Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United focused on Europa League glory, claims Carrick

By Glenn Moore

Michael Carrick insisted Manchester United would be seeking to win the Europa League, rather than seeing it as an inconvenience after the disappointment of falling into it from the Champions League.

The draw for Europe's second-string competition is made in Switzerland at midday today with United joining Liverpool, Tottenham and Gary Neville's Valencia in the last 32.

All three English clubs are seeded, but Valencia are not. Louis van Gaal will, though, be spared the prospect of facing their in-form former striker Javier Hernandez as Bayer Leverkusen are seeded.

Borussia Dortmund, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla and Fiorentina are the most dangerous of the unseeded teams.

"To be out of the Champions League is a big blow for us," said Carrick. "Once you're out you've got to deal with it and we're in the Europa League so when that comes around we'll be giving everything to win that competition."

Rivals Manchester City are, of course, still in the continent's top competition and whoever theydraw in the Champions League last 16, it will be their easiest opponents yet at this stage. In the last two seasons of the competition, Manuel Pellegrini's side finished second in their group and were therefore unseeded for the last 16. Both times they went straight out.

This year, City won Group D despite losing both their games against Juventus. The unseeded sides are still strong but even the most difficult of City's potential opponents - Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain or Roma - would not necessarily intimidate them.

Chelsea face a similar set of potential opponents - but with Juventus replacing Dynamo Kiev - and have the advantage of having been in this position more often than City. While their league position is poor, Jose Mourinho's team showed a new level of performance when they beat Porto 2-0 last week in their final group game. If they can reproduce that in the second half of the season they could still go far.

Arsenal have been eliminated at the last-16 stage for the last five consecutive seasons, traditionally paying the price for finishing second in their group. That happened again this year, with the result that they have the toughest set of potential opponents: Real Madrid, Wolfsburg, Atletico Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg and Barcelona. At least they have already played Bayern Munich and cannot do so again in this round.

Belfast Telegraph


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