Manchester United qualify for Champions League... but finishing fourth and not third isn't ideal

Liverpool's result means Manchester United are certain of a top four finish

Simon Rice@simonrice
Monday 11 May 2015 09:46
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Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal

Liverpool's failure to beat Chelsea means Manchester United have practically qualified for the Champions League. Only two defeats for United, two wins for Liverpool and a 14-goal swing in goal difference could see them swap places.

Manchester United will be delighted to have returned to Europe's elite competition after their failure to do so last season, however if they finish the season in fourth it is not totally ideal.

The sides finishing in the top three positions - set to be Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City unless Manchester United can catch them with some unlikely results - go straight into the group stage of the Champions League.

The side finishing in fourth enters the Champions League play-off stage, something that causes uncertainty and has the potential to prove an obstacle when signing players.

Whoever Manchester United play in the play-off, they will likely be confident of beating them over the two legs. However, their opponents could be of a decent calibre. At the start of this season Arsenal played Turkish side Besiktas. Among the other sides in the play-offs at the start of the current campaign were Standard Liege, Zenit St Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Porto, Celtic and Napoli.

The draw to determine who will play who will be made on 7 August.

Arsenal came through their play-off with Besiktas 1-0 on aggregate with Alexis Sanchez scoring the only goal of the tie

As well as a potentially tricky tie blocking their path to the Champions League group stage, clubs heading into the play-offs can find the uncertainty of whether they will be in Europe's elite competition or not proving problematic when signing players. The inability to guarantee Champions League football could be a stumbling block when competing for summer recruits.

The play-off ties will be played on 18–19 August and 25–26 August, meaning Manchester United won't be sure of a place in the Champions League until just a couple of days before the summer transfer window closes.

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