?

It’s hard to see a two-trophy season as a failure, even at Old Trafford, but that very well might be the case for Manchester United. Jose Mourinho wasn’t brought in to manage outside the Champions League. They didn’t break the transfer record on Paul Pogba to play in the Europa League. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may not return for another season if they don’t have a spot in Europe’s biggest tournament.

That is the cloud that hangs over Manchester United. Even going into Sunday’s League Cup final, where a packed Wembley will reverberate with the sounds of “Glory, glory Manchester United,” there is a realization that the trophy couldn’t save the Red Devils. Even if they win and add more silverware to their crowded trophy case, the season will be a disappointment if they can’t crack the Champions League.

Nobody would ever say that winning a trophy is bad and the Red Devils will rightly party if they can topple Southampton to capture the League Cup. When they head to Stamford Bridge for their FA Cup clash with Chelsea, the entire world will be watching and, if they win, Manchester United will undoubtedly be the favorites to take home the oldest soccer trophy in the world. These are monumental matches, no doubt. They’re competitions, with silverware, that write them into the history books. Even a deep run in the Europa League would be an amazing accomplishment.

And despite it all, it’s not the Champions League. Manchester United need to get into the top four, or win the Europa League. It’s hard to imagine this season being OK if they don’t, trophies or not.