Between them Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal lost a handful of games this April, prompting scoffed jokes that no team actually wants to secure a top four spot and all of the Champions League riches that come with it.
It does not simply come down to financial considerations though. These days, such is the gravitas of the tournament that missing out can be as devastating as it is rewarding to qualify for it and, of the three most in danger of finishing adrift (with Spurs surely now all but there), it is Manchester United who will suffer most should they fall short.
Football FanCast consider three potential consequences of United missing out on a top four finish…
“I am going to be successful here and there are players who won’t be part of that successful team”. So said a clearly wounded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the aftermath of United’s recent 4-0 hammering at the hands of Everton.
Contained within his squad are several players bought in desperation by the three failed managers who preceded him in the club’s post-Ferguson era. Replacing them with genuine quality will be an extortionately expensive rebuild.
Can this be done without the lure of Champions League football? Well, yes and no but neither are favourable outcomes. Primary targets such as Jadon Sancho will surely head elsewhere – if move at all – while United’s three previous summers minus Champions League have all demonstrated that elite players can still be bought but at vastly inflated prices.
This presents one hell of a conundrum. Do United really want players who are content to do without continental football for an extra £25,000-per-week over another interested party? Isn’t that partly how they got into this mess to begin with?
According to The Guardian there is little to no chance of the thirteen times Premier League winners retaining their brilliant stopper should they finish fifth or sixth next month and, given that David De Gea has won the club’s Player of the Year award an astonishing four times and has saved United’s hide on countless occasions, they simply cannot afford to lose his services.
Even considering his recent dip in form De Gea is fundamental to Solskjaer’s plans and seeking an alternative will only bring in someone inferior who will weaken an already suspect defence.
A broader reason but pertinent all the same. Manchester United derives so much of their revenue and position of power from their global appeal that it will certainly hurt to once again be relegated to the Europa shadows.
Put bluntly, the self-proclaimed biggest and most marketable club in the world needs to be in the biggest competition.