Manchester United suffered a major setback in their quest to secure Champions League football following the 2-0 defeat to top four rivals Arsenal at the weekend and that has led to a little doubt about their chances of competing with the best teams on the European continent next season.
The Arsenal defeat came just three days after the Red Devils stunned the footballing world by overturning their last 16 tie with French giants Paris Saint Germain (PSG) from an almost impossible position.
The Red Devils gave themselves a fighting chance in their bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League when former manager Jose Mourinho was dismissed after a disastrous start to the season.
The Portuguese tactician was replaced by former club striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and few would have predicted the impact made by the new interim manager.
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Solskjaer was made the interim Red Devils manager until the end of the season and he managed his team to ten wins and two draws from 12 league games until Sunday’s defeat to the Gunners.
Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (penalty) got the goals for Arsenal either side of the halftime interval to condemn Manchester United to their first league defeat under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Arsenal win took them above Manchester United into fourth spot on the Premier League table with only the first four teams able to seal a spot in the Champions League ahead of next season.
The league is one of two routes available for Manchester United to qualify for the Champions League.
Tottenham Hotspur (3rd spot) and Arsenal (4th spot) have a two-point lead and a three-point lead respectively over Manchester United and the Red Devils have just eight league games to overhaul that deficit.
The Red Devils have a tough run in which include games against the likes of Chelsea, Premier League champions Manchester City and Everton but they have shown enough under Solskjaer to give their fans the believe that their team can get the results needed for Champions League qualification.
Apart from the league route, Manchester United can qualify for the Champions League next season by winning this season’s competition.
The Red Devils are in the quarterfinals after they beat PSG 3-1 away from home to overcome the aforementioned 2-0 deficit from the first leg.
Manchester United qualified for the last eight at the expense of PSG via the away goals rule.
The Red Devils showed the fighting spirit needed to win the competition against PSG and the same spirit will be needed later in the competition in their quest to win it for a fourth time in their history.
In conclusion, Manchester United are in contention to qualify for next season’s Champions League via two routes but they still have a lot of work to do to achieve their target.