It still may be regarded as Europe’s sister competition, however we can all agree that no one should take the UEFA Europa League lightly anymore.
After a nervy semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo, Manchester United produced a professional display on Wednesday to beat the youthful Dutch giants Ajax 2-0 and win the 2016-17 tournament.
It gives Jose Mourinho’s side the prestige of winning a European trophy, but it also propels them straight into the Champions League group stage for next season, bypassing the qualification rounds.
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Following United’s triumph in Stockholm, we’ve decided to take a look at how the last eight previous Europa League winners have fared the following year in European competition.
Back when winning the UEFA Cup (Europa League) didn't give you Champions League football, Shakhtar Donetsk beat Werder Bremen 2-1 in the 2009 final.
Having won their fifth Ukrainian Premier League, they entered the Champions League but didn't even make it past the third qualifying round, dropping instead back into the Europa League, where they were eliminated by Fulham in the Round of 32.
A brace from Diego Forlan inspired Atletico Madrid to a 2-1 win over Fulham in the 2010 final, and their seventh-place La Liga finish gave them a chance to defend the trophy in 2010-11.
However, Atleti disappointingly finished third in their Europa League group behind German outfit Bayer Leverkusen and Greek side Aris.
Radamel Falcao (who else?) gave Porto a 1-0 win against fellow Portuguese side Braga in the 2011 Europa League final and they earned the right to play in the following Champions League.
However, Porto were knocked out at the group stage after finishing behind APOEL and Zenit St Petersburg, and, having consequently dropped into the Europa League, only reached the Round of 32.
Atletico were winners again in 2012, this time over Ander Herrera's Athletic Bilbao, thanks to a goal from Diego and a brace from new signing Falcao.
Diego Simeone's men won the Super Cup for the second time in three years, however they went out of the Europa League as defending champions in the Round of 32.
Man of the Match Branislav Ivanovic scored a 93rd minute winner as Chelsea beat Benfica 2-1 in the 2013 Europa League final.
The following season, the Blues did very well in the Champions League, topping their group and getting past the likes of Galatasaray and Paris Saint-Germain in the knockout rounds.
However, their journey ended at the semi-final stage, losing 3-1 to Atletico at Stamford Bridge after a 0-0 draw in the first leg, with Diego Costa scoring for the Spanish side.
Sevilla’s incredible monopolistic dominance of the Europa League saw them beat Benfica, Dnipro and Liverpool respectively in finals to win the competition three years in a row between 2014 and 2016.
After their 2014 triumph, they won the competition again in 2015, with Grzegorz Krychowiak and a Carlos Bacca brace firing them to a 3-2 win in Warsaw.
Having successfully defended the trophy, Sevilla tried to step up to Champions League level, but they finished third in their group behind Manchester City and Juventus.
This meant that they dropped back into the Europa League, and they won it once more by recovering from Daniel Sturridge's stunning opener to beat Liverpool 3-1 in Basel.
This season, new manager Jorge Sampaoli got Sevilla out of the group stages behind Juve, but they were knocked out in the last 16 by Leicester City.
The Foxes were in complete disarray, with title-winning boss Claudio Ranieri in charge for the 2-1 first leg defeat and Craig Shakespeare at the helm for the second, where goals from Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton put the then-English champions through.
Man United's squad is a lot stronger than most the previous Europa League winners, but this is certainly something for Mourinho's men to think about, as they look to reassert their power on both a domestic and continental front.
How well do YOU think Man Utd will do in the Champions League next season? Leave YOUR opinion in the comments box below!
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