The race for the title looks set to go down to the wire. An enthralling battle between Liverpool and Manchester City, to decide who lifts aloft the Premier League trophy come what May. But if your a Manchester United fan right now, securing Champions League football next season, is your priority.
Currently there are four teams vying for only two places. A chance to mix it again with Europe’s best, next season. Unfortunately not even Carol Vorderman can make these sums work. City and Liverpool, who clearly have bigger fish to fry, have already secured two of the spots, leaving United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, to scrap it out for the remaining places.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the managers job at United, albeit as a caretaker to begin with, United were lying in 6th place in the table and a largely disappointing eleven points behind the then fourth place bearers, Chelsea. An impressive run of form and in just a couple of months, United find themselves one point behind fourth place Chelsea and now only three behind third place Spurs.
Worryingly, the last couple of weeks have seen a dip in form. Two home wins against Watford and West Ham were the bread, with the defeat away at Wolves being the filling in what can be described as a poor form sandwich. The performances in all three of these games were well below the swashbuckling style that OGS had breathed into the team at the beginning of his reign.
United have just five more league games, including a home game against fellow top four hopefuls, Chelsea. A Manchester derby, also at Old Trafford, which could have a bearing on where the title may end up.
The old cliche ‘one game at a time’ , will really resonate now with both fans, staff and players. Keeping your own house in order and not relying on others to give you a leg up is far more important at this stage of the season.
Arsenal at present are irresistible at home, yet are not the same animal when playing away from the Emirates. Chelsea will rely heavily on the magic of Eden Hazard to fire them to Champions League qualification. Spurs, who at stages in the campaign, looked like they might mount a title challenge, will look for a collective effort from their players, with the news that captain and talisman Harry Kane, is to be sidelined for the rest of the season.
The prize for missing out on sitting at the top table of European football? Qualification alone is worth around £50million. Each victory in the group stage is around £2million per win. With money like this, its clear to see why clubs gamble big on trying to secure such riches.
When United signed their bumper deal with kit suppliers Adidas, in 2014, failure to reach the Champions League would impact their yearly payout. Reports in the media would state that if United were to not qualify for the Champions League, they would have their years sponsorship cut by as much as 30%. The financial implications would be huge for the club. Even with Ed Woodward pulling strings to bring in off the field deals all over the place, potential new signings and commercial opportunities are less likely to come to fruition.
Five more cup finals for United. Ole would ideally like a Champions League shaped carrot to tempt future signings with next season. United’s last adventure in the Europa League ended in triumph. The flip side of this was that league form was sketchy at best and a sixth place finish followed. Lets hope that when the final whistle blows at Old Trafford against soon to be relegated Cardiff, Ole and the boys have done enough to reach the bountiful buffet that is Champions League qualification.
Ole’s at the wheel!