Friday, 21 April 2017

Reds into first European semi final since 2011

United edged past Anderlecht on Thursday to seal a first European semi final since 2011.

Make no mistake about it, we'd all rather it be the glamorous prestige of the Champions League than the protracted toil of the second-tier competition. 

It was our twelfth match of a demanding continental run, and we needed extra-time, but we're now just three matches away from a first ever Europa League trophy. 

United last reached the last four of a major European tournament in 2011, when we knocked out Schalke en route to the Wembley final - and disappointment - against Barcelona.

Back then, if naysayers had told United fans that we'd have to wait six years to get there again - and that it wouldn't be in the Champions League - no one would have believed it.

Since, our European fortunes have ranged from the miserable failure to the non-existent, but - three managers on - there are finally signs of progress.

You have to be a decent side to make a semi final and after the bleak post-Ferguson era, it's a great feeling to be at the business end in Europe once more, no matter which competition it is. 

Since that 2010-11 campaign, our European record makes for grim reading as we failed to get out of an easy group the following season.

Defeat in the Europa League last 16 followed, before the disappointment of a controversial last-16 exit to Real Madrid in 2012/13 (Sir Alex's last season). 

During his ill-fated tenure, David Moyes failed miserably domestically but had a free shot at the Champions League and emerged with credit.

United were not expected to win it but Moyes took the team to the quarter finals where we bowed out in a valiant defeat to European superpower Bayern Munich.

As a result of our seventh placed finish that season, United would be without any European campaign at all in 2014/15.

Louis van Gaal was appointed as Moyes' successor and was given the remit of taking us back into the Champions League. 

He did so, but our interest in the tournament was ended by a crushing third-place and group stage exit in 2015-16.

Things got worse as Liverpool inflicted a painful 1-3 aggregate reverse to knock us of Europe in the last 16 on their way to the Europa League final. 

We went on to miss out on the Champions League for the second time in three seasons and LVG was sacked despite winning the FA Cup.

12 months on, we're back in the Europa League but this time we've a genuine chance of winning it and re-establishing ourselves as a European force once more.

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