United plan to replace European games with lucrative friendlies

Michael Regan

Should United fail to qualify for Europe, then Woodward and co. are thinking outside the box. Quite some distance outside the box.

It's paper talk. Hopefully it's just paper talk. The Guardian and the Mirror are both reporting that, should United fail to qualify for either European competition -- and the Champions League remains mathematically possible, if hilariously unlikely -- then the club will fill those empty weekday night with lucrative friendlies in exciting emerging markets. The idea being that if money can't be made one way, then it can be made another. A good idea, if you're an accountant.

Whether it's a good idea for a (presumably) wounded team that will (hopefully) be trying its absolute damnedest to get back to the top of the league is debatable. Actually, it's not. This is unequivocally thick. Missing out on the Champions League once is unfortunate. Missing out a second time because the club decided to forgo the footballing benefits a lighter calendar can bring -- see: Liverpool -- would be staggeringly short-sighted. The only way this could be justified is if the alternative is absolute financial collapse, and there's been no indication of same.

Still. Mid-season friendlies are the coming thing. Teams that play in leagues with winter breaks have been pursuing them for a while, and this season Manchester City were planning to visit the middle East mid-week; an inconvenient FA Cup replay forced them to cancel. So don't be too surprised if United follow through with a plan so ridiculous that it makes the Europa League look like the most attractive tournament in footballing history. At least there's a big shiny pot at the end of that.

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