United Without Champions League Football
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United Without Champions League Football

It has been a miserable season for Manchester United. They are out of the Champions League, both domestic cups, and sit sixth in the Premier League – four points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, having played a game more. Though qualification for Europe’s elite club competition is not yet mathematically impossible, the absence of Champions League football next season is becoming increasingly likely for the Red Devils. When they signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho last summer, this is not the outcome they envisaged.


Impact If They Fail To Qualify

Should United fail to finish in the top four, they must be prepared for the effect that will have on their 2022-23 campaign.

The Red Devils’ global reputation and financial resources mean that a single season away from the Champions League is unlikely to have a significant impact on their recruitment strategy – particularly in the pursuit of a permanent manager to replace interim head coach Ralf Rangnick.

However, those already at the club – for whom the charms of simply being a United player may have worn off – may be more likely to consider their futures. Especially those whose contracts are expiring.

Former Liverpool Duo Bringing Success To Villa

Former Liverpool Duo Bringing Success To Villa

Players Most Likely To Leave

Jesse Lingard, Edinson Cavani, Juan Mata and Lee Grant are all expected to be allowed to leave on free transfers when their terms run out this summer. But Paul Pogba’s future remains up in the air – as it has been for some time.

The 29-year-old is unlikely to view the failure to secure Champions League football favourably as he assesses his options, and the situation may persuade the Frenchman to move on.

Speaking recently, he said: “You have to be honest, these last five seasons have not satisfied me – really not at all. 

“This year is dead, we won't win anything. Whether it's with Manchester United or another club, I want to win trophies.”

There are also a plethora of players with deals that run until the summer of 2023 – including Ronaldo.He is the Champions League’s all-time leading scorer with 140 goals. But with eternal rival Lionel Messi only 15 strikes behind in second place and two years younger, the Portuguese knows he must continue to extend his record every season if he is to retain that spot.

David de Gea, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford are also among those with less than two years remaining on their contracts, although options for a further year are present within those deals.

Still, the trio – among others – are at a crunch point in deciding their long-term futures. They could choose to force a move by refusing to pen fresh terms, even if those one-year extension options are triggered.

Approach For Next Season

Whoever United’s permanent manager ends up being will also have to decide the club’s approach to next season. 

Do the Red Devils ignore whichever lesser European competition they are in and focus solely on securing a top-four finish in the Premier League?

Or – should they qualify for the Europa League – do they take that tournament seriously in the hope of returning to the Champions League by winning it? Jose Mourinho took that approach but it did him few favours in the long run.

The latter option may be an attractive prospect, given they have not won silverware since the 2016-17 campaign under the Special One. But potentially sacrificing league performance is a risky game to play.

Perhaps, with the right depth, United can challenge on both fronts. But the uncertainty around so many players’ futures will make squad planning a convoluted process.

Whichever way you look at it, failure to secure Champions League football is a step in the wrong direction for a club looking to return to the lofty peaks they once scaled.

How United navigate next season will be significant in determining how long it takes them to become truly competitive at the very top level once again.






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V: 1.38.0 All rights reserved. August 2021