Fixture congestion is a problem facing every football club in the Premier League. That’s why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s take on one-legged Europa League ties doesn’t surprise us one bit.
The Norwegian may have reacted differently has this been a Champions League clash – but that’s irrelevant.
Our away clash against La Liga side Real Sociedad had to be moved to Italy due to COVID-19. That’s not a sentence I expected to write a year ago, with Italy hit badly by the pandemic when it first reached Europe.
Solskjaer has called for the Europa League knockout rounds to be played over one leg after United’s game versus La Real was moved to Turin.
Sociedad’s director of football Roberto Olabe wasn’t happy over the ruling which saw the Spanish side have to find an alternative venue for next Thursday’s game, claiming United had an unfair advantage (via Manchester Evening News).
The United manager agreed, adding that he would have backed it being a one-legged occasion. I wonder if the powers at UEFA regret not changing the competition in hindsight.
Solskjaer told reporters, as per Daily Mail: “With Europe, we hope it’s going to be sustainable. Different governments and the travel in Europe is difficult. It’s not a decision we made but when one game is in a neutral venue, it’s a disadvantage to the team that doesn’t have the home game. That’s out of our hands. We can’t say we’d go to Turin and play one game. I wouldn’t mind that at all, it would be one game less.
“That’s what we did last season, we met somewhere neutral and made it a tournament. Of course, home and away – if we keep that going – we do have a little advantage and a disadvantage for Sociedad to have their home game in Turin. For me, I wouldn’t stand in the way.”
A statement from UEFA read: “UEFA would like to thank Real Sociedad and Manchester United for their close cooperation and assistance in finding a solution to the issue at hand, as well as the Italian Football Federation and Juventus for their support and agreeing to host the match in question.”
Despite UEFA’s statement, La Real’s director of football doesn’t sound like someone who was heard given he hit out at the decision afterwards.