Sir Alex Ferguson’s side endured a torrid campaign in Europe’s premier competition, failing to beat Basel and Benfica in the group stage, with a 3-1 loss to the Swiss outfit demoting the 19-time English champions to the Europa League.
United were handed a relatively straightforward group in the Monaco draw last Thursday and will face Portuguese outfit Braga, Galatasaray, and Cluj for a place in this season’s last 16.
“Europe’s always big at this football club,” United’s assistant boss told the club’s website. “The traditions are set within the European boundaries for Manchester United and we know we have to do better.
“We let Europe slip from our grasp too easily last year. The players are conscious and aware of that, although we haven’t dwelled on it as that wouldn’t be positive. We’ve put it down as a blip, but we know we have to do better.”
Phelan also warned that there are no easy matches in the Premier League and United cannot win the league by “grinding out” narrow victories, with the Red Devils assistant manager placing huge importance on their defence after Ferguson’s side conceded five goals in their opening three games.
“You learn it’s a team game, even though individuals change matches,” added Phelan. “Everybody has to be fully focused for the entire match – from first to last whistle.
“I think we also know that we need to score plenty of goals. The old days of being able to win the league by grinding out 1-0 victories is gone.
“In this league now, every goal counts so we want to create more chances and score more goals. We also have to defend well as a unit. All those elements are very important.”
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