Manchester United’s chances of making the top four look slim and for anyone hoping there might be a back door into the Champions League, the following doesn’t make pleasant reading…
We all know that the top four sides in the Premier League automatically qualify for the Champions League while the team finishing fifth, the FA Cup winners and the Carabao Cup winners all bag a Europa League place.
However, things become complicated when the FA Cup and/or Carabao Cup winners qualify for Europe through the league and as Manchester City have won the League Cup, this means sixth place in the Premier League also gets a Europa League spot.
But things are confused even more when the Champions League and Europa League winners get into the following season’s Champions League group stages, so at Red Army Bet we’ve tried to look at every possible outcome to see just who can qualify for European football next season and unfortunately, whichever way you look at it, it doesn’t look good for United fans.
What happens if Watford win the FA Cup?
Put simply, the only way Watford will grab a Europa League spot is if they beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley, but if they lose they won’t get a spot even though City have already qualified by winning the League Cup.
That’s because, if Pep Guardiola’s men lift the FA Cup then the Europa League will go to the team who finishes seventh in the Premier League due to a change in the rules which no longer offers losing finalists the consolation of a place in Europe the following season – this is despite the fact that Hull City and Stoke City both earned European places having lost in the FA Cup final but a change in 2015 now means you have to win the trophy to qualify.
If Watford do win the FA Cup, then whoever finishes sixth in the Premier League will have to enter the Europa League qualifiers on 25 July meaning it could be a busy summer for either Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United who are due to tour the US in the pre-season.
What about if Spurs or Liverpool win the Champions League?
The common misconception is that if Liverpool or Spurs win the Champions League then their top-four qualification spot (assuming Tottenham make it) will drop down to the fifth-placed side in the Premier League, but that is not the case, so United fans shouldn’t get too excited.
That’s because only four English teams go into next season’s Champions League and if an English side wins it then the extra group stage spot would go to the Austrian champions, who otherwise need to go through qualifying as UEFA’s 11th-ranked league.
UEFA changed the rules for qualification last year – starting with this season’s tournaments – so the one way five English teams could qualify for next season’s Champions League is if Spurs win the final in Madrid and finish outside the top-four, something which looks unlikely right now.
What happens if an English team wins the Europa League?
The only other way England will have five participants in next season’s Champions League is if a Premier League side wins the Europa League but ends the season outside of the top four and with Chelsea and Arsenal both into the semi-final this could very much be a possibility.
However, should Chelsea or Arsenal win the Europa League and finish in the top four, then England will not get an extra spot as the team who finish third in the French League – UEFA’s fifth ranked league – will go into the Champions League group stages rather than the qualifiers.
What if it’s a double for the English sides in Europe?
For English football the prospect of a Premier League team winning both the Champions League and Europa League is a pretty exciting one, though in terms of European qualification it could cause something of a headache.
That’s because there can only be a maximum of five teams from one country in the Champions League so if English teams were to win both tournaments and neither finishes in the top four (impossible for Liverpool), the Premier League’s fourth-placed team would drop into the Europa League instead.
This could spell bad news for United (if they somehow managed to finish fourth), though is highly unlikely as, effectively, Tottenham would have to win the Champions League but finish below United in fifth and even the most optimistic Red would struggle to see that happening.
If this was to actually happen then there would only be two Europa League places available, one for the team who finish fourth in the Premier League and the other for the side who wins the FA Cup – unless, of course, Manchester City beat Waftord at Wembley and then the seventh placed side in the Premier League would grab that spot – got it?
But what it does mean is there is no possibility of Manchester United being offered a back-door into the Champions League whoever wins the trophy on June 1st, so at least Reds fans won’t be faced with the prospect of wanting Liverpool or City to win the final in Madrid!
*Odds subject to change