Manchester City have been banned from all UEFA competitions for two years due to a breach of Financial Fair Play rules. Apart from giving us all a reason to have a good laugh at our neighbours’ expense, what, if anything, does it mean for Man United?
Potentially, it could affect the Red Devils in a number of ways, some of which could represent good news, and others that might turn out to be more complicated.
The most obvious effect City’s ban will have on the Reds is that assuming that the Citizens finish in the top four of the Premier League, their Champions League qualifying place will be forfeited and so whichever team is in fifth position will get that coveted spot in Europe’s elite competition.
At present, six points separate six teams – Chelsea, Sheffield United, Spurs, Wolves, Everton and United – battling for fourth place. With the Red Devils currently holding the lowest points tally of those involved, climbing to fourth is looking like a tall order. But if fifth now qualifies, the task suddenly becomes a whole lot easier, especially with a game in hand over three of those other contenders and six pointers against four of them to come.
If the Red Devils were to qualify for the Champions League group stages, they would instantly become a lot richer – potentially by some £50- £100 million (based on figures quoted by Planetfootball). This would of course swell the transfer kitty considerably and could be worth one or two extra world class signings in the summer.
Old Trafford will also become much more attractive to potential transfer targets, as most top stars want to be able to play on the world’s top club stage. And conversely, the Etihad will lose some appeal – which would tilt the balance toward United in negotiations with players that both clubs are competing to sign.
Then there is the Pep Guardiola issue. Already the subject of a great deal of speculation about his future, will he want to stay at a club with no chance of competing for the world’s most coveted prize? Bayern Munich and Barcelona will be queueing up to take him back and Juventus may come calling after a disappointing season under Maurizio Sarri.
The important question for United then comes, if Pep does leave, who will replace him at the Etihad? The favourite to take over from Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, is also favourite to take over at Old Trafford should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer be sacked.
Pochettino to City would leave United without an obvious successor to the Norwegian.
Another possibility – although it is perhaps a bit of a stretch – is that current City players might decide to look for pastures new so that they can play in the Champions League. With David Silva, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho now all within 16 months of contract expiry and players like Kevin de Bruyne facing the prospect of being 30 years old before they can play in Europe again, there could be unrest and the possibility of one or two making the move across the city if the deal was right.
Of course, it’s all ifs, ands, buts and maybes. City’s appeal against the ban with the Court of Arbitration for Sport might be upheld and it might all go back to business as normal. United might not make fifth place anyway, or indeed might finish fourth and not need City’s exclusion to help them into the Champions League. Pep might stay at the Etihad come what may, and Solskjaer might keep his job at Old Trafford on his own merit.
It is fair to say though that whatever happens, the ban has certainly put the cat among the pigeons on both sides of Manchester.
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