Friday’s Europa League draw showed just how far Manchester United have fallen, Arsenal legend Martin Keown believes.
Speaking to talkSPORT the former defender said ‘these are difficult times’ for the Premier League giants.
Having failed to qualify for Champions League football last season, the Red Devils were back in the group stage draw for Europe’s second tier competition for the first time since they lifted the trophy in 2017.
And Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were handed a relatively kind draw, as they face Astana of Kazakhstan, Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands in Group L.
Keown’s old club Arsenal were also in the draw too, of course – the Gunners are in Group F with German club Frankfurt, Belgian side Standard Liege and Portuguese outfit Vitoria – and the Premier League clubs are two of the big early favourites to be crowned champions.
Europa League group stage draw IN FULL
United are by far the biggest-spending club in the competition this season, although the departures of a number of players this summer, including Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan, may mean they could struggle to juggle both domestic and European competition.
And when reacting to the draw alongside talkSPORT host Jim White on Friday, former England defender Keown admitted it’s a sign of where United are.
“You have to take your medicine,” he said.
“United didn’t qualify for the Champions League and we know about the number of teams that are now in this Europa League.
“They’ve got to the get the job done in the early stages and one of the journeys is ridiculously long [it’s a nine-hour flight from Manchester to Astana], so it’s trying to balance all of that.
“These are difficult times for Manchester United.
“One win in the league eight Premier League games – can you believe that?
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under pressure there and we’re still early into the new season.
“By the time the Europa league comes round, let’s hope he’s still in a job. I assume he will be, but these are fences he’s got to clear to get through the early stages of this competition.”