Ex Man United midfielder explains why Europa League is key for Jose Mourinho

The Manchester United legend delivers his verdict on the Red Devils' top-four chances

Paul Ince has warned Jose Mourinho that the Europa League has become a vital competition for Manchester United this season.

The Red Devils booked their place in the Europa League knockout phase on Thursday night after a 2-0 win against Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk thanks to goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The 20-time English champions are well off the pace in the hunt for a top-four finish after three successive 1-1 stalemates in the Premier League with Arsenal, Everton and West Ham United.

The Red Devils are in sixth place in the table and nine points adrift of their bitter derby rivals Manchester City, who occupy the final Champions League spot.

Writing in his Paddy Power column, Ince explained why Manchester United need to take Europe’s second-tier competition seriously in pursuit of a place in the Champions League next term.

“A top four spot seems to be slipping further and further away as teams like Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal kick into another gear and United drop points,” Ince said.

“This makes the Europa League a crucial avenue to the Champions League next season. What is the Champions League without Manchester United in it? They have to be in it. They have to be playing against the best teams with the best players. The fans want it, the players want it and the club want it.”

MORE: The latest Man United news and views

MORE: The latest Man United player tweets

Manchester United finished in fifth place in the Premier League table and behind Manchester City under Louis van Gaal last term.

Sadio Mane
‘Really tough’: Sadio Mane makes admission to Liverpool FC fans
Thomas Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel admits Chelsea FC ‘worry’
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Alexandre Lacazette sends message to fans about key Arsenal star
Tottenham striker Harry Kane (Photo: Harry Kane / Instagram)
Ryan Mason issues Harry Kane update for Tottenham fans
Mikel Arteta
Arsenal in talks to sign Mat Ryan in permanent deal - report
Sadio Mane
‘Really tough’: Sadio Mane makes admission to Liverpool FC fans
Thomas Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel admits Chelsea FC ‘worry’
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Alexandre Lacazette sends message to fans about key Arsenal star
Tottenham striker Harry Kane (Photo: Harry Kane / Instagram)
Ryan Mason issues Harry Kane update for Tottenham fans
Mikel Arteta
Arsenal in talks to sign Mat Ryan in permanent deal - report
Top 50 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC and Man United stars feature
Top 50 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC and Man United stars feature