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Europa League? You’re having a laugh

Manchester-United-v-Real-Sociedad-2485304Imagine dining for almost two decades in a fine dining restaurant, one where at times you can only afford a three course meal but occasionally you can treat yourself to an all-you-can-eat buffet. There are, of course, things you don’t particularly like about the establishment or the clientele, but the highs heavily outnumber the lows and you keep forking out your money, safe in the knowledge that it’ll be almost surely worth it.

Now imagine that said restaurant will shut within three months, its reputation totally tarnished from the events that have unfolded in the last six months, and that it will be replaced by a mediocre chain restaurant, better than a fast food, but a world away from the quality you were used to.

Finally, imagine being asked by the owner of the new restaurant the same prices you paid in the previous place, expect that where once you could choose between fresh fish and a rib-eye steak now you can only treat yourself to mac and cheese and some microwaved pies.

Having contemplated the thought of dining on microwaved pies for the rest of your life, you’re probably thinking that no such owners exist or, if they do, they wouldn’t be allowed to getting away with murder. Unfortunately, however, as far as Manchester United are concerned the answers are yes and yes.

With United set to miss out on Champions League football for the first time in 19 years, the club has announced they will include tickets for Europa League games next season – providing that United do reach at least that competition – in the automatic cup scheme, which means we’ll be paying the same for watching United vs Dinamo Tbilisi than we would have done had the Reds faced Real Madrid.

Two seasons ago, when United were dumped out of the Champions League, tickets for home games against Ajax and Athletic Bilbao were excluded from season ticket prices and many had hoped the club would follow the same policy ahead of next season, but instead Malcolm & Sons have reportedly decided to charge fans £50 for the privilege of watching a competition nobody apart from Rafa Benitez and Andre Villas Boas cares about.

As the Glazers know all too well, season ticket holders would be likely to buy tickets for Europa League games even if they were not included in the automatic cup scheme, or else they’d run the risk of receiving a lower priority for away games and – even though the thought seems almost unfathomable under David Moyes – semifinals and finals.

United are 11 points adrift of fourth place, they’ve been ruthlessly exposed and embarrassed this season and while a couple of barren seasons could be a blessing in disguise if the club had a plan for the future, the dross we’ve been served for the last six months casts a gloomy shadow over the future and definitely doesn’t make spending £50 to watch United against a Romanian, Belarusian or Cyprian side look like a reasonable idea.

Many Reds have been outraged by the decision and could understandably consider whether to renew their seasons tickets or not, particularly given that despite the club’s incessant PR campaign, demand for season tickets has dropped over the years and while once fans had to join a waiting list, the club now tries to flog season tickets up until October.

But then again, having agreed to shell out £300,000-a-week on wages, the Glazers must recoup part of the expenses. After all it’s not like they syphoned £600m out of the club, is it?