Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has stressed that his side must not take their eye off the Premier League now that a Europa League final is just 90 minutes away.
Speaking at last night’s press conference ahead of Sunday’s tie with Liverpool, the boss made it clear that despite having a healthy twelve point lead over fifth-placed West Ham with only five games left to play, circumstances could arise that could still put Champions League qualification in jeopardy.
‘Sometimes top four is not even secure,’ Solskjaer noted.
‘Arsenal and Chelsea could still win their respective tournaments and not be top four [in which case fourth would drop into the Europa League], so we have just got to do our job and get into the Champions League ourselves.’
The scenario Solskjaer is describing is if Arsenal win the Europa League and Chelsea win the Champions League, but finish outside of the top four of the Premier League. As a maximum of five teams can qualify for the UCL and the previous winners of both tournaments qualify automatically, it would mean that whoever finishes in fourth place in the Premier League would drop down to the Europa.
However, that still would leave United needing only one more win to secure third place, all but mathematically.
A win against Liverpool would not only achieve that, but it would also ensure United finish ahead of their old rivals for the first time since 2017/18 and put a massive dent in the visitors’ own hopes of Champions League qualification.
‘A win over Jurgen Klopp’s side – or even a draw – would also mean the Merseysiders mathematically cannot finish above us this season, which hasn’t happened since 2017/18.
However, Ole isn’t concerning himself with that particular fact, or with putting a dent in Liverpool’s hopes of gaining a Champions League place. It could potentially leave them seven points adrift of fourth with only four games left.
But Solskjaer did not seem concerned about that aspect.
‘We go out there, we are just thinking about winning ourselves. What that does to Liverpool can’t be of our concern,’ the boss said.
‘Throughout the season you have games you look forward to and this Liverpool game is one of the biggest of the season. It doesn’t matter if we are first or second, third or fourth. No matter, this is a massive, massive game.’