Manchester United v Liverpool: How will rivals handle European role reversal?

Old Trafford can cope with a season outside the Champions League but fourth spot could leave Rodgers facing a gamble

Football Correspondent

Liverpool stand 24 hours away from the game that gives them potential payback for all those years of Sir Alex Ferguson making it “a deadly serious ambition… some people would say too serious”, as he once put it, to grind them into the dust.

A win at Old Trafford – which the bookmakers rate at around 2-1 – would see Brendan Rodgers’ second-placed side climb 14 points ahead of Manchester United in the Premier League, and effectively dump them out of next season’s Champions League, needing to win this year’s trophy to retain their place in the competition.

There will be satisfaction for Liverpool, having not made it back to the elite tournament since the desultory 2-1 defeat at home to Fiorentina in December 2009 knocked them out at that season’s group stage. Yet even if United do find themselves in the “ugly kid brother” of the Champions League, as Steven Gerrard once described the Europa League, Liverpool will be confronted by the more difficult strategic spending decisions this summer – especially if they end up in fourth spot in the Premier League.

The team who make the August Champions League play-off face a game of poker – working with Champions League and Europa League revenue scenarios but knowing that they risk being dropped into the junior competition from which Chelsea earned only £10.7m by winning last season’s version. “The toughest part of all is to plan around this play-off outcome, with that risk of not making it to the group stage,” said Esteve Calzada, the former Barcelona chief marketing officer and football finance analyst.

Manchester United can sign players such as Toni Kroos because they are attracted by the name Manchester United can sign players such as Toni Kroos because they are attracted by the name (Getty Images)
United will also wait and watch to see how boldly Liverpool respond to a return to the Champions League. They are planning a substantial summer overhaul of their own – a “retooling” in the new Old Trafford vernacular – but there is a view within some boardrooms that Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owners, may wait until the club are regular competitors in the elite competition before splashing out heavily.

Liverpool may have viewed their displacement of Arsenal from the Champions League as a better outcome than United dropping out – because the north London club are less inclined to spend heavily to win that place straight back.

United, who are ready to shell out £150m, have gleaned little evidence from their initial summer transfer market work that being consigned to the Europa League will force them to pay out more in wages to entice players. They believe players like Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos and Porto’s French centre-half Eliaquim Mangala  are more interested in the name of a club than participation in that competition.

“I honestly don’t think this affects strong and consolidated global clubs such as Manchester United because players know that lack of participation is sporadic and an accident,” Calzada said. “Wages and chances to play are still the key drivers on players’ club choices and I don’t think lack of participation in the Champions League in one specific year would result in significantly lower salaries at a club such as United. However, it does affect a club like Liverpool, given their repeated absence from the Champions League.”

Clubs offset absence from the elite competition against substantially reduced player bonuses – a consequence of their absence. Perverse though it may sound, executives like Calzada point out that losing in the semi-finals can be great for the profit-and-loss account, in the short term.

“At Barcelona, winning it became worse financially than making it to the semi-finals or losing in the final, because the overall income is the same but you save all the player bonuses,” he said. “Barcelona did very well from their two consecutive semi-final exits in 2012 and last year.”

Calzada, who manages the personal image rights of John Terry and the majority of Manchester City players and is author of the football finance book Show Me The Money, said that a Europa League presence can create a “lack of momentum” in new sponsorship deals or renewals, but the only impact on existing United deals would be the loss of cashing-in bonuses – which United will accrue from sponsors by winning the Champions League.

“Executives will be able to explain the situation as an accident, given the strength of the brand,” he said – bearing out the pitch that Wayne Rooney has heard during his recent contract negotiations. “It is easy for marketers to prove the absence as an accident when we talk about giant clubs, unlike the Rosenborgs or Basels,” Calzada said.

It is not a case that United will be able to make if they remain on the fringes this time next year. That is why David Moyes’ continuation at United beyond the summer is not guaranteed and why the club’s board are looking for a clearer picture this weekend of what the future under him might look like.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas