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Sir Alex Ferguson: Man United have a 'great incentive' to win Europa League

Sir Alex Ferguson says potential qualification for the Champions League provides a "great incentive" for Manchester United to focus on winning the Europa League this season.

United face a fight to finish in the top-four in the Premier League this season and ensure Champions League football for next season, but they can also qualify by winning the Europa League.

And speaking to ESPN FC ahead of the International Champions Cup schedule announcement, legendary United manager Ferguson said securing the Europa trophy for a first time would serve two purposes.

"The thing is, we've never won the Europa League," Ferguson said in New York on Tuesday. "We've never won UEFA Cup, what it used to be. And we've got a great draw. I'm not saying it's a certainty, but they've got a great chance.

"It gets you into the Champions League, too -- it didn't used to but it does now, and so that's a great incentive."

After getting past Saint-Etienne and Rostov in the knockout round, United are undoubtedly the biggest club left in the quarterfinals, where they will face Belgian club Anderlecht next month.

"And there's no Sevilla in it, so that's good," Ferguson said of the champions the past three seasons.

Juan Mata helped Manchester United move into the last eight of the Europa League.
Manchester United have reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League this season.

The Europa League may not have the prestige of the Champions League, but Ferguson said fans shouldn't see it as merely a consolation prize.

"If you win a trophy, it's important," he said. "It's a European trophy. It doesn't matter that it's not the Champions League -- it's still a European trophy. And if you win it, you get into the Champions League. The incentive is greater to do that.

"And your CV gets bigger. If we won the Europa League? Fantastic. Add it to the European Cup, the Cup Winners' Cup, the Champions League -- It's bigger and bigger. We also want to be the most successful club in England."

United are one of only two English clubs left in Europe along with Leicester in the Champions League after Manchester City and Arsenal crashed out this month.

Ferguson admitted the Thursday night fixtures have been challenging for United -- "It's hard. It's very, very hard," he said -- but he was optimistic that England wouldn't be down for long.

"I think success is cyclical. In the '70s, Ajax and Bayern Munich; '80s, Liverpool; '90s Italy, AC Milan," he said. "And then England had a great spell. ... We were in three finals in four years. Now, the dominance is in Spain. There's no question of that.

"The same question could be asked about why is Bayern Munich not winning the Champions League, why the Italians are not winning it, why the French don't win it. At the moment, the cycle is with the Spanish teams. And they're best, that's why they're winning it.

"But it can change. [Cristiano] Ronaldo is older, [Lionel] Messi is older --- can they replace those players? That will happen. And the cycle will change."

ESPN's Sam Borden contributed to this report.

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