The last few months of European football have been full of both elation and realisation for United; Europa League glory in May followed by a stark reminder of the quality of teams we’ll have to face this season after the Super Cup final against Madrid. Fast forward to next May and it’s the final in Kiev, Ukraine.
Ahead of our trip to Macedonia for the UEFA Super Cup, I spoke to some local fans who run the website Manchester is my Heaven. Here’s a copy of the Q&A I did with them which was first published (in Macedonian) here.
After last year’s efforts the 2016/17 European season felt like it had a lot more to offer, even if was to be spent solely in the Europa League. Despite remaining the only competition United had never won, the early prognosis was that it was the least important trophy up for grabs in Mourinho’s first season, with the league an obvious priority and other cup wins simply a bonus.
There’s one constant in my trips abroad to see United; general aspects of travel and culture aside, it’s sampling the local beers. Whether that’s the cheap £1 pints in Ukraine, pricey fiver equivalents in Denmark or the broad range on offer from Belgium, there’s always a different appeal when drinking on the continent. With no European travel now until mid-February, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to review a Beer52.com craft beer pack.
With this summers European Championships in France, a trip to China and an early start to the season with the Community Shield at Wembley, it’s felt like football hasn’t really stopped this year. For some teams in Europe it basically didn’t. Whilst the draw for the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League group stage took place on Friday, the tournament actually started 2 months ago for those in the 1st qualifying round at the end of June. Should any of those teams manage to make it all the way to the final, due to be hosted at Sweden’s Friends Arena in Solna, Stockholm, they’ll have been playing in the Europa League for 11 months. It’s no wonder the competition is considered so gruelling by many.
It was with a bit of a whimper that the 2015/16 European season ended against Liverpool, a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford not enough to turn around the defeat at Anfield. After being knocked down into the Europa League I’d come round to idea of a potential final in Basel, Switzerland, but it was not to be. Even more frustrating was that our conquerors were drawn to play Borussia Dortmund, a place I’ve longed to visit with United at their impressive Westfalenstadion.
90% of the questions I’m asked about following United are surrounding the costs involved; whilst an important consideration, it’s not the prospect of spending thousands of pounds each season to travel around the country, and beyond, that drives me to do so. Many football fans follow their team on the road every week, wherever that may take them, but not all get the opportunity to make trips to Europe to see them in the biggest competitions. Fortunately though, my team have been playing in Europe since 1956, and (Moyes permitting) have done so every season since I began attending games in the mid-nineties.