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Could UEFA’s new Champions League rule save Erik ten Hag and Manchester United’s season?

(L-R) Manchester United's Scottish midfielder #39 Scott McTominay, Manchester United's English defender #05 Harry Maguire, Manchester United's English striker #10 Marcus Rashford, Manchester United's French striker #09 Anthony Martial and Manchester United's Dutch midfielder #34 Donny van de Beek attend a training session at the Carrington Training Complex in Manchester, north-west England on November 7, 2023 on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group A football match away against FC Copenhagen. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Manchester United’s start to this season has been wholly disappointing. The media are speculating there’s a divide in United’s dressing room, and that Erik ten Hag faces a potential mutiny. 

A mounting injury list, some questionable managerial decisions and the ownership chaos have all destabilised a squad that showed so much promise last season. The 2-1 win over Chelsea has bought the manager some time, but a sizable portion of fans still aren’t convinced.

Pre-season odds of 12/1 to win the title look ridiculous now, but the season is not beyond salvaging. Just a single league place separates United from Spurs in fifth, a tiny gap considering the doom and gloom around the club. There’s still a strong chance they’ll be the first English team to benefit from UEFA’s updated Champions League format.

The top five in the Premier League could qualify for Europe’s biggest competition, depending on how English teams perform this season. Most still have United among the significant contenders to finish in the top four.

A top-five finish is still a realistic target for United. They sat seventh at this stage last season, three points off Champions League qualification and rallied to an impressive third-place finish. Emulating the robustness they showed at the backend of last season will be critical to an upturn in form.

The Premier League has produced outlandish results every week this year. Fulham grabbed a point against Arsenal at the Emirates, Wolves took all three points against Manchester City, and lowly Chelsea beat 9-man Spurs. This unpredictability gives more credence to United’s chances of making the top five. 

Aside from the disappointing game at Newcastle, United’s attack has looked decent in the last few games. The emergence of Alejandro Garnacho has helped United going forward, and Luke Shaw’s return from injury will improve them defensively. If ten Hag survives the current pressure, the return of players like Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez will improve the side in the long term. 

The January transfer window is an opportunity to reinforce the squad and should bring a conclusion to the long-running Jadon Sancho saga. The behaviour and treatment of Sancho has split fans, but the majority agree his future now lies away from Old Trafford. 

Even if the new look board decides to make a change at the managerial position, United will still be in a position to finish fifth. The potential additional qualifying spot for the Champions League should give United fans hope in a season filled with disappointment.

Selected Manchester United betting odds:

Man Utd to finish in the top 4 – 5/1

Man Utd to finish in the top 6 – 6/5

Man Utd to win the FA Cup – 9/1

Odds sourced by at 09:00 on 7th December and are subject to change.

Written by Editor

(Credit: Manchester United official site)

United’s home defeat to Bournemouth, despite recent awards, highlights ongoing struggles

Manchester United vs Bournemouth (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Erik ten Hag’s ‘not good enough’ comment could motivate Manchester United to step up following Bournemouth humiliation