With our Europa League future firmly in the balance due to a combination of poor decision by officials and some wasteful finishing from United, we now know we have to go to Ukraine and secure at least a score draw if we are to progress to the Round of 16.
The problem is, just three days later we face Southampton in a “must win” game at St James’ Park. It’s must win because we still have Premier League safety to consider and a quick look at the table will show you that a win against the Saints will lift us further away from the relegation spaces, and with league games running out that has to be the priority.
So as you can see, it’s a fine balancing act. We named a strong side last Thursday which wasn’t able to break down Metalist Kharkiv, but we only really named a strong side because we didn’t have a league or FA Cup game this weekend in my opinion. Next weekend it’s different, we do have a game, so where is the priority now?
There are, or were, plenty of people calling for a strong side to be named last Thursday. They got their wish but it wasn’t enough to get a result which allowed us to rest some of those players and protect them from making a round trip of over 3,000 miles this Thursday. To go through we’re going to need another strong side, or to name a weakened side with the league game in mind and hope for the best.
For me it should be the second option. Our second string isn’t as weak as it once was thanks to the additions made in January so all is not lost and they can still get a result in Kharkiv. It will be tough, but it was going to be tough anyway. The chance we had to go through was missed last week when we failed to build up a lead to take to Ukraine so for me this competition is done and dusted and if we manage to get through it’s a bonus.
I just can’t put to the back of my mind the importance of the game against Southampton and that is my priority right now. We need to make sure as many of our first-team are fit and raring to go against the Saints as a negative result would be dire for us.
I do understand that this is a chance at trying to win a trophy, but I’ve personally waited 30 years and some of you old buggers have been waiting longer than that. I think I can wait another year before trying for one, but as for relegation I’m not so sure I’d enjoy going through that again.
But, as the title says, you’re the boss so what would you do?