Manchester United’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League could be decided by one single match that does not even involve them, according to plans being discussed by Premier League executives.
In an article published in The Times, it is claimed that options are being discussed for completing the Premier League season by July 16th, which is the cut-off date for fulfilment of broadcasting contracts.
And with expectations rising that the season will not be able to safely resume until June, even behind closed doors, one option being discussed is curtailment of the Premier League season from 38 to 29 games.
In this scenario, as most teams including United have already completed 29 games, there would just be two games left to play: Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal – those postponed previously due to the Carabao Cup final.
And it is the Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United game that is of huge significance to the Red Devils.
Currently, United are lying in fifth place in the League which, if Manchester City’s UEFA ban is upheld, would mean they qualify for next season’s Champions League.
However, if Sheffield United were to win the game at Villa Park, it would put the Blades on 46 points, one ahead of the Red Devils, and they would clinch that final top tier spot.
If the match was drawn or Villa were to win, United would qualify.
The scenario could see United’s loanee goalkeeper Dean Henderson playing a huge part in the club’s future. If Henderson were to help secure a victory for the Blades he would be condemning his home club side to Europa League football again next season.
A win for Villa would see them escape relegation and Watford would go down instead along with Bournemouth and Norwich, with West Ham escaping on goal difference.
The plan would also see José Mourinho’s Spurs missing out on European football altogether next term, as they are currently in eighth place. However, Arsenal could still qualify for the Europa League as a win against their 29th game against Manchester City would see them climb above Wolves on goal difference and possibly also Sheffield United, depending on the outcome of that Aston Villa match.
The option is possibly a last resort scenario as most clubs believe it would be fairer than voiding the season altogether. Other plans being discussed involve waiving restrictions on squad sizes (currently 25 plus unlimited youth players) to allow sides to play up to three games in a week over a six-week period.
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