How Man Utd could miss out on Champions League place even if Solskjaer gets top four

ENGLAND could have FIVE teams in the 2019/20 Champions League.

And it is still possible that the team that finishes fourth in the Premier League will NOT be one of them.

But for one of the “Big Six” to suffer the fate that kicked Spurs in the teeth in 2012 it will take an unlikely turn of events.

Uefa qualification rules grant four automatic Champions League group stage spots to the four best-performing countries over the past five years.

While Spain, with five straight Champions League wins as well as four of the last five Europa League crowns, are well on top, England are significantly clear in second of the chasing group and safe with four slots for at least the next few seasons.

But Uefa determined from the 2014-15 season that the winners of the Europa League would, like the Champions League holders, automatically earn a place in Europe’s major competition.

However, the maximum number of places any country can have in the Champions League is five.

With Liverpool and Manchester City fighting it out for the title, they seem certain of finishing in the top two.

Spurs’ hold on third is looking more than a little insecure after their week of wobbles, with a 10-point gap now down to four over Arsenal.

And Tottenham fans will remember, with a shudder, how finishing fourth is not ALWAYS a guarantee of Champions League football.

In 2012 Tottenham were fourth but were pushed into the Europa League after Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena to lift the “Cup with the Big Ears”.

Chelsea, as holders, took their place as countries were only allowed four representatives.

Since then, Uefa have changed the regulations to allow a fifth team – but ONLY if the Champions league or Europa League winners do not qualify through their domestic championship.

If Manchester United or Spurs were to win the Champions League but finish outside the top four, they would be top seeds in the competition next season.

Likewise, should Arsenal or Chelsea win the Europa League and not make the top four, they would also go into the Champions League.

Just suppose the title race finished: 1 Manchester City; 2 Liverpool; 3 Chelsea; 4 Manchester United but that the two North London sides won their respective European trophies.

It would mean the top three being joined by Spurs and Arsenal – both as top seeds – with United missing out.

The other Europa League slot would either go to the FA Cup winners (if they are not a top four side) or the team finishing seventh in the Prem.

Unlikely? Yes. And it could all become academic within a few weeks.

For the moment, though, it remains a possibility. And a slight worry for fans of at least four clubs…

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