MANCHESTER UNITED have two routes to next season’s Champions League even if they finish fifth in the Premier League.
Traditionally, the top-four are the only teams granted a route to Europe’s premier club competition but a workaround is possible for the Red Devils.
Currently five points behind Chelsea with seven games left to play, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team are fifth and edging Wolves on goal difference only.
Fans will be optimistic of closing the gap ahead of a favourable run-in.
Relegation-threatened Bournemouth, Aston Villa and West Ham are on the horizon along with mid-table Southampton and Crystal Palace.
But Chelsea are themselves in fine form having dispatched Manchester City on Thursday night, so what is on the table for United if fourth place isn’t?
EUR THE ONE
Since the 2014/15 season, the winner of the Europa League has been awarded with a place in the Champions League group stage.
Jose Mourinho’s United made use of the route when beating Ajax in the 2016/17 season and Sevilla had done the two previous years.
This time around, Solskjaer’s men have one foot in the quarter-finals having opened up a 5-0 lead over Austrian side LASK before the coronavirus shutdown.
Due to the pandemic, the final three rounds of the Europa League will take place in Germany and probably behind closed doors.
There will be fierce competition for the crown with a strong array of teams still involved.
Along with Wolves, Inter Milan, Roma, Sevilla, and Bayer Leverkusen will all fancy their chances at the trophy.
Alternatively, the fifth-placed team in the Premier League might qualify for the Champions League, regardless of their Europa League exploits.
Manchester City’s Financial Fair Play wrongdoing resulted in a two-year ban from all European competitions.
Denying all charges, the club have appealed the matter in an ongoing case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Having already had their attempt to throw out the case rejected, City are throwing considerable legal muscle at the problem.
A three-man CAS panel are expected to reach a verdict in the coming weeks, after the initial hearing was delayed because of the pandemic.
Should City fail in their appeal, or only have their ban reduced to one season, then the fifth-placed English side stands to benefit.
Of course, United are not the only team harbouring ambitions of taking up that option with Wolves breathing down their necks and a confident Tottenham four points back.