Can Manchester United qualify for Champions League after finishing 6th? Exploring the possibility

Man United can potentially play Champions League football next season without a top-four finish

It’s been a mixed bag of a season for Manchester United this time around.

Currently lying sixth in the Premier League table, the Red Devils are 11 points off the fourth spot.

Gate-crashing into the top four come the end of the season looks nigh on impossible for United as things stand. However, there is a possibility they may get to play Champions League football next season despite failing to make the top four.

No points to lose, as Erik ten Hag and Co prepare for their final seven Premier League games. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
No points to lose, as Erik ten Hag and Co prepare for their final seven Premier League games. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

As presented by GiveMeSport, a UEFA rule change ahead of the governing body’s revamp of its European competitions next season is going to award the top two European leagues with the best UEFA coefficient an additional Champions League spot, meaning those two leagues’ respective fifth-placed teams could also vie for the Big Ears next year.

Currently, England and Italy are the two leading the coefficient race, and with less than eight weeks remaining in the season, it’s likely the two additional CL spots will go to the Premier League and the Serie A.

United, however, remain 11 points adrift of both the fourth and fifth places in the league, so despite an additional spot they are likely to fail to make the Champions League.

There is, though, another, much more unlikely way that could see them make the Champions League despite finishing sixth in the league.

West Ham, currently seventh in the table, a point behind United and having played one game more, are also in the quarter-finals of this year’s Europa League and are set to face Bayer Leverkusen this Thursday. Should last year’s Europa Conference League winners win the Europa League and finish fifth in the Premier League, they could end up handing the Red Devils a CL spot, for in such a scenario their CL qualification would be sealed with their Europa League win, handing the league spot to the next best team.

West Ham's record in Europe during David Mayes' second stint at the club has been nothing short of sensational. (Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)
West Ham’s record in Europe during David Mayes‘ second stint at the club has been nothing short of sensational. (Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

As established, however, this is highly unlikely. United themselves will find it hard to breach the top five, so it’s understandable for the team below them in the league to find it hard as well.

Even through the Europa League, the Hammers’ chances of Champions League qualification remain slim. Even if they were to somehow overcome Xabi Alonso’s men, who are just a win away in the Bundesliga to end Bayern Munich’s decade-long reign as Champions, they will have other big names in Liverpool (facing Atalanta in QF), Benfica (facing Marseille in QF), and one of AC Milan and Roma to tackle.

On paper, it’s likely neither West Ham nor Man United will play Champions League football next season.

Possible, but not probable

Regardless of the ways available to them—making the top four, making the top five, or hoping West Ham make the top five and win the Europa League—the Red Devils are having to rely on outside forces to hand them a Champions League spot for next season.

The reality, simply put, is that they have not been consistent enough in the league to warrant a spot for the first edition of the new Champions League era.

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It’s likely they won’t make it. Or maybe, miraculously, even if they were to make it, the reality remains the same: United have been mediocre this season and have a lot of work to do ahead of next season as their own new era begins, with or without the Champions League.