Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea is desperate to win his second Europa League title but believes the competition is getting more difficult.
The Spaniard was part of the Atletico Madrid side that beat Fulham in Hamburg in the 2010 final and wants to do the same with the Red Devils, though admits the nature of United’s entry into the competition is making the prospect of triumph significantly tougher.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages and had to dispense with a Dutch giants Ajax, who were entered into Europe’s second tier competition similarly.
“I think this competition has become a second Champions League. There are great teams and strong rivals. It will be difficult to win it,” he said in the Manchester Evening News.
United welcome Athletic Bilbao to Old Trafford for the first leg of their last-16 tie this Thursday and the 21-year-old insisted they must concentrate of winning this competition, while also admitting they should not be there in the first place.
“Yes, we were eliminated by Basel in the Champions League, but they are tough, as demonstrated by them winning against Bayern in the first leg of the last 16,” he added.
“But there are no excuses. United had to be in the next phase and we could not get it. Now we must focus on this title.”
United will be hoping there is no repeat of their last appearance in the Europa League at Old Trafford, when they lost 2-1 to Ajax but still went through due to winning the away leg 2-0.