A technicality could deny Manchester United Champions League football next season, even if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side finishes fourth.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham could have the deciding the say on Manchester United’s Champions League credentials if a series of conditions align. Spurs were the last team to finish fourth and be denied Champions League football and a cruel twist of fate could see them inflict the same fortune on United.
Harry Redknapp's Tottenham missed out on the Champions League in the 14/15 season because Chelsea won the Europa League and thereby took the fourth spot in the competition. UEFA has since amended the rules so that a country can now have five representatives in the competition in case of similar circumstances.
According to the Sun, English clubs’ performances in Europe mean a new obstruction could still present itself however. Tottenham looked certain to secure third and were even considered title contenders this season but a recent wobble has seen that place come under threat.
Fierce rivals Arsenal have closed the gap to just four points ahead of the North London Derby on Saturday afternoon. Victory for the Gunners would put Tottenham under serious threat of dropping to fourth, with Solskjaer’s resilient Red Devils also breathing down their neck.
If each of those clubs continues their current form, Spurs could be leapfrogged by both Arsenal and Manchester United in the final 10 games. That would mean Arsenal join title contenders Liverpool and Manchester City in the guaranteed Champions League spots next season.
Chelsea and Tottenham would be the two clubs to miss out, both of whom are still in their respective European competitions. Chelsea will fancy their chances of lifting another Europa League title as one of the strongest sides in the competition.
Spurs also have a phenomenal squad and have been a real force in the Champions League this season. If League form continues to slip, Pochettino could prioritise the competition and target and unlikely European title to silence his critics.
Should Tottenham and Chelsea both lift their respective titles they would each earn a spot in the Champions League next season, filling the new fifth place. Manchester United would have the least claim for a spot from fourth place and would be denied access to the competition.
It would be a bizarre and unlikely series of events but UEFA legislation does mean at this moment in time, it’s too soon to assume that fiercely contested fourth spot will bring Champions League football next season.