With Manchester United gaining a place in the Champion’s League quarter finals Wednesday night, manager David Moyes has (if you believe the chatter on the interweb) gained a reprieve of being presented with his P45. To be honest, I think the majority of Fleet Street vultures had already began to circle over Old Trafford, with his obituary already written and were just waiting for one of the club officials to fire the gun. Instead, (and to be honest I didn’t expect it either) United pull off another hard-fought and quite deserved comeback. How come they can perform only when their backs are firmly against the wall, is something that must puzzle not just Moyes himself but every single United supporter out there. Still, they are still in the ‘hat’ and out of the potential other seven clubs they could be drawn against, it’s not going to be easy – infact, I can’t see a team they will actually want. Real Madrid – United will get pasted. Bayern Munich – United will get pasted. Borussia Dortmund – United might find tricky, but too much to handle. Chelsea – United will get pasted. Athletico Madrid and Paris St Germaine – Same as Dortmund. Barcelona – Oh, please.
However, on league form alone it appears as though United might even miss out on the extra Europa League spot (sixth place) caused by their neighbours Manchester City winning the League Cup, who will also qualify for next season’s Champion’s League. United may well have to win the Champion’s League in order to gain European football next campaign. Now this generates a very interesting hypothesis, of which not everybody will be aware. If you recall back to 2005, when Liverpool came back from the dead in the Champion’s League final against AC Milan, and snatched the trophy off the Italians on penalties, there was some trouble over their participation in the following season’s competition.
Liverpool finished in the Premier League outside the top four, thus had not qualified through their league position, but as holders of the trophy UEFA rightfully so wanted them to defend their title. How could they get them into the competition? Answer – For the first time ever, the holders of the European Cup had to enter the tournament at the first qualifying round in mid-July, along with the champions of the smaller countries (some of which only played Association Football on a part-time basis). Liverpool began the defence of the premier football competition throughout Europe playing Welsh League champions The New Saints from Llansantffraid and Oswestry. UEFA decreed if same should happen again in any country – not just England – a Champion’s League place would be taken off the lowest league finisher who qualified for Champion’s League (fourth place in England’s case), and given to the holder of the trophy who finished lower down the league. So far, so good.
The interesting situation this could cause, is if Manchester United win the Champion’s League this year (despite my predictions I’ll be very surprised if they do, but what do I know? I support Coventry after all), and only manage to finish seventh in the Premier League, not only will Moyes be seen as success and his ‘indifferent’ first season in the league and domestic cups be forgiven by the Old Trafford faithful, but Arsenal – or Manchester City if they have a slump in form – will lose their Champion’s League qualification place and be dumped into the Europa League instead. I bet the glint that has suddenly appeared in the eye of all United followers is now just as bright as when they completed the treble in 1999. Being able to deprive Arsenal of Champion’s League is one thing (the end to Wenger’s record of thirteen consecutive years qualification), but to get one over their neighbours when the tide appears to be well and truly shifting in their favour is another.
This season is ending with more twists and turns than a back road over the Yorkshire Dales!!