SO close … so close. This is what Manchester United would be saying at the moment as their run for possible Champions League qualification for next season continues.
But the club faces the other possibility of losing over £25m (R525 million) if they miss out on the UEFA Champions League for a second-straight year. The club’s kit manufacturer Adidas, have it set that if United miss out on a top-four finish in the Premier League this campaign, the annual sponsorship will drop by 33 per cent, with the Red Devils currently in one of the tightest top-four races in recent memory.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side are currently tied on points with Leicester City in fifth but only trail behind on goal difference with just three games to go. Adidas’ current sponsorship deal of £750m (R15.8 billion) over ten years, which started in 2015, would drop to only £50 million (R1.1 billion) if United were to miss out, reports have suggested.
Until this week, fifth place would have guaranteed United a spot in next season’s Champions League, but after Manchester City won their appeal against a two-year European ban, the permutations inevitably changed along with it. Unbeaten in 18 matches in all competitions, English football’s most successful club will need to leapfrog 2015/16 Premier League winners Leicester City if they are to change the course of their destiny.
With their next two fixtures coming up against Crystal Palace and West Ham United, United will fancy their chances, but will still have to overcome the might of the Foxes in their last fixture of the campaign to sign off on a high, and quite possibly, land a spot in Europe’s flagship club competition, all while retaining favour with their kit sponsors.
This as the other teams in the top four have much harder fixtures with Chelsea braced to play Norwich City, Liverpool and Wolves. While Leicester have Sheffield United, Tottenham, along with the aforementioned clash with United. Three games to play and perhaps even fewer to see what the permutations will be going into the new campaign.