A fourth place finish for United this season means navigating what now seems to be a tricky Champions League qualifying tie against pretty awkward opposition or involving lengthy travel to likes of Russia or Turkey, not ideal preparation for the upcoming Premier League season.
United will be a seed in this qualifying round along with Bayern Leverkusen, Valencia, Ajax and Shakhtar Donetsk. The Red Devils had comfortably disposed of Leverkusen a couple of seasons ago in their ill fated campaign under David Moyes and Ajax would not have caused too much concern, but a potential arduous trip to the Ukraine and a trip to the formidable Mestalla stadium of Valencia will come of welcome relief that we shall not face these teams at this stage.
That said there are still a string of tricky opponents United can be pitted against. With all of the major European leagues pretty much done and dusted we can now look ahead to our possible qualifying opponents.
There are obviously three stages of Champions League qualifying rounds, but we can assume the likeliest and strongest teams should qualify. Already in the 3rd round but unseeded and definite possible opponents are Lazio and Sporting Lisbon, a trip, logistically and on paper to Lisbon would probably be an ideal trip for United and may not cause too many problems although a trip to Italy to face a very impressive Lazio who have improved greatly this season beating Napoli to 3rd place and only finishing a single point behind 2nd placed Roma would rather be avoided.
United could face the prospect of facing Arsenal’s conquerors Monaco and a return to Old Trafford for Dimitar Berbatov, or could face unwanted and hostile trips to Turkey to face Fenerbache or Russia and CSKA Moscow. There are obviously far weaker teams such as Young Boys, Club Bruge and Austria Vienna in this qualifying campaign but first they must navigate through all or some of the qualifying rounds.
This is Manchester United and they will not fear anyone, the consequence of failing to make it through this round inconceivable. More importantly it seems every other possible opponent will be looking at the draw and thinking… let us avoid Manchester United.
One more thing of note, should United make it to the Champions League proper… for the first time in an age they will not be in the first pot of seeds, United, after missing the Champions League last season have dropped in UEFA’s coefficient rankings and will be seeded in pot 2. Likely opponents will be Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and PSG.
The draw for the qualifying round takes place on August 7th.